Adam Shead


February 25, 2022  /  News

Full Cycle, Thread New is a long form composition in three movements by Chicago multi-disciplinary artist Adam Shead. The piece focuses heavily on concepts of reformation, regeneration, non-linear time dynamics, and cyclical history. Throughout the three movements (which features Shead alongside acclaimed Chicago improvised music stalwarts Jeff Kimmel, clarinets; Ishmael Ali, cello/electronics; Matt Piet, piano; and Andrew Scott Young, double bass.) the quintet effortlessly intertwines a diverse spectrum of aesthetic parameters while maintaining the music’s forward momentum. Full Cycle, Thread New was recorded live in March of 2021 at the eminent home for the most open of minds and ears: Constellation Chicago.

Various influences abound throughout the concert length recording, in oblique and mysterious ways. One may hear faint traces of other composers (John Lewis; Instant Composers Pool; Roscoe Mitchell; La Monte Young; Pauline Oliveros; Thelonious Monk) in this music, or they may not. They may hear these familiar sounds rub up against each other in passing like a sideswipe on the freeway, or in seemingly concurrent waves like a detuned radio, or they may not hear them at all. Throughout the composition Adam Shead’s quintet threads the needle between the past and the present thanks to his honed and studied compositional approach. In this recording, genres assert themselves as much as they defy easy categorization. The listener is confronted with sound elements reminiscent of various idiomatic and non-idiomatic approaches which together form one overarching narrative, ultimately generated by and belonging to Shead himself.

The music utilizes the strengths of all five members to conjure out of seemingly everywhere and nowhere a sound that is genuinely swinging, often awhirl with surprise and subversion, but above all stated with confidence and intent. The aptitude with which Shead’s compatriots assert their own self-will with deference to his approach to organized sound(s) results in a curiously novel group-sound that is as exciting as it is baffling. The listener may feel like they have gotten off a roller coaster by the end of the recording, only to find themselves drawn back to the music as though in a trance: for clarification, for elation, for the plain fun of it. Piet, Young, and Shead, are a dynamic rhythm section, able to cultivate a visceral rhythmic interplay while displaying an acute awareness of the traditions of their respective instruments. Kimmel and Ali are thoughtful, fluid players who steer the music left of center toward parts unknown, and the listener is all the better for it.

Adam Shead is an American multi-disciplinary artist of Armenian descent living in Chicago, IL whose practice spans the realms of music, painting, photography, and poetry. Throughout his work Shead hopes to create a sense of spatial presence in which the codification of experience is dismantled in the search of personal truth. Through this pursuit of truth Adam hopes to provide a reprieve while simultaneously challenging himself and his audience through active participation in invention, compassion, trust, and grace. Shead can be heard performing regularly throughout Chicago at such venues as Constellation, Hungry Brain, Elastic Arts, and Experimental Sound Studio; performing alongside such musicians as Jason Stein, Damon Smith, Josh Berman, Steve Swell, John Dikeman, Jasper Stadhouers, Angel Bat Dawid, Matt Piet, James Falzone, and Mary Oliver. Adam has recorded music for Amalgam Records, Ears & Eyes Records, Shifting Paradigm Records, Scripts Records, and Impermanent Records. Shead holds a Bachelors of Music in Percussion Performance from Columbia College Chicago as well as Masters of Music in Contemporary Improvisation and a Graduate Certificate in World Performance Studies from the University of Michigan.