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(58 min, Cuneiform Records)
TRACK LIST: 1. Vanished 3:01 2. Future Trauma 7:07 3. Heads Full of Poison 16:08 4. Lighted Stairs 3:04 5. Wisps 6:34 6. Requiem for the Sea 6:50 7. A Way Out 3:06 8. A Trap Has Been Set 7:17 9. Starved March 5:23 LINEUP: Ryan – drums, percussion Shane Perlowin – el. & ac. guitars, bass
Prolusion. The American duo AHLEUCHATESTAS was formed in 2002 – originally as a trio. Made up of nine instrumental tracks, “Heads Full of Poison” is their seventh release, but is my first encounter with their work.
Analysis. I didn’t expect too much from an album with only two musicians behind it. In fact, however, it turned out to be an interesting, in many ways innovative effort, full of complex, hard-hitting maneuvers characterized by off kilter rhythms and wandering arrangements. While recorded basically live in the studio, the music is to a greater degree composed than improvised and can overall be defined as avant-garde Art-Rock. On the pieces Vanished, A Way Out, Wisps, A Trap Has Been Set and Lighted Stairs it is for the most part very dynamic and intense. On each of these the drums sometimes give the impression more of jazz than rock, while the guitars frequently indulge patterns early ‘80s King Crimson is known for, particularly often on the latter three, though the duo plays with more emphasis on repetition, at times evoking minimalist classical music or even RIO (on A Trap Has Been Set), plus there are Robert Fripp-inspired soundscapes on some occasions. On each of the five the duo offers some really high-intensity listening, as they intertwine their parts and torture their instruments into freewheeling submission to their amazingly fast hands, fingers and minds. Only one of those, A Way Out, is clearly derivative (the only such a track on the CD), throughout echoing the English band, the guitar solos and riffs often sounding as if they’re played by Robert Fripp and Adrian Belew themselves, whereas on the other two they do so only in places, with another, overdubbed, guitar laying down a different pattern. Generally, where the two guitars are in work the way their parts fit together is intriguing, with all sorts of different kind of interaction. The drums, in turn, most often sound as though contrasting with the guitars, often played faster and more loosely at once. The bass solos appear infrequently, unfortunately, because where they are the music is particularly diverse. In any event, save the one that is heavily influenced by King Crimson, neither of the compositions are always pretty stuff: we also have loads of avant-garde features flying everywhere amongst the expedient licks, some of them, say, courtesy of overdubs and guitar synthesizer. On each of the five Ryan Oslance’s percussion pace is phenomenal, while Shane moves easily from fuzzed out droning electric guitars to single string attacks on an acoustic one, which he does much more often, though – unlike the piece titled Future Trauma (the one that only finishes in the album’s primary style) where he works just the other way round. Here the guitars are much more often used for their tonal colors, etc., than their melodic potential, though the drums and percussion still often play non-standard rhythmic role. Anyhow, it’s more of a matter of building things up slowly with subtle variations and fluid guitar than contrasting sections or detailed compositions. One of the techniques the men use on it is to have parts seemingly out of synchronization with each other that eventually come to make sense – a rare case in the field of spontaneously created music. Combining melodic art-rock moves with guitar soundscapes, Starved March and Requiem for the Sea are pieces of a much more linear construction, particularly the former, but while that one is texturally homogenous throughout, the latter begins with a general theme and then moves out roaming for a more unclear destination. Involving both electric and acoustic guitars along with drums and percussion, the album’s longest item, the 16-minute title track, is a sort of Chinese folk rock piece based on avant-garde art-rock devices that typify most of this release and is simply a wonderful musical journey. Here, much of the interchange is highly complex, but an underlying control, exhibited in the playing of both the six-stringer and the drummer, helps to dig the inlay already upon the first listen (at least as regards myself). Surprisingly, albeit mostly light in mood as with much of Chinese music, this one also appears to be the most aggressive of the pieces, at times referring to Avant-Metal. A winner.
Conclusion. Much of this album is highly cohesive music, with only some of the sections in assorted pieces striving for more time to determine compatible parts between the two guitars before arriving at common ground for their spirited dialog. For the most part highly innovative and original alike, this is one of the very best guitar art-rock creations I’ve heard in years, though I’m sure it will have a limited audience.
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