Fusing drum machines, synthesizers, and string instruments, Freight Elevator Quartet is best coined as intelligent dance music, or experimental ambient. Comprised of one classically trained musician and three Electronic Music Center Columbia University grads, the band actually first formed in 1996 in an improvisational nature. In addition to performing as a quartet, they have worked with Elliott Sharp, Gut Bucket, and produced an album with DJ Spooky; they're similar to producers such as We and Amon Tobin.
Their name came from the first gig they played, which was in an actual freight elevator. The performance was part of a series of parties at Knuckles, which worked out of Columbia University's historic Electronic Music Center. Wanting to do something a bit different, the performers rigged their equipment to the florescent light in the large elevator and performed for those using it for its real purpose, or for those getting a drink at the bar that was also in the lift. Freight attributes the shaping of their sound to the bulk of their beginning gigs being at multimedia installations. This allowed the band to become comfortable with their experimental and ambient skin, rather than feeling forced to make a dancefloor hit. The band's original instrumental lineup consisted of Luke Dubois (variety of old analoge synths), Paul Feuer (didgeridoo and bass lines), Rachel Finn (cello), and Stephen Krieger (production). Due to key restraints, Feuer backed away from the didgeridoo and transferred to the nord synthesizer, which supplies the same deep sound. Krieger shifted focus to the bulk of the group's production work with drum machines and sample preparation.
Freight Elevator Quartet's first album, The Debut Album, was released on an indie label and remains almost impossible to acquire. From their ties with Caipirinha Records came compliments of Feuer's friendship with Caipirinha's leader, director Lara Lee (Synthetic Pleasures, Modulations). In 1998, through friendship connections, the band met Paul Miller (DJ Spooky) and gave him a copy of the bands ironically titled sophomore release, Jungle Album. The album highlighted instrumental guests and vocals from Mary Kim to Halo. The album was more experimental with chunky beats and eclectic sounds than near the area of jungle music. Spooky, known for his avant-garde musical tendencies, liked what he heard and decided to record some tracks with the quartet. The couple tracks soon became the full-length 1999 album, DJ Spooky vs. Freight Elevator Quartet: File Under Futurism. In 2000, the electronically assisted band released Becoming Transparent on Caipirinha. The album progressed the group further into their sound of ambient experimentation and was completed while most of the group was attending grad or medical school, proving they were committed to the ensemble. ~ Diana Potts