Wharton Tiers: drums, guitar; Fletcher Buckley: saxophone; Michael Gelfand, Miriam Happe, Matt Hunter: bass; John Hogan, Eric Hubel, Paul Johnson, Kevin Kim, RB Korbet, Perry Masco, John Neilson, Jim Santo, John Tanzer, Wharton Tiers, Ellen Watkins
At 61, Wharton Tiers looks (and sounds) much younger; the type of individual who chose the right itinerary in his life, achieved what he aimed for, and now decides what he wants to do without undue skepticism. Nonetheless he remains a perfectionist to the bone, as evidenced by the long gestation period of A Transendance, a gathering of recordings by the Wharton Tiers Ensemble from 1996 to date. Avoiding any preliminary ceremony I blasted the thing at home, point blank, two evenings ago; the first response detected was my wife’s rhythmic corporeal connection to a piece called “Bomb Squad Boot Camp”, which speaks volumes about the coefficient of optimism. Practically speaking, she impulsively performed an on-site saltation ritual following the song’s riff. The latter is the term that sets forth the core of this band’s refreshing plan of attack: squarely compelling vamps and power chords played by a sizeable amount of overdriven guitars, cleaner “singalong” lines in the calmer episodes (for instance, “Night In Beijing”), the smell of hot valves, unsophisticatedly hard-hitting drum figurations. “Clear The Runway” dips gentler incarnations of Glenn Branca and Dick Dale into a “sort-of-Peter-Gunn” sauce; “Whoops” reflects the leader’s sweet spot for The Kinks without a single grade of ignominy. “Border Patrol” and “Rasputin’s Orgy” are “merely” massive. There are reasons for one of the tags reading “alternative surf music” and for the descriptions predicting an improvement of “your summer travel experience” in the group’s Bandcamp page. When unquestionable quality still transpires from recipes utilizing aged ingredients, words such as “passion”, “friendship” or “fun” get needfully attached to the act of playing together. And, indeed, a sense of collective closeness is exactly what this album transmits. Volume as roaring as possible for the highest level of harmonic-induced inebriation in “rattling furniture complements” environments. Oh, and if you’re really driving with this on, a speed ticket becomes a probability.