Earlier this year, local "jazztronica" duo Twyn released a double single featuring keyboardist Jason Matthews' synthesizer speaking in an alien tongue in the place of a vocal melody.
Packaged as ii, the cinematic-sounding release represented Matthews and drummer Aaron Glueckauf — who have been playing together since 2010 — stepping into a sound all their own. It was also their most successful effort to date, as the lead track "Ravana" appeared on Spotify's State of Jazz playlist.
"At this level, that's how we measure success," Glueckauf says. "And that's how pretty much everybody measures success in this streaming world we're in now — whether you get on big playlists."
Now Twyn is back with ii (b), a couple of rough-cut b-sides from the same studio sessions that produced ii. The new record dropped Friday, and like the duo's previous release, it is entirely instrumental.
Both tracks are mostly about groove and sound textures. By the standards of two accomplished jazz players such as Glueckauf and Matthews, these are simple, bare-bones songs that are intended to be less heady and more primal than their previous work together. Whereas the two tracks on ii were structured before Twyn recorded them at the North Miami studio City of Progress, the songs on ii (b) were discovered entirely in the studio. Both songs were jam-based and mostly improvised, Matthews says.
"They're a little more vibey," he says. "They're less about the melody and more about the groove."
"I think this releases the tension a little bit and gets into more of a dance-y place," Glueckauf agrees. The first track, "Steptheque," is a two-step hip-hop groove built around a synth bass line that sounds like a robot making its herky-jerky way to the dance floor. It originated as something they played during soundcheck in the studio, with Matthews messing around on his Moog Sub Phatty.
"We were like, 'Let's record that just to hear some music,' and then we'll build around that groove at the beginning," Matthews says.
"Underwater," the second single on ii (b), is more in line with Twyn's cinematic style. Like "Steptheque," it lives up to its name; it could serve as the soundtrack for the underwater level of a videogame where the objective is to navigate around beautiful but deadly jellyfish.
That's very much intentional. Without lyrics to guide listeners' imaginations, Twyn emphasizes song titles in order to nudge people in the intended direction.
"We sat down and really put some thought into the names of the songs," Matthews says. "The names reflect what you're seeing and what it means."
Following the release of ii (b), Twyn will hit the road for a short series of dates in New York, Pennsylvania, and Florida, including appearances at Miami venues Floyd and the Citadel December 19 and January 8, respectively. Looking even further ahead, the duo might consider recording a full-length record at some point, though its greatest successes have come from releasing a song or two at a time. Glueckauf says, "That kind of reinforces the notion of releasing these singles like we've been doing."