Local Tracks on the Web
By David Pence
Like a hybrid of both sides of the Beatles’ 1966 single “Paperback Writer” b/w “Rain,” this track seems to have burst into the world fully formed, albeit rough and wet and messy. Deeply catchy, deceptively simple, psychologically compelling (not to mention funny), “Visita” carries the sound of a young group exuberantly breaking their own trail. There’s joyous clatter everywhere, like Jason Rogers’ and Derek Lobley’s hollered vocal (“visita!”) and Althea Pajak’s bread-and-butter drumming. Derek’s elegant keyboard part is wedded to the bouncy, fuzzy, mid-range guitar tones. Jay Lobley’s singing is stunning — phrases like “briefcase of mystery” and “what I’m here for” seem to hint at disquieting answers to life’s puzzles. “Visita” reaches a cathartic payoff in the chorus’ interplay between mordant vocal call (“You know I like animals / I don’t like everybody else”) and encouraging falsetto response (“And everybody else”).
The Den is RattleSnakes drummer Mike Cunnane experimenting with keyboards and microprocessors and guitars, little ribbons of melody, and lyrics refracting hazy images of Einstein and the Dutch graphic artist/optical illusionist of the song’s title. The piece starts with a mess of static that gives way to a cheap, queasy organ pattern. “Escher” leapfrogs forward in increments, gathering detail and texture: a gaggle of electronic sounds and effects, some guitar figures, a cloudy, evocative vocal track. You know a drummer’s at the wheel, as Cunnane gets thrust and even swing out of the organ figures and electro loops. He has created a coded communiqué — essentially a drone in C like “Tomorrow Never Knows” — piped in from another dimension. Smartly, Cunnane ends it the same way he started it (the sound of dirty electrical connection), completing a neat Escheresque circuit.
This nasty rock-and-roll song about the seductive power of chemicals and the hope of finding “a shortcut to happiness” ought to be a hit single. The sinuous, restrained lines of guitarists Ben Moors and Alisha Goss give just enough color to austere verses built on a B-minor chord. Joe Hartel’s theatrical vocals (think Larry Bangor from Human Sexual Response) demand attention, representing a hyped-up, wittily self-aware soul who’s perfectly willing to unhinge himself to get his point across. The taut discipline that characterizes the verses gives way to pleasing sheets of fuzzy chords — that same B-minor along with a bright D chord — in the elemental, hooky chorus. Bad Island’s rhythm section has a jazzy, funky thing going on that could keep dancers on the balls of their feet, singing, “It was cold late December / Brown pill last thing I remember.”
Malcolm Cowley suggested that prose writers could be divided neatly into two groups: putter-inners and taker-outers. If we applied his helpful rubric to musicians, Huak would fit with Mike Watt and Mission of Burma in the former category. This music is performed with agility and verve by Jake Lowry, Stefan Hanson, and Eric Loren. It’s complex, challenging, yet the controlling action of “Holy Sonnet” is straightforward: a lashing out, a diatribe against the conventions of organized religion (“In the midst of / friends and neighbors / breathe the stale air / feel closer to / god and country / in the church pew / holding hands in pleated dress pants”). A couple of the song’s best passages underscore a more interesting note of exhaustion and regret in Lowry’s lyrics and delivery. There’s a consciousness there that wants only to be allowed to reflect — or, at the very least, to rest.
It starts in medias res, Animaeux Domestiques (a.k.a. Matthew Erickson) spraying the place with menacing electronic vapor: G for two bars, A for two bars, and another round of the same. A snare drum emerges from the gloom, and then an electric guitar crawls like a lizard into the dank cellar air. If this guitar seems perverse, it’s due partly to the odd notes Erickson grabs, and partly to his timing (he sets you up to expect a musical change way down the line — after sixteen bars — then bites you after twelve). The accumulated tension begins to lessen with a grainy, grimacing slide guitar (playing, at last, D), and the disappearance of the ominous, clotted overtones of the keyboard. Then Erickson imports an electronic, down-tempo groove grid, and the guitar finds a semblance of relief in tremolo shivers. He lets this shimmerjunk build momentum for twenty bars before pulling the plug. The aura just hangs there. It’s both thrilling and frustrating, not unlike a great movie trailer — you’re left wanting the whole film.
David Pence is the host of Radio Junk Drawer, heard Wednesdays from 3 p.m.-5 p.m. on community radio station WMPG (90.9 and 104.1 FM; wmpg.org).