If one story captures Nama Rupa's reflective approach, it is this: Members of the Madison reggae band came up with their name while browsing through Eastern philosophy books together on a Friday night.
In doing so, they linked their artistic identity to a term grounded in Buddhist and Hindu thought. It's a term that describes the idea of physical and psychological duality.
"It's name and form," says Nama Rupa drummer Paul Reinke, 29. "It's words and deeds. It's the things we say versus the things we do."
Sonically, says Reinke, "It's how music can affect your physicality."
Few Madison bands are as thoughtful and deliberate as Nama Rupa. Above all, the group seeks emotional and intellectual clarity in creating sounds and meaning. You can hear that in the patient tempos of their songs. You can see it in the clean, leafless tree that spreads across the cover of their new CD.
Six years after they formed, Nama Rupa are ready to release their first studio album, Planting a Seed, produced by Mark Whitcomb at Madison's DNA Studios. The band will celebrate with a Jan. 22 show at the High Noon Saloon.
"This album is us planting the band's seed," says guitarist Jason Himebauch, 32.
Since 2006, Reinke and Himebauch have performed locally and regionally with bassist Tyson Klobes, 28. This year, Nama Rupa brought new dimensions to their sound by adding Mike Kelly on guitar and Rafe on hand percussion.
From the start, Nama Rupa questioned whether three white Wisconsin guys were qualified to make reggae music. "We're not Jamaican," says Himebauch, who grew up in Milwaukee. "But we recognize a universal message in reggae. It's about oppression and how to overcome it."
Klobes says reggae was an interest he, Reinke and Himebauch had in common, despite each growing up with different musical influences. "Nama Rupa's sound is a combination of three distinct people who all have different writing styles," says Klobes.
"I have a vocal background," he adds. "There was a lot of singing in my family, so I hear everything in three-part harmony."
Vocal harmony frames "War Crimes," the most emotionally intense song on the new CD. The track is a call for justice made earnest by singing that's arranged like a rhythmic chant. The sparse instrumentation underscores the song's gravity.
Nama Rupa's music isn't always restless. "Starry Night" is a down-tempo track that finds peace in togetherness, music and the beauty of fire and the stars.
The album includes three remixed, instrumental "dub" tracks. Each was engineered by Bill Szeflinski at the Kennel Recording Studio in Brooklyn, N.Y.
It may have taken Nama Rupa six years to release their first studio album, but the band members are reflective about that, too.
"Art comes in spurts," says Klobes. "That's the way we've done it with this project. We've taken our time, but we've done it right."