Shane Perlowin: guitar, bass; Ryan Oslance: drums
They used to be a trio, now they’re a duo sounding as a Bulgarian/Chinese octet: Ahleuchatistas are back with a vengeance. You won’t find a guitar/drum pairing as animated (and technically exhilarating) as this. In opposition to the trite “math-rock” classification, their music seems to have resolutely been turned towards an “experimentally palatable” side of the sonic district, with a few softer chapters as breathers. The skewed tempos and weirdly bastard idioms are still there; but in, say, “Future Trauma” we’re equally intrigued by the bulkiness of the timbres, the morphing dynamics and the multiplicity of roaring reminiscences, which include everything from Fred Frith and Henry Kaiser to oxidized surf.
In the title track, the extraction of small particles of metallic melody from the frantically quick picking of the strings flows into chugging interlocked riffs whose frankness would give fits of jealousy to venerated nonentities. A two-note ostinato at one point brought my impious mind to imagine (U2’s) The Edge forced to play and jump at once, vigorously ass-kicked in the meantime. There’s also a distinct Eastern component at work, rendered more incisive by Oslance’s brisk real-time drumming. Indeed the mastery lies in making intricate interactions look like drinking a glass of water: no way of getting lost in abstruseness, it’s all punkishly cogent stuff.
Other salient sections: “Lighted Stairs” features clean intersections of broken meters à la Belew vs Fripp. This reiterative style has actually influenced many guitarists and bands over the years, and this appears a sort of polite nod to that particular method, ultimately evolving in a poor man’s version of Rush. Nice, in any case. “Wisps” might be this writer’s darling, a kaleidoscopic miscellaneous of impractical pulses developing into a majestic suspended chord, with extra minutes of bionic tarantella shortly thereafter. Slowed-down ternary rhythms-cum-fuzz guitar end the whole, bazillions of shifting accents and bubbly tom rolls emphasizing the procedures.
“Requiem For The Sea” is an “easy listening” break whose finale, for some strange reason, reminds me of the intro to Diamanda Galas and John Paul Jones’s The Sporting Life. Instead, “A Way Out” is a cross between a ritual dance and a Balkan folk tune, heating up without necessity of tricks. You can smell the musicians’ sweat. In “A Trap Has Been Set”, alterations in the equalization warp the timbral qualities of another neurotic configuration, introducing further excursions through the meanders of convoluted reiteration interspersed with smoking one-chord braking. Brilliant job: the guys definitely know how to cause our feet to tap convulsively. The last episode – aptly titled “Starved March” – really sounds like Bill Frisell having shed 25 kilos after being subjected to an all-anchovy diet.
Oh, well. Let’s go rupturing kneecaps, dancing to the twisted tunes of these tenderly obsessive kids from North Carolina.