Vocalist/banjoist Sam Simkoff leads the indie rock collective Le Loup, whose six members combine varied instruments and full-band harmonies to create an orchestrated, experimental sound. Simkoff spent the latter half of 2006 indoors, using his home computer to record the music that would soon constitute Le Loup's debut album. Featuring hypnotic loops, banjo riffs, and lyrics inspired by Dante's Inferno, the songs attracted the attention of several other Washington, D.C., residents. By January, Simkoff had assembled an expansive lineup comprised of Jim Thomson (guitar), May Tabol (guitar), Robert Sahm (percussion), Dan Ryan (bass, percussion), Nicole Keenan (keyboards, French horn), Mike Ferguson (guitar), and intermittent member Christian Ervin (programming, guitar). The new band immediately attracted attention from Sub Pop Records, whose founder, Jonathan Poneman, flew east to attend one of Le Loup's earliest shows. By spring 2007, Le Loup had signed with the Sub Pop imprint Hardly Art, becoming the second band on the upstart label's roster. Simkoff's bedroom recordings were subsequently mastered, and The Throne of the Third Heaven of the Nations' Millennium Assembly marked Le Loup's official debut in September 2007. Tabol and Keenan left the lineup ten months later, Ervin signed on as a permanent member, and the revised group continued to tour while working on new material, much of which emphasized acoustic instrumentation and vocal harmonies. Le Loup returned home in early 2009 to work on a sophomore album. Recording sessions took place in a mountainside cabin and a city basement, with Simkoff and Ervin handling production duties themselves. The resulting Family was released that September, featuring Le Loup's full lineup for the first time on record. It also expanded the sound of Nations' Millennium Assembly, emphasizing the singing talents of multiple members while making room for a lush mix of tribal, rural, and urban sounds. ~ Andrew Leahey
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House - Released September 4, 2013 | Lost In House
Alternative & Indie - Released September 11, 2007 | Hardly Art
Although The Throne of the Third Heaven of the Nations' Millennium General Assembly is billed as Le Loup's debut, it's technically a solo effort by frontman Sam Simkoff, who recorded these tracks in his bedroom during a lengthy period of post-college anxiety. As a result, fans of Le Loup's live performances will find this album to be markedly different, from the number of instruments used to the softer dynamics of each track. The Nations' Millennium General Assembly largely relies on synths, banjo, drum machines, and Simkoff's vocals, all of which are stacked together to create a sort of Sufjan-approved computer symphony. It's a one-man show that uses repetition to its advantage, with each song slowly growing from a ripple to a sonic swell. And while such material sounds best in a live setting, where Le Loup's seven members can collectively flesh out each song, this collection of bedroom recordings is nevertheless eccentric and engaging. Simkoff flits between the earthy sounds of his banjo and the programmed, experimental bleeps of his keyboards, linking the two camps together with lyrics inspired by Dante's Inferno. There are cantos, recollections of dreams, and odes to the heavens, all delivered by a choir of multi-tracked Simkoffs in a manner that's both grand and intimate. In fact, intimacy may be the album's strongest suit, seeing as the band's expanded lineup may never be able to reach such a quiet dynamic again. The Nations' Millennium General Assembly may serve as a precursor to Le Loup's live, bombastic sound, but it's also an enjoyable look at the band's frontman, his considerable capabilities, and the initial melodies that set everything in motion. ~ Andrew Leahey
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