Absolute Zero – track by track

What do we know so far about the Absolute Zero songs – each of the tracks on the next record.You can pre-order Bruce Hornsby’s Absolute Zero and hear the first tracks here.

These are quotes from across the internet on Absolute Zero. Most are from Bruce’s Facebook bio (marked [FB]) or the Aquarium Drunkard interview [AD].

Bruce Hornsby and the Noisemakers Absolute Zero

Absolute Zero (featuring Jack DeJohnette)

Title track, features Jack DeJohnette.

Inspired by Don DeLillo’s book “Zero K“, which Bruce describes as about “the cryonic field – or, most baldly put, Ted Williams freezing in a vault somewhere outside Phoenix.” [FB]


Per Bruce’s Facebook bio: Bruce compares a relationship with that “rough and fragmented geometrical shape,” as he puts it, “that can be subdivided into parts.” [FB]

Cast-Off (featuring Justin Vernon and S. Carey)

Features Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon and Sean “S.” Carey.

Co-written with Justin Vernon.

“Manages to animate a rare style – miserablist polyrhythms – without skimping on the funk itself.” [FB]

Released on March 21 2019 on Apple Music, iTunes and YouTube.

“This song was put together in Eau Claire, WI last April, starting with an unused film cue, developed and expanded upon in the studio with spontaneous contributions from Sean Carey (who just walked in and started singing), Jeremy Ylvisaker (playing guitar that doesn’t sound like guitar!), Mike Lewis and JT Bates on sax and drums, Brad Cook (and later Noisemaker JV Collier) on bass, and Justin and I taking turns in the vocal booth trading ideas and melodies. Pretty much, mostly concocted right there at April Base! (Vernon’s recording facility)” – Bruce Hornsby [FB]


Meds (featuring Justin Vernon, Blake Mills and Rob Moose)

Features Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon, Blake Mills and Rob Moose. 

Blake (guitar) has worked with a diverse a crowd, for example Kid Rock, Norah Jones, Pink and Dixie Chicks and also Lana Del Ray.

One of the newest Absolute Zero songs, it was written towards the end of the record’s recording. [AD]

Rob (guitar, viola, mandolin) counts Chris Thile/Punch Brothers, Bon Iver and Ben Folds amongst his collaborations.

“A particular tour de force of Hornsby/Moose featuring special guitar by Blake Mills, blossoms into gripping ‘60s soul choruses.” [FB]

“Comes from an extended family history of depression. (“Lost Soul” was about one of my cousins). “Halcyon Days” covers the same sort of thing. “Pastures of Plenty”… I tend to revisit it, like I do the race issue. I can’t explain it, other than to say that I’ve been surrounded by it through my life.” [AD]

Never in this House 

“Traditional Hornsby songwriting.” [FB]

“A folk song; very simple old-time Americana.” [AD]

“Should be sung by a trio. It’s a dysfunctional family song: the first verse is sung by the father, the seconds verse (where I g onto falsetto) is sung by the mother, and the third verse is sung by the son. It’s me playing roles.” [AD]

Features yMusic and The Staves.

Both yMusic and the Staves have collaborated with each other extensively, and did so at Bruce’s Funhouse Fest in 2017. Absolute Zero was the perfect chance to do so again.

Bruce says of both, “So I’m listening to this British female vocal trio and Brooklyn chamber music group, going ‘Whoa, who is this? I loved the women, the chamber music group, the whole thing. What they were doing together was adventurous, a different sound.” [FB]

“Hornsby invited yMusic and The Staves to appear at (Funhouse Fest). “That’s when I met them,” he says. “We hit it off and became friends. I asked them to play on what became Absolute Zero. We did a session with yMusic in New York. We worked on six pieces; five ended up on the record. It just went from there. yMusic’s leader Rob Moose started doing some things on his own on some new songs that I would write. Rob arranging on his own – where he puts down twenty different string parts (“Give me another one! OK, there’s that. Another track! Another track!”) – is quite something to see, working his magic in the studio.” [FB]

Originally written for the SCKBSTD play. [AD]

Voyager One 

Features yMusic.

Bruce has called it “sort of chamber art-pop meets Prince.” [FB] and separately “Steve Reich meets Prince”. 

“A song about a kid’ fascination with space.” [AD]

Features three drummers, including J.T. Bates. [AD]

This is the first of the Absolute Zero songs to be released. It’s out ahead of the album as a single and also available on YouTube as a lyric video:


Echolocation definition: “Echolocating animals emit calls out to the environment and listen to the echoes of those calls that return from various objects near them. They use these echoes to locate and identify the objects. Echolocation is used for navigation and for foraging (or hunting) in various environments.” [Wikipedia]

Human echolocation: “Human echolocation is the ability of humans to detect objects in their environment by sensing echoes from those objects, by actively creating sounds: for example, by tapping their canes, lightly stomping their foot, or snapping their fingers” [Wikipedia]

“A stylistic cousin of “Fractals,” that Bruce calls “one of my musical combines.” He’s remembering the American artist and pop art instigator Robert Rauschenberg, who during the 1950s made famous hybrids of tactile painting and sculpture, where almost anything, assembled just so rightly, goes.” [FB]

“An old-time traditional song with an added “direction skillset” idea which is human echolocation – you’re leaving a situation that’s no good for you , and you’re able to do it with knowledge of the night sky and human echolocation skills. It’s a modern scientific addition to a very old-time song that I feel Ricky Skaggs could sing. It’s very traditional and I love that kind of music.” [AD]

The Blinding Light of Dreams 

Features yMusic.

Also previously released on the Solo Concerts as “Where No-one’s Mad”.

Bruce notes “the groove dates back to “Serpentine Fire” by Earth, Wind & Fire.” [FB]

“The most harmonically complex. It’s a bitonal pop song in two keys – one hand is in C; the other hand’s in F Sharp. Very dissonant – it’s challenging” [AD]

Also originally written for SCKBSTD. [AD]

White Noise

“Bruce calls it “The David Foster Wallace moment.” It offers a passionate singer with a string quartet backing him. “The narrative comes from Wallace’s “The Pale King“, a novel about boredom, about IRS tax examiners as unlikely yet convincing American heroes.” [FB]

The line “Will the drugs help?” was originally written as “Will the meds help?”. The word “Meds” features heavily in another of the Absolute Zero songs, so Bruce re-recorded rather than repeat himself.

“A commentary which comes from the David Foster Wallace unfinished novel “The Pale King” – a book about boredom, and IRS regional examiners and their lives.” [AD]

Take You There (Misty) 

Written with Robert Hunter.

Features yMusic.

“Romanticism as re-ordered by Hornsby via memories of Steve Reich’s and Philip Glass’s sonically floral minimalism.” [FB]

Keep coming back – we’ll be adding to these pages when more becomes available!

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