Pop/Rock/World CD Reviews
Ahleuchatistas – Of the Body Prone – Tzadik
Published on October 17, 2009
Ahleuchatistas – Of the Body Prone – Tzadik TZA-CD-8066, 48:04 **** [Distr. by E1]:
(Shane Perlowin – guitar; Derek Poteat – electric bass; Ryan Oslance – drums)
North Carolina power trio Ahleuchatistas is not a band that is easy to pin down. The instrumental threesome meld progressive rock, free jazz, experimental avant-garde and impressionistic textures to create a unique sound. For want of a better definition, call it American Radical.
Over the course of 48 minutes on their fifth recording, Of the Body Prone, guitarist Shane Perlowin, bassist Derek Poteat and new drummer Ryan Oslance scorch the eardrums, push musical boundaries to the breaking point and take musical language into unrecognizable areas. Anyone familiar with the group’s previous output will find the same crosshatching of punk, grindcore, speed metal, improvisation and white-hot ambient. This time out, though, increased heights and coarser depths are reached due to the addition of Oslance as well as Perlowin’s recent decision to use effects including distortion, reverb, volume pedals, an Ebow and loops.
Jazz aficionados will probably appreciate tightly wound "Owls," which has a refined and tender side, although the restless rhythms and intricately skewed time signature makes sure listeners cannot sit back passively. This is thoughtful but sharpened material for people who want to examine music closely and become part of the experience. For those who prefer bracing punk jazz akin to John Zorn’s Naked City or Marc Ribot’s Ceramic Dog, the relatively short "Making the Most of the Apocalypse" has a distinct discord. Oslance’s drums skitter, stop-start-stop and otherwise broadly go where few beats go. Meanwhile, Perlowin blasts out shards of guitar deluge that are counterbalanced by unexpected six-string soundscaped impressions. There’s a tangible perception of tightness and looseness that flows through the piece.
Influences abound on the ten tracks and it makes for quite a game of one-upmanship for friends to guess or attempt to figure them out. "Why Can’t We Be In Jamaica?" is decidedly not reggae in construct or purpose. Due to Perlowin’s virtuoso guitar lines and a challenging non-standard groove – which is like The Red Hot Chili Pepper’s punk funk spun inside out – the tune manages to hint at but certainly not copy Captain Beefheart. The composition is serrated, irregular but apparently precisely written out.
The shortest section, "Racing Towards the Hard Kernel," is a speed metal deviation that shares a resemblance to early Metallica and math-rockers such as Don Caballero with its pointedly etched velocity, heated/pleated guitar and pulverizing bass/drum beat down, which is highlighted by Poteat’s thick and rabid bass lines.
At the other end of the spectrum is spacious and ironically titled "Dancing With the Stars." Trying to bring this cryptic conception to a ballroom would be similar to dropping an anvil on a porcelain plate. The cut commences with sedated loops run through Perlowin’s effects pedals, then Poteat strings in scattershot bass bursts to add tension. About three minutes in, Oslance thoroughly swerves the song’s direction and it veers into a distended distortion terrain strikingly chromatic. "Dancing With the Stars" is a precursor of sorts for the anti-war discourse "Total Nightmare in a Deep Dive," replete with combat noises, Poteat’s abysmal and blaring bass, Perlowin’s shrapneled guitar and Oslance’s nearly obscured but skirmished drumming.
The longest invention – and presumably the most epic the ensemble has designed to date – is closing salvo "Map’s Tattered Edges." Here the trio’s innate group-think and genre-busting is on full display. The nine-plus minute excursion begins with a head-turning fusion of metal, aggressive alternative rock and post-rock. Oslance uses cymbals and toms to produce an energized and expansive rhythmic panorama. At approximately the three minute mark though, everything ebbs to a quiet and atmospheric topography accented by withering guitar effects, washed percussion and creeping bass. But characteristic of Ahleuchatistas’ strategy, the agitation once more intensifies and dilates, then slants into serenity as the saga terminates with a jazz-ambient passage.
Of the Body Prone is an assemblage that hovers in the head long after the speakers are dormant, the headphones have been taken off or the stereo has cooled. The diverse juxtapositions and uncompromising attributes furnish a connotation of things bubbling up from the id and transplanted into the consciousness: but risk-taking endeavors rarely are inert affairs.
1. 2/3 Consensus on the Un-Finite Possibilities
3. Those with Guns
4. Why Can’t We Be In Jamaica?
5. Racing Towards the Hard Kernel
6. Eastside Uptight
7. Dancing With the Stars
8. Total Nightmare in a Deep Dive
9. Making the Most of the Apocalypse
10. Map’s Tattered Edges
— Doug Simpson