Kevin Larkin has always taken an experimental, unconventional approach to music, including with his solo project Pineross.
His newest Pineross album, “Dragoon,” has a similar focus as his previous work, blending history and mythology with current experiences of humankind. To create it, he used a revolving group of musicians.
Larkin will celebrate the Aug. 19 release of his new album on Wednesday, Sept. 21, at Club Congress. Joining Pineross is Desert Fantasy, who will fete its new album, “Donde Duermes.”
Desert Fantasy is a music project led by and featuring compositions from Jake Ransom, with a revolving group of musicians.
The interactive show at Club Congress will feature visual projections and shadow puppetry by Red Herring Puppets, run by puppeteer Lisa Sturz.
“For me, music is always just one angle of the conversation,” Larkin said. “I’ve always thought of it as a bigger experience of the art when you bring in the visuals and you bring in more storytelling elements.”
The shadow puppets will add more of a storytelling element, Larkin said.
“I like to have elements that are a little bit unexpected and more multidisciplinary,” said Larkin, who designs Pineross’ album covers and music videos.
“I think for bigger shows like this, I like to have that element, something that’s a little bit different, something that complements the music.”
Like his other Pineross projects, the newest album was a collaborative effort with Jake Ransom on drums and Charles Du Preez on bass clarinet.
Larkin also worked with Tucson-based musicians from Los Esplifs and Sharkk Heartt, along with Katie Haverly.
“It was a very natural process. I sent the songs to people to see what they thought, if they wanted to add something or collaborate. Most of them said yes,” Larkin said.
Du Preez recently moved away, and Larkin is working with bass clarinetist Daniel Becker for the upcoming show. A number of percussionists will perform with him during the party. Larkin will join them on mandolin and synth.
In his music, Larkin often uses Ableton Live electronic music software for sound design and field recordings.
Last November, he recorded in the music lab in the CATALYST creative space in the Tucson Mall and at Dust and Stone Recording Studio.
Larkin started writing the album early in the pandemic in a cabin at the foot of the Dragoon Mountains, the traditional home of the Chiricahua Apache on the Mexican border. The mountains have been the site of wars waged against the Apache and are now a part of a major human trafficking route.
Larkin said although the area has had a turbulent history, the natural landscape is redeeming.
“It’s been a constant place of struggle, but it’s also at the same time one of the most biodiverse places in the entire country,” Larkin said.
“It has some beauty that you’ll never find anywhere else… It really is a magical place. The natural world there is so special and unique. At the same time, there is an underlying layer of sadness there. A lot of people have been at war for a long time or are struggling to have a better life, and that’s the place that they cross. There’s definitely that layer there, but part of the concept of ‘Dragoon’ is Chief Cochise was able to die and be buried in the Dragoon Mountains. He died on his own tribal land, which was pretty rare for a chief in the late 1800s. The concept for me is it is a place of refuge, where you can lose yourself in the beauty.”
The Sonoran Desert also inspired him.
“I don’t know what it is about it,” Larkin said.
“Even my first album, I had never been to the Sonoran Desert, but I put a saguaro on the album cover. I just have been drawn to it…The more I learn about it, the more amazing it is.”
The sounds are just as organic. Larkin used ambient noise such as bird recordings, and recreated with drums sounds such as the crunching noise of caked-up mud in Northern Arizona.
He also represents sonically the experience of immigrants having their belongings taken by Border Patrol agents when they are detained.
A three-year Tucson resident, Larkin has released three albums — recorded in Colorado, Arizona and Mississippi — and an EP as Pineross. His first release was in 2006, making Pineross his longest-running project.
He has found that living in these areas, he has been influenced by styles that are prevalent, such as Appalachian bluegrass and Cajun in Mississippi and mountain, hip-hop and heavy metal in Colorado.
Larkin had an unconventional journey as a performer, educator, composer and producer. He took piano lessons as a kid and was in band in school.
After high school, he discovered bluegrass, which inspired him to play the mandolin. For a time, he toured with bluegrass bands before turning his attention to folk and then electronic music.
He said that bluegrass continues to influence him, especially in how he incorporates harmonies into his music.
“I think of bluegrass like I think of cumbia or samba. It’s just this aesthetic and this history that’s in my subconscious at this point. I’m sure it rears its heads in the projects and shows up in ways I don’t even know,” Larkin said.
He helped found the Denver-based folk-art band/music collective Chimney Choir.
With the group, he has written original ballets for contemporary dance company Wonderbound, arranged for and performed with the Colorado Symphony and collaborated with Colorado Public Radio on an immersive experience.
The group also helped lead Colorado Creative Industries’ Detour project, which offered performance opportunities and songwriting workshops.
Although he is no longer based in Denver, Larkin has continued to work with the group. They are producing a new project.
Larkin has also done sound installation for Great Sand Dunes National Park and works part-time as operations manager for the Southern Arizona Symphony Orchestra.
Along with Pineross, the artist also creates music through the AAmateur AAstronomy ambient/sound collage project.
Larkin has spent his career collaborating with creatives ranging from filmmakers to environmentalists to dancers and poets.
“I meet people through doing performance projects. I meet collaborators that turn into life-long friends through the creative process, whether it’s my project or someone else’s project. It’s a way that I’ve often found my community,” Larkin said.
Recently, he was part of a “Monsoon Mixtape” project commissioned by Tucson Water. Larkin and other artists spanning multiple genres created music for a site-specific installation underneath Cushing Street Bridge.
The songs all incorporated storm sounds from the monsoon season.
“Connecting with the sounds of a place through the ambient noise of field recordings is something that I love. Just being able to work that into a composition is a very cool experience,” Larkin said.
Pineross “Dragoon” Album Release Show
WHEN: 7 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 21
WHERE: Club Congress, 311 E. Congress Street, Tucson