Why Special O.P.S.
Special O.P.S. is a trio of improvising musicians from Seattle’s Monktail Creative Music Concern. Mark Ostrowski is the drummer, Stephen Parris is the electric guitarist, and John Seman is the contrabassist. Their title Special O.P.S., besides being their initials, is their mission. O.P.S. is the mercenary guerrilla unit of Monktail, the small, skilled force used to infiltrate hostile or unknown territory, to search and rescue, or seek and destroy. The analogies go on.
Special O.P.S. was formed September 12, 2001. Their regularly scheduled Wednesday practice with the rest of the Monktail collective that day was poorly attended. People had things on their mind. So Ostrowski, Parris, and Seman played anyway, and recorded, and played some more for several hours. They had only one goal that night, to be really, really loud. The recording begins with Ostrowski’s count off: one-two-loud. Sure, the rehearsal space was directly above the stage for Graceland (currently El Corazon, formerly the Off-Ramp), so you had to play loud, but it was also purging, a response, a reaction, an aural understanding, a sonic sympathy, a requiem.
Requiem for NYC is the recording they made that night. The recording is the birth of Special O.P.S., an urgent, flawed, emotive assault and decay of arguments and debates, poems and stories, fears and fragments. This was not three musicians making a statement; this was three friends exploring their feelings in the most intimate and amplified way they could, like much of the world that day. They paired the music with Ostrowski’s visual art, packaged it up and gave it to people.
Ten years later that recording serves as a treaty, an agreement to make current, honest, propulsive music outside any idiom, format, genre or trend as if the world would end and your life depended on it. Because it does.
Standard Special O.P.S. boilerplate, for reference:
“Everywhere we look, the monopolization of the broadcast of messages, the control of noise, and the institutionalization of the silence of others assure the duration of power…. Music and the musician essentially become either objects of consumption like everything else, recuperators of subversion, or meaningless noise.”
-Jacques Attali, “Noise: The Political Economy of Music”
(written 1977, translation from French 1985). p.8
TROIKA (TROI-kuh) noun:
1. A group of three persons, nations, etc. united in power or acting in unison.
2. A Russian vehicle drawn by three horses harnessed side-by-side.
SPECIAL O.P.S. (Ostrowski-Parris-Seman) is a free improvisation commando unit replete with dark regalia, sonic hand grenades and a warped sense of humor. Their performances draw influence from contemporary chamber composition, small group jazz improvisation, electronic experimentalism, dark metal, droll wit and sonic shenanigans from the subtle to the scabrous. It’s black noise and white noise. It’s cross-genre pollination boiled in ammonia, cured in bleach, dipped in battery acid and ignited with the American flag. It’s a damn good time.
SPECIAL OPS’ inaugural recording, Requiem for NYC, was recorded September 12, 2001, and is available independently through monktail.com. Their second release, Arm Me, is available everywhere.