James Dowbiggin

REVIEW: Seagram Synth Ensemble – “Ephem” (2022 single)

SEAGRAM SYNTH ENSEMBLE – “Ephem” (2022 single)

How many formats do you own?  I know many of you own 8-track tapes, cassettes, CDs, different types of vinyl, DVDs, Blu-rays, and hybrids of said discs.  But do you own any music that comes self-contained in its own electronic box?  The Seagram Synth Ensemble’s new single “Ephem” only comes in this format, but it’s not that simple.  “Ephem” is more than a piece of music.  It’s a statement, an experiment, and an interactive art piece.

First let’s discuss the actual song “Ephem”.  Much like the group’s 2019 album No Moving Air, this track has an atmospheric though melodic quality.  A light beat backs up a couple of recurring and very enjoyable keyboard melody lines.  A sound like a flock of seagulls soaring overhead comes into play.  Things then get upbeat, and a nice fat bass synth sinks the hooks in.  The track builds with more fun melodic accompaniment, and then strips it all back to something like it was in the beginning.  It’s a great standalone song.

Learn more here in this extensive interview with Seagram Synth Ensemble

Here’s the catch.  You can plug in a battery and a pair of headphones, power up, and hit play to enjoy “Ephem”.  But you better pay attention because each time you play the song, it changes.  Like an old cassette tape, each play degrades the sound ever so slightly, almost like the wear and tear that comes with physical media.  Each time you press play, the track becomes slightly more distorted, thin, brittle.  Eventually it will deteriorate and become unplayable.  The point is to listen with intent, pay attention, and absorb the music.  Now, there is a reset function, which is awful nice of the guys, but they discourage using it.  At least that way you won’t be throwing your money away when it’s toast.  Don’t forget the whole point of it though.  To listen; to pay attention, because it will never sound exactly the same twice.  Every single time you play “Ephem” will be a unique experience.  Even the artwork on the box reflects this.

“Ephem” cost just $20 but is now sold out.  (A reissue is possible but not certain.)  Don’t expect these to turn up on the second hand market quickly.  And if it does, pray that it comes with the instructions so you can hear “Ephem” like it was brand new.





It’s Synth School! The LeBrain Train with Seagram Synth Ensemble, Rob Daniels and special surprise guest Dr. Kathryn

Everything you wanted to know about synthesizer but were afraid to ask!  Thank you to the Seagram Synth Ensemble – James Reesor, James Dowbiggen and Dave Klassen whose No Moving Air album has provided many hours of listening enjoyment.  Thanks also to Robert Daniels from Visions In Sound for cohosting tonight!  And of course, special surprise guest Dr. Kathryn who had some comments and questions of her own.

Topics tackled tonight:

  • Starting out as students
  • Synths, maintenance, analog vs. digital, and more
  • The next gig (July 15 at TheMuseum in Kitchener)
  • Favourite players and influences
  • Formats such as tape and vinyl
  • Why No Moving Air was never released on CD
  • Who their favourite professor at school was and why
  • Top 3 science fiction films
  • And of course, their new single “Ephem”

“Ephem” is unique as a single, as it comes in a brand new format.  It is a piece of art and a statement about the way we consume music today.

This was a fascinating interview for me and I hope you give it a watch.


Please welcome the Seagram Synth Ensemble on the LeBrain Train tonight!

The LeBrain Train: 2000 Words or More with Mike Ladano & Robert Daniels

Episode 113 – The Seagram Synth Ensemble

Please give a warm welcome to James Reesor, Dave Klassen, and James Dowbiggen — otherwise known as the Seagram Synth Ensemble!  This trio of talented musicians first came to our attention with their excellent 2019 LP, No Moving Air.  Not only did the vinyl look great, but it sounded amazing.  No Moving Air is a soundtrack, or soundscape, of synth excellence, taking the listener on a journey.

Now the trio is back with a new (sold out!!) single called “Ephem” and, well folks, there’s no other word for it besides “innovation”.  The guys have not only come out with a new song, but also a new format.  It comes in the form of a small black box about the size of a guitar effects pedal.  Plug in a 9-Volt battery and a pair of headphones, and you can hear “Ephem” …but not forever!  It’s not just a song, but also a piece of art designed to make a point about listening with intent.  Music is instant and disposable these days, so the guys decided to say something about it with this project.  We will find out all about that, and much more tonight on the LeBrain Train.

Joining me for our first joint interview together will be Robert Daniels from Visions In Sound.  I can’t wait to hear his thoughts on the Seagram Synth Ensemble.

REVIEW: Seagram Synth Ensemble – No Moving Air (2019 coloured vinyl)

SEAGRAM SYNTH ENSEMBLE – No Moving Air (2019 coloured vinyl)

Three young local lads united their computing power and formed the Seagram Synth Ensemble:  James Dowbiggin, Dave Klassen, and James Reesor.  Armed with Korgs, Moogs and Rolands, the trio recorded a remarkable new album called No Moving Air.

With a slightly minimalist bent, No Moving Air is a full-length album that can serve as a soundtrack for any quiet night.  Mixing new and old instruments, the synths form relaxing soundscapes with recurring patterns.  Hard to describe, but easy to listen to.  Floating in space, or under the sea — it is easy to close your eyes and put yourself in another world.  Some of the sounds resemble those recorded under Antarctic ice (“Amphiquarium”).  Others are dark, but not uninviting.  Everything seems to flow, except when flipping the record!

Handily there is a diagram on the back, done in the style of an electrical flow chart, to tell you when to “invert disc”.  The striking back cover (designed by James Dowbiggin) is more interesting than the front!  The lovely clear aqua blue vinyl was an unexpected surprise.

Moving on to side two, a hint of rhythm augments the epic length title track.  There’s a cool synth bell section and a variety of moods.  16 minutes well spent, though you might lose track of where and when you are!  The last few minutes are killer.

Without much experience in synthesizer music, this comes highly recommended.  It’s memorable and warm.  It has a niche and fills it nicely.

3.5/5 stars