Livetronica quartet Signal Path will play a free show at the Zebra Cocktail Lounge this Friday, Sept. 7. The performance is one of three stops on the “Return to the Land of the Grizzlies” tour, a jaunt that will take the band to Billings, Bozeman and ultimately Missoula, the band’s point of origin.
Formed in 2001, Signal Path began as an improvisational outfit. Like the original incarnations of “Jamtronica” bands Sound Tribe Sector Nine (STS9) and Lotus, the group played a brand of organic electronic rock, a synthesis of jazzy exploration and dance club grooves. The band went through a series of amicable personnel changes and a few brief hiatuses before drummer Damon Metzner and guitarist Ryan Burnett reunited as a duo in 2009. Bassist Matt Schumacher and keyboardist Cody Wille complete the reformed group. Wille, who has collaborated with Signal Path from time to time since 2004, recently rejoined the band.
Signal Path changed its material along with its lineup. As STS9 and the other titans of Livetronica shifted from an instrument-based sound to one that incorporates more digital and electronic elements, Signal Path followed the trend in its own roguish way, retaining both the emotive guitar of Burnett and a healthy dose of funk-infused granola spirit.
In recent years, the band has lived and worked in Denver, Colorado, the burgeoning Mecca of “Jamtronica.” Thankfully, the relocation hasn’t erased Montana’s influence, a place that can still be felt in tracks like “Mahalia is Free” and the ethereal, Native American-chant laced “Mystery of the Yeti.” The band’s last four EPs, short pieces that correspond to the seasons, bridge the gap between melodic, faintly psychedelic noodling and the bone-rattling, mind-melting Dubstep flavor currently sweeping the nation.
Unlike many of its influences and Jamtronica counterparts, Signal Path has managed to balance heavy, layered electronica and light, airy, danceable rhythms. One half never threatens to overwhelm the other and the successful union of the two styles results in something that is outstandingly unique in an increasingly saturated and generic subgenre. All of Signal Path’s albums are now available for free on their website, www.signalpathmusic.com. Free music, a tradition that started with and was championed by the Grateful Dead, is particularly important to the members of Signal Path, a fact they will confirm when they return to rock Bozeman at no charge.