Janel and Anthony are a Washington DC based instrumental duo whose elegant experimental music has gained the attention of some of the world’s most important improvisers and musicians, and captivated live audiences (and NPR and BBC listeners) locally and abroad. For Where Is Home, their second album and first release on Cuneiform, the duo have created a lush, orchestral work investigating the treacherous emotional terrain at the hyper-mobile heart of 21st century America. Drawing on everything from Hindustani ragas and surf rock licks to Appalachian laments and post-bop harmonies, the album alternates between intricately lapidary, electro-acoustic soundscapes and brief improvised dialogues. Transcending music genre as well as geographic locale, Where Is Home is rooted equally in the 21st century’s global village and in Washington’s vanished past.
Janel and Anthony is the collaborative venture of two of the fastest-rising stars in DC’s burgeoning experimental music scene, Anthony Pirog, an omnivorous guitarist, and Janel Leppin, a conservatory trained cellist steeped in North Indian and Persian classical music, free improvisation and jazz. They began performing as a duo in 2005, and in 2006, they recorded and self-released an eponymous album which sold thousands of copies at countless shows they’ve played since. Their new album, Where is Home, was recorded over the past several years during an exhilarating and exhausting period for the two professional musicians. An ethereal instrumental song cycle soaked in the apprehension and thrill of wanderlust, Where Is Home in an astonishing creation, born in a studio that served as spiritual heart, home, and only fixed locale during 3 years of constant touring, travel to distant locales for musical collaborations, and multiple moves. While exploring themes of restlessness, homesickness and feelings of disorientation, the music itself is deft and focused—a vivid, dynamic offering that shimmers with consummate professionalism and a bond shared since adolescence.
While Janel and Anthony’s music is informed by the intense attachment to ancestral land and intimate knowledge of the local landscape, there’s nothing parochial about their expression. Their music is global in its sonic, instrumental and emotional reach, sharing the inclusive spirit of jazz and 21st century classical music. Pirog’s “Big Sur” perfectly captures their expansive musical vision. Featuring Leppin on bowed and pizzicato cello, loops, a vintage Prophet 5 analog synthesizer, and Saarang Maestro Dx (a digital tanpura, or long-neck North Indian lute); and Pirog on electric and acoustic guitars, electric sitar, bells and loops; Where Is Home’s opening track is a high energy excursion, marked by soaring solos full of wonder. Inspired by the many places they'd visited and lived, the album is a lavishly detailed musical journey, by turns ravishing and harrowing. Themes of home (“A Viennesian Life”) give way to those of travel, in a panorama that spans from “Big Sur” to “’Cross the Williamsburg Bridge”.
Janel and Anthony’s budding development as artists mirrors the recent emergence of DC – long a political powerhouse – as an artistic, musical, and technological center of global importance. DC’s roiling underground scene boasts a global array of artists who are creating new sounds unconfined by genre conventions. While rooted in DC, they also experience the peripatetic lifestyle often required by a life in music. Pirog notes that at the most fundamental level Where Is Home reflects their gypsy existence in recent years. “The music on this album was inspired by the many places we've visited and lived. In the course of three years we moved at least 10 times.” But DC has always been a magnet for people – and music – from around the globe who are on the move. “The Washington scene has been ideal, because we’re both interested in so many different types of music,” Pirog says. “We’re able to play in all the different scenes, jazz, roots, surf, rockabilly, Persian, experimental. And then we bring all of that into Janel and Anthony.”
Frequent performers on DC’s live music scene, Janel and Anthony will celebrate the release of Where is Home with multiple shows both near and afar. Besides touring in the US, the duo is planning shows in Europe and elsewhere abroad.