Music » Local Music

Far afield


Detroit’s most adventurous musical travelers, the Immigrant Suns, have journeyed far and wide performing their intoxicating blend of avant, ethnic and folk musics. Along the way, they’ve taken the time to document some of their improvisational moments between stations. Now, they’ve packaged those improvisatory moments on a limited edition compilation entitled Field Recordings, the release of which they’ll be celebrating this weekend with two special, intimate shows at Detroit’s detroit contemporary gallery.

According to Sun Joel Peterson, "the music has been recorded over the band's entire seven-year history. Basements, bedrooms, live, things from road trips. Some of it is from friends’ higher-quality home studios. Some of it is geared toward a conceptual parameter such as arranging the order in which people are going to play but not what they play."

The Immigrant Suns are no strangers to the world of improvisation. Indeed, in their "straight" sets, there’s plenty of room for improvising. But this record’s different. "In the context of our normal tunes, the parts that are improvised are solos or a group improv for 10 seconds or so. On this, all the musical ideas are spontaneously created," says Peterson. "We might say that one person will begin the improv or some may mimic other styles, but the other stuff is just free improvisation."

In the process of presenting this material, the band hopes to bring the public’s notion of the Suns full circle. "It fills in the picture of the band some folks haven’t seen or heard," says Peterson.

And, consistent with the Suns’ deep involvement in Detroit’s arts and music communities, the shows will be aided and abetted by Suns-related artists and musicians.

Particularly, they’ll base some of the improvisations around the sounds emanating from a sound sculpture with which they’ll share stage space. "In keeping with the spirit of the record itself, we’re going to do a lot of improv with that and gamelan into one of our preconceived improvs," notes Peterson.

"And there will be artwork (on display) that people have done for us or donated to us – weirdly enough, people have given us art – that’s inspired by us or reminds them us," says Peterson.

So, for two nights, the Immigrant Suns and the Suns’ extended family (that is, all of Detroit’s music-loving community) celebrate the release of the album with performances at detroit contemporary. Chris Handyside is a freelance writer for Metro Times. Send comments to

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