Click to hear: “Monument“
The Portland band Huak plays progressive punk rock: angular and angry, brutal, yet brainy, music. Prog and punk are not necessarily two great tastes that taste great together, but the Secret Trees E.P. really satisfies.
Huak may party with Portland’s indie-rock crowd, but sonically they’re more akin to heavy hitters like Conifer and Confusatron. This is our Fugazi: two guitarist/vocalists (Jake Lowry and Joel Glidden), a bass player (Stefan Hanson) and a drummer (Mike Cunnane) with free-jazz chops and angst aplenty.
Lowry and Glidden spend about half the record screaming in protest. “The youth they have a grievance and it’s growing in size,” Lowry warns early on the opener, “Monument.” “It’s an election year / It feels so good to finally count again,” he cynically sings on “Stats and Demographics.” “We are incapable of paying back our loans,” goes a shout-along line from “Sleep Debt.”
Meanwhile, the pair’s interlocking guitars arm wrestle over some killer riffs. “Stats” goes from punk-funk to frenzy without warning, topped off with a dallop of doom. The first half of “Sleep Debt” sounds like King Crimson on PCP.
Hanson and Cunnane keep busy adding their own distinct pieces to these puzzles. Nothing’s too catchy, but everything’s tight, played with precision and intensity. Huak has the ability to make carefully plotted songs sound unpredictable and chaotic — no small feat.
Clocking in at 21:37, the five tracks on Trees were recorded and released by Peapod honcho Ron Harrity (whose label put out the preceding Trajectory last fall) in the no-frills New Systems Laundry building in Bayside. There’s no mention of any “engineering” or “mastering” on the CD — or evidence of the same — but studio tricks or sheen would betray the spirit of this intentionally abrasive, in-yer-face material.
Musically, Trees isn’t a big step forward from Trajectory, but it’s a move in the right direction as the group fully integrates its relatively new member, Cunnane (who also plays in The RattleSnakes). Intelligent, uncompromising, and loaded with post-rock surprises, this EP proves Huak is among the most talented and compelling bands in the state.
And just wait till you see ’em live…
— Chris Busby
Huak plays a CD release party for the Secret Trees E.P. on Thurs., July 9, at Slainte, 24 Preble St., Portland, at 10 p.m., with openers Oscar Romero (of Gully) and Forever is Now. No cover (21+). 828-0900. For more on the band, visit myspace.com/huak.