The Key Studio Sessions: Square Peg Round Hole - WXPN | Vinyl At Heart

It was one of those gigs that’s become quasi-legendary: about a year and a half ago, I got a frantic text message from Philly drummer Al Smith (then of Cold Fronts, now of American Babies) raving about the show he was at. “Dude, I’m seeing Darla and Square Peg Round Hole at The Fire right now and it’s incredible. You need to check these bands out!” I took his advice, and was equal parts impressed and surprised. Both were instrumental bands – an unexpected tip coming from a rock and roll kinda guy – and both featured crews of musicians from an obviously studied jazz background branching in vastly different directions, the former down a jammy funk path and the latter down a prog-tinged ambient path.

Darla went on to make waves as the ultimate Philly music scene party band in 2015 – rocking nightclubs as enthusiastically as Kamasi Washington crowds with spunky originals intermixed with covers of “The Boys Are Back In Town” and “Do They Know It’s Christmas.” (Check out their Key Studio Session here.) Now that we’re into spring of 2016, Square Peg is having a moment of its own.

The band – Evan Chapman on drums, Sean M. Gill on vibes and Carlos Pacheco-Perez on keyboards – joined the Spartan Records family back in December, announcing plans to release its debut LP Juniper through them. In the time since, the band visited the Red Room Series based at Germantown’s Sleepless Sound studio, played an impressive stripped-down set in a living room for SoFAR Philly, and went viral by composing a song at Ringing Rocks park. With the release of Juniper looming this Friday, the band and its various electronics, instruments and noisemakers paid a visit to XPN Studios for a striking performance.

A skittish electronic beat, a pulsing Rhodes melody and warm vibraphone accents come together to lend opener “A-Frame” a meditative ambient feel reminiscent of The Album Leaf. From there, the band launches into the propulsive medley of “Momentary Light” and “Name Not One Man,” stitched together by click-clack tabletop beats and fierce floor tom rhythms that recall Kinski, The Mercury Program and other luminaries of the post-rock aughties; it’s emotive, dreamlike and cinematic.

This weekend, the band celebrates the release of Juniper with a headlining gig at MilkBoy; it’s a stacked bill, with fellow instrumental boundary-pushers Moon Bounce and Son Step sharing the stage with them. Who knows, it might become one of those quasi-legendary shows down the line. Tickets and more information can be found at the XPN Concert Calendar. Below, watch Square Peg Round Hole performing in our studio via VuHaus, stream the session in full and grab a free download at our Soundcloud page.

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