Joshua Abrams is a composer, bassist, and improviser. His early formative musical experiences include performing in a chamber group conducted by Earle Brown, and busking on the streets of Philadelphia as an original member of The Roots. Since the mid-1990s, Abrams has been a key figure in Chicago's creative music communities and an international touring musician with artists across genres. In 2010, Abrams formed the project Natural Information Society (NIS), a group that creates long-form psychedelic environments that join the hypnotic qualities of the guimbri, a Gnawan lute, to a wide range of contemporary musics and methodologies including jazz, minimalism, and experimental rock.
Abrams has toured internationally with Natural Information Society, including performances at Endless Shout, Institute of Contemporary Art, Philadelphia; Festival International de Music Actuelle de Victoriaville (Vico), Canada; Fylkingen, Stockholm, Sweden; Guelph Jazz Festival, Canada; Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago; Pritzker Pavillion, Millennium Park, Chicago; Sant'anna Arresi Jazz Festival, Sardina, Italy; Serralves em Festa, Serralves Museum, Portugal; Stanser Musiktage Festival, Stans, Switzerland; Teatro Maria Matos, Lisbon, Portugal; and Kaleidophon Festival, Ulrichsberg, Austria. Natural Information Society's recorded works include Simultonality (eremite, 2017); Magnetoception (eremite, 2015); Represencing (eremite, 2012); Natural Information (eremite, 2010); and Cipher (Delmark, 2003).
Abrams has scored numerous feature films, including The Trials of Muhammad Ali (2013), and several projects with award-winning director Steve James: the films Abacus: Small Enough To Jail (2017), Life Itself (2014), The Interrupters (2011); and the documentary series America To Me (2018). Abrams' collaborations with visual artists include sound projects and exhibitions with Lisa Alvarado, Theaster Gates, and Simon Starling.
Abrams has appeared on over 100 recordings, including those by Fred Anderson, Bonnie "Prince" Billy, David Boykin, Hamid Drake, Neil Michael Hagerty, Nicole Mitchell, Roscoe Mitchell, Mike Reed, Matana Roberts, The Roots, and Town and Country. His performances include work with The Fred Anderson Trio, Sean Bergin, Ari Brown, Earle Brown, Peter Brötzmann, Rhys Chatham, Gerald Cleaver, Tony Conrad, Toumani Diabaté, Bill Dixon, Axel Dörner, Von Freeman, Jandek, Kidd Jordan, Oliver Lake, Joe McPhee, Joe Morris, Evan Parker, Jeff Parker, William Parker, Ballaké Sissoko, Damo Suzuki, Craig Taborn, Chad Taylor, and Kurt Vonnegut. He was an artist in residence at Fred Anderson Park (2017) and at The Hideout (2016), both in Chicago. Abrams was awarded the Foundation for Contemporary Arts Grants to Artists award (2018).
-“it’s patient, layered music that’s always heading somewhere, sometimes spare and sometimes complex and shimmering.”
-- Ben Ratliff, New York Times
“Abrams discovers new levels of mood and tone; his pieces seem to escape time completely.”
— Marc Masters, Pitchfork
“It feels startlingly new, in terms of how the music is extrapolated, how the players relate, even as it feels like an ur-music, primal, body-centered, essential.”
-- David Keenan, The Wire