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Pleistocene began as a solo project for guitarist/vocalist Eric Gangloff in 2002. Over the years, it has evolved into a nine-piece ensemble on the way to realizing Gangloff's ambition of creating the music he fondly refers to as "glacial rock," so coined because it moves slowly yet is monumental. Blurring artistic boundaries, the outfit pushes beyond traditional rock and incorporates elements of traditional folk from various places in the world, with lyrical content that is decidedly internationalist in orientation. Six years into its tenure, the band is finally releasing ¡Ojalá!, its first full-length. We spoke with Gangloff recently about the act's moniker, the name of the new record and the mixed instrumentation.
Westword: What is the significance of the title of your album?
Eric Gangloff: "¡Ojalá!" is a commonly used expression in Latin America that basically means "God willing." It has an Arabic etymology, coming from the time when the Moors were in Spain. We just don't commonly think of Arabic culture affecting the way people speak in Guatemala. The ambiguity is powerful — is this an expression of plaintive grief or a powerful invocation? It's one of the refrains in "Fallujah." This kind of fits in thematically; in this tune, you have the sample to start, but the lyrics are about the Arab world. All of our boundaries collapse at a certain magnification.
The Pleistocene era is also referred to as one of the last great epochs when the human race was free of hierarchical social organization and civilization organized around mass agriculture. Does that have anything to do with your choice of band name?
What's a band if not a small group of folks that huddle together for survival? I was doing some casual reading a few years back and had a secret fantasy about roaming the plains hunting mammoth. There's a certain appeal to that kind of lifestyle, but of course if we were really there, it probably wouldn't be so keen. One of our newer tunes, "Mammoth Everywhere," is about a Pleistocene family dreaming of the modern conveniences of living in the Holocene, then realizing that maybe it wouldn't be all it's cracked up to be.
Your songs combine acoustic and electronic instruments together. What inspired this mixture, and are there other musical projects that have inspired you in this direction?
The combining of acoustic and electronic instruments is basically what started the whole project. I'd write these instrumental tunes on acoustic guitar, then put together tracks of percussions and weirdness on the computer. You can create some amazing sounds with computers and synthesizers, but at the same time, live instrumentation brings that emotion and excitement to a performance. We tried to push that to an extreme and try mixing marching-band horns with abstract noise and samples. I think of bands like Godspeed You! Black Emperor, or Do Make Say Think, or a lot of hip-hop that mixes these elements. It's always an experiment; you put different things together and just see what happens!