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Some words on the band's first recording from award-winning percussionist Jesse Stewart

The more I reflect on this recording, the more I think Vertical Squirrels is an apt name for this group. For one, the quirky alliteration between the words "vertical" and "squirrel" points to the assonant qualities of the music. I once heard someone describe assonance in poetry as "getting the rhyme wrong." The term also describes music that is neither purely consonant nor dissonant––which is certainly true of this recording in the multiplicity of sounds, styles, and systems of musical logic the group brings into dialogue with one another. Maybe assonance in music means, "getting the rhythm right."

 Maybe the music on this recording is both consonant and dissonant at the same time. If you can be in unison without being in unison, as Ornette Coleman once said, Hold True suggests that you can be consonant while being dissonant too. "Vertical Squirrels" is a suitable metaphor for the music in other ways too. Squirrels do spend most of their time in the vertical climbs of trees, scampering from branch to branch with remarkable agility––making seemingly impossible leaps with astonishing accuracy. On numerous occasions I have seen squirrels attempt leaps where the level of risk seemed remarkably high, even in situations where there were easier ways to get to their desired destination.

Why take such risks?

 My guess is that they find pleasure in them––that the reward is that much greater when the leap is difficult. And so it is with the music on this recording. Ajay, Daniel, Lewis, and Rob take many musical risks together, leaping from one musical branch to another with confidence, pleasure, and ease. For them, and for the listener, the musical rewards are very great indeed. ––Jesse Stewart (percussionist and composer, Carleton University)