Very quietly, at the beginning of September 2012, Dave Gelting released his debut double LP. While most musicians would run to the Internet, proudly begging everyone who would listen to retweet the link to their Bandcamp page, Gelting avoided that entirely. The local bassist holds an ever-improving résumé (solo work, one third of The Danglers, constant fill-in for a number of bands, working in a variety of classical contexts), but still manages to hold a low profile in spite of this success. After listening to Volume 1, it’s easy to understand why: Gelting fills every note and detail in this record with an unabashed and overwhelming joy for playing music.
Equal parts jazz, indie rock, minimalism, and chamber music, Gelting creates a haunting and surprisingly versatile atmosphere from a utilitarian use of musical elements, never overplaying, while avoiding the pitfall of becoming simple. Even on tracks where the bassist lets his virtuosity shine, such as the Mingus-styled solo on “Nepenthes Alata,” the solo serves the track as a whole and not the other way around. There are pieces like “Tagetes Patula” that cover a larger plot of land, building into a dense wall of dark synth bliss before crumbling into a Rhodes-centric groove. Others, such as the nostalgic “Acalypha Repens,” simply introduce an idea and quickly take their leave. Nothing is forced and everything is instilled with the quiet confidence of a musician doing exactly what he wants, exactly how he wants to do it, with only himself to answer to.
Milwaukee often feels like a town with more “best kept secrets” than openly applauded successes. While Gelting currently qualifies as one of those secrets, possibly by choice, an album as wildly successful as this one could easily (and hopefully) blow his cover for good.