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Saxophonist Nick Zoulek and S. Carey team up on a gorgeous untitled piece

Andrew Von Haden

Every week, 88Nine brings you a fresh track from a Milwaukee artist. They send it to us. We post it here. You hear it before everyone else.

For today's premiere, we've got an ethereal untitled piece from saxophonist Nick Zoulek featuring singer and Bon Iver member S. Carey. Stream and read about it below. You can also catch Zoulek perform on Sunday, Sept. 15, at 2 p.m. at the Jazz Gallery Center for the Arts, 926 E. Center St., as part of the next installment of Seed Sounds.

Nick Zoulek | Courtesy of the artist
Nick Zoulek and S. Carey - "Untitled"

First impressions

For saxophonist Nick Zoulek, music is a visual experience. In addition to composing and recording, he's served as the music director for Wild Space Dance Company, and scored and accompanied dance works from companies including the Madison Ballet and HYPERlocal. He's also worked in film and animation, scoring his own works.

So even without a video, it's easy to picture a visual accompaniment to Zoulek's new untitled piece: flowers blooming, eggs hatching, water falls rippling or something similarly inspiring but not quite as cliche. It's a gorgeous, inspirational piece, hopeful and restorative, that coasts on the interplay of Zoulek's looping, elemental saxophone and S. Carey's layered, beatific voice.

In the artists' words

It’s an absolute pleasure to share this track on 88.9! Milwaukee is my home, which is something special to me. That warmth and history with a home stays in our memories, and I try to keep it in my artistry and heart. Even when I’m away, I try by hardest to stay active with this city, its musicians, and with artists all around Wisconsin and the Midwest. This track is still untitled, but it’s part of a larger album project, currently titled "Enter Branch" (hoping to release it next spring). The project is bringing together a group of musicians who I find deeply inspiring, including Milwaukee musicians like Devin Drobka and Tontine Ensemble, members of the stellar contemporary classical group Eighth Blackbird, the ~nois saxophone quartet, and plenty of other surprises. In the end, I think all of these musicians play an important role in their community, and I think that shows up in their artistry.

This track is no different. I was absolutely honored to work with Sean Carey on this piece. I don’t have enough words to thank him for the sincerity that he put into this song. All of his music, in S. Carey, in Bon Iver, in all of his collaborations… his music just communicates from such a vulnerable and open space, and I think that’s what makes this track so special. We’re finding strength in that vulnerability, combining his voice and my saxophone playing. Even though we did plenty of layering with Sean’s voice, the saxophone part was all done in one take; no overdubs, no looping. It’s created with circular breathing, multiphonics, and singing while playing at the same time, growing from sounds in my previous album, Rushing Past Willow. It’s a raw, idiomatic sound for the saxophone, and it really involves all of your physicality to perform this way. I think that comes across in this piece, and I’m just so happy to share it with Milwaukee on 88.9FM first!