Both Janel & Anthony, together and separately, have long been an important and active part of Washington D.C.’s new-music scene. Anthony Pirog, an omnivorous, multi-faceted guitarist who studied jazz at Berklee and has performed country, fingerstyle, rock and surf music, and Janel Leppin, a conservatory trained cellist steeped in North Indian and Persian classical music, who also plays electric bass in rock bands, have created a lavishly detailed musical journey, by turns ravishing and harrowing. Janel and Anthony alternately charm and challenge, with music that draws from classical, experimental, jazz, rock and electronic traditions but that ultimately is simply theirs.
Janel Leppin earned a degree in cello performance from George Mason University (minoring in world music and dance), where professor Beth Bullard introduced her to North Indian, Persian and Japanese classical music. As a student, she played in Balinese Gamelan groups, took private Japanese koto lessons and began touring internationally with Croatian pop star Tajci. She studied North Indian classical music in 2003 with Dutch cellist Saskia Rao-de Haas in Amsterdam, and, after graduating, studied with her in Delhi, India. Mrs. Rao de Haas had adapted a cello to play Indian classical music, and she gave Leppin the prototype, which Leppin presented at The American Musical Instrument Society’s 2005 meeting. Leppin plays this "instrument of many colors" – a small cello with sympathetic strings that ring out when the bowed strings are touched. This unique cello has also been called the Indian cello, cello sympathetique, or modified cello, which has been featured on Where is Home and several other of Janel’s recordings. Back in Virginia, Leppin studied classical Persian music from 2005-present with composer/violinist/tar master Nader Majd and performed and recorded in his Chakavak Ensemble. After college she began studying improvisation, and playing jazz and experimental music on the cello. She has also played electric bass (Fender Jaguar) in rock, ambient, and surf bands. Leppin recently (2011) began studying remotely with Persian classical music with master ney player Hossein Omoumi.
As a recording artist, Leppin “brings a haunting lyricism to the cello"[Hurd Audio] and has appeared on numerous recordings since 2005 with other experimental, jazz/improv, electronic, and world musicians. She’s recorded and performed as a duo and in ensembles with legendary pedal steelist Susan Alcorn, has appeared on every Sonic Circuits compilation, done two self-released albums with DC surf group The El Rays, recorded a Laughing Man disc for Dischord, and led a string quartet recording the strings on Skysaw's Great Civilizations. Since spring 2012, Leppin has been based in Seattle recording with various West Coast artists. Most recently, she’s recorded on Oren Ambarchi’s Audience of One (Touch); with pedal steelist Susan Alcorn on Eyvind Kang's Visible Breathe (Editions Mego), on Steven O'Malley's Ideologic Organ (Editions Mego), and with Kang on a piece for a forthcoming Tzadik album and, for another forthcoming recording, on a persian ney concerto that Kang wrote for Ustad Hossein Omoumi. In addition, Leppin is currently working on a solo record at The Brink.
As a performer, Leppin remains especially active in both Washington and NY. While living in NY in 2010, she recorded with Carla Bozulich's band Evangelista for a forthcoming album and worked with Kyp Malone, (T.V. on the Radio), touring Europe with his psych rock band Rain Machine. She's performed in such venues as DC's Velvet Lounge and Pyramid Atlantic (w/Samita Singha & Julia Ulehla, opening for Keith Row & John Butcher) to the French Embassy (w/ Hume opening for Magma and at La Fete de la Musique w/ Janel and Anthony), the Kennedy Center Millenium Stage (w/ Arturas Bumsteinas) and Strathmore Mansion (opening for Fennesz). She has performed at every Sonic Circuits Festival of Experimental Music since 2007. In 2008, she was the first Washington musician to be invited to perform at Baltimore’s High Zero Festival of Improvisational Music, playing w/Tetuzi Akiyama, Camel Zekri, Tony Buck, Arrington de Dionyso and numerous others, and in playing solo in 2011 with dancer Lily Susskind for the festival’s first Dance & Music performance. 2012 has brought Leppin numerous high-profile NY gigs. She performed 3 times at The Stone – including a sold out show, curated by Lou Reed and Laurie Anderson, playing with Susan Alcorn, Eyvind Kang and Jessika Kenney, and a night that she curated for Andrea Centazzo's label Ictus Records, playing in a quartet with Jessica Pavonne. On May 31st, Leppin curates the Issue Project Room, where she will perform her arrangements of the music of Susan Alcorn with Skuli Sverrison, Kang, Jessika Kenney, Doug Weiselmann, Andrea Parkins, and Pirog.
Interested in free jazz and experimental music, Anthony Pirog studied jazz guitar in Boston’s Berklee before completing his degree in jazz performance at NYU in 2002. Back in DC by 2004, he quickly earned a reputation as a wide-ranging master, ready to add his studied but unorthodox voice to just about any musical situation, from jazz, country, fingerstyle and old time music to free improvisation, free jazz, surf and experimental music.
Pirog has performed with renown avant jazzers such as Elliott Sharp and Mary Halvorson, and played in numerous jazz, electronic, and improv groups based in DC, NYC and elsewhere on the East Coast, including Better Than Lost, The Landscaping Crew, The Bobby Muncy Quartet, Ad Hoc Quartet, Inner Loop, Stylus, and countless more. He has also performed with rock, roots, and rockabilly musicians and ensembles, playing with Billy Hancock, Dave Elliot and Joe Stanley; and The Dave Kitchen Band (SXSW 2008), Out of Your Head Collective, The El Rays, The Rocking Bones, and dozens more. In 2012, he performed a sold-out show at The Stone with Violet (Jeff Surak) and Berlin filmmaker Sylvia Schedelabuer. In addition to these collaboration, Pirog leads several groups of his own, including the Anthony Pirog Trio and a Sextet, as well as running his own label, Sonic Mass Records, which he began in 2009 to document his solo work. He has self-released numerous recordings and appeared on numerous DC Sonic Circuits compilations. Dangerbird Records recently released Pirog’s new album with Skysaw, his rock trio with ex-Smashing Pumpkins drummer Jimmy Chamberlin and Reina.
Extremely active on the DC new music scene, Pirog’s played at venues ranging from the Black Cat and Twin’s Jazz to The Rock and Roll Hotel, Strathmore Mansion and French Embassy; performed 5 years in a row at DC’s Sonic Circuits Festival, and appeared in numerous concerts presented by DC Sonic Circuits, Claveus Productions, Electric Possible, and Brightest Young Things. Pirog’s performances have been acclaimed by the local press, with The Washington Post praising his music in 2012 for its “fusion of talent and creativity”. For the 2011 Sonic Circuits Festival, Pirog recruited, organized and conducted a 22-piece orchestra to perform Terry Riley’s “In C”, at a free outdoor concert in Silver Spring, MD’s central plaza. That same year, Washington’s most prestigious music awards, WAMA (Washington Area Music Association), named Pirog Washington’s Best Modern Rock Instrumentalist 2011.
Splashes of plangent, expertly picked electric guitar rub shoulders with exotic, Eastern-tinged, chugging cello creating tension atop hypnotic background drones. [Tempo: Up-tempo]
In an abstract, oddly pointillist framework, dabs of cello provide punctuation for elongated, heavily processed guitar tones for an angular-yet-spacey feel. [Tempo: no fixed tempo]
A moody fog full of sonic shadows descends as mournful cello tones dart in and out of an echo-laden latticework of electric guitar lines. [Tempo: Mid-tempo]
A lush, ambient sonic stream floats through the center of this track, surrounded by sinuous, painterly swirls of electric guitar. [Tempo: Mid-tempo]
Simple, rhythmic electric guitar rhythms and arpeggios are counterpointed by subtle, snaky cello lines in this eerie, unsettling track. [Tempo: Mid-tempo]
An autumnal feel comes to the fore as angular cello lines and artful acoustic guitar intertwine for a sound that touches on everything from folk to baroque. [Tempo: Up-tempo]
Ragged shards of distorted guitar chords are peppered by a cleaner guitar tone and fluid picking in this atmospheric, subtly foreboding piece. [Tempo: no fixed tempo]
Slowly swelling, heavily processed-sounding guitar tones rise and ebb like a series of light bulbs gradually glowing brighter and dimming again. [Tempo: no fixed tempo]
Guitar and cello double each other’s melodic lines amid steel-guitar-like swoops and tinkling tones somewhere between a harp and a dulcimer for a combination of conflict and quietude. [Tempo: Mid-tempo]
Dusky, contemplative cello lines share the spotlight with poignantly picked guitar, punctuated by thoughtful bass lines, slowly building up to a cinematic climax. [Tempo: Mid-tempo]
A hypnotic, bewitching mood is made manifest as eerily pretty wordless vocals echo an uneasy cello line, with echoes of ambient guitar tapestry as the background. [Tempo: Mid-Tempo]
An ocean of rumbling, scraping, whirring electro-acoustic tones is alive beneath the broad, bold cello melodies and capricious guitar arpeggios that slowly stir up chaos, troubling the waters before becoming more serene. [Tempo: Mid-tempo]
THE sonic backdrop for a post-apocalyptic landscape. A stark, sweeping, evocative and otherworldly soundscape. Tiny melodies resonate on electrified strings -- frail outposts of human habitation -- until growing waves of sound approach and overcome them, human frailty cleansed in a bleak, electronic, post-apocalyptic tide. [Tempo: no fixed tempo]