Coupler is less a band than a creative organization. Founded in 2011 by Lambchop veteran Ryan Norris, its core is Norris along with Rodrigo Avendaño and Rollum Haas though its membership has at points swelled to as many as eight. At its root the project is an exercise in mutual cooperation of creative individuals and is an exploration of the intersections of man and machine, live and recorded, composed and improvised, stasis and flux.
Like the abused Lambchop descriptor "Nashville's most fucked-up country band," the phrase "deliberate ambient music" seems to have stuck for Coupler. Ambient music, originally conceived, implies a certain level of non-intention, non-deliberateness and similarly a potential level of non-engagement on the part of the listener. In this context, ambient is meant to be as ignorable as it is interesting. Coupler's music, on the other hand, has always used the language of ambient without being ambient per se. It should be difficult to ignore. If ambient music is meant to create a space in which to think, deliberate ambient music should transcend the space it creates to allow a threshold to be crossed.
Their upcoming release Gifts from the Ebb Tide, out November 17th on yk Records, sits at the center of several records that were gestating concurrently and shares DNA with each of them: HeCTAs The Diet, Lambchops FLOTUS and Couplers Blue Room Sessions.
Like Blue Room Sessions, Gifts from the Ebb Tide marks a point where Coupler began its drift from solo project to something more collaborative, a drift that continues. The first two Coupler releases, America in the Coming Age of Electronics and Sunless, were made largely in a silo. Blue Room Sessions was a collaborative effort with Third Man Records, a light designer and seven other musicians, three of whom were in the Coupler orbit already. This was the first deliberate inclusion of other musicians in Couplers recording process.
Gifts from the Ebb Tide, though recorded before Blue Room Sessions, continues that inclusion. Though Norris wrote and edited the music here, the additional musicians - Rodrigo Avendaño (treatments, snare), Matt Glassmeyer (clarinet, contra-alto clarinet, voice, baritone saxophone) and Rollum Haas (synths, white noise snare) - contributed in invaluable ways that make the album the complete picture it is. Norris himself handles the Moog Opus 3, Mellotron, the Korg MS-20, piano and various programming on the release as well. Each of the pieces here contains a through line of some kind; a pulse, a beat, an ostinato melodic or bass element. Around these lines many things (sometimes all things) change and permutate. The tension between what remains constant and what permutates is what this music is about.
"I prefer to think of Coupler less as a band and more as a multimedia project. Kraftwerk were fond of using the term "organization". I like that." - Ryan Norris