Variously described as art rock, noise-rock and experimental, Ahleuchatistas (drummer Ryan Oslance and guitarist Shane Parish) take the drum-and-guitar approach employed by The White Stripes, Local H, Flat Duo Jets and countless others, and head in a decidedly different and more challenging direction. But despite how foreboding terms like “math rock” might look on paper, Oslance and Parish aren’t pretentious musical snobs. “We both play with a lot of different musicians in Asheville,” says Parish. “We play with people making roots, jazz and world music. So we’re really involved in the [local music] community.”
Ahleuchatistas performs a free-admission album release show at The Mothlight Friday, Nov. 20.
Parish goes on to note that the inspiration for Ahleuchatistas, when the band formed in 2002, was “progressive and punk rock. A free-for-all, designed to be as creative as we wish.” He adds that the musicians were surprised at the reaction to their sometimes amelodic approach. “I really didn’t know that people would be as interested as they were,” he says.
That interest — locally and well beyond Western North Carolina — has only increased over the years. The soon-to-be-released Arrebato is the group’s eighth full-length album. (Fans of previous Ahleuchatistas recordings include avant-garde legend John Zorn.) “Some of the music on Arrebato was composed and modified on our last trip to Spain,” says Oslance. “The song ‘Rincon Pio Sound’ was composed in the car on the way to a show. We learned it at sound check and performed it that night.” Oslance adds that the track expresses the anticipation and joy the duo felt as they approached a gig that would include many friends in the audience.
Ahleuchatistas’ music has the feel of improvisation, though their pieces are tightly constructed and never meandering or jammy. That feeling of a bridge between form and improv is intentional, says Parish. “All of the tunes are composed, but there’s freedom to interpret [them] differently each time.”
Because they create ambitious instrumental music, Ahleuchatistas’ relationship between guitar and drums is different than in a more standard format, wherein bass and drums serve as rhythm section. “We figured out how to capture a full sound before Ahleuchatistas became a duo,” says Oslance. He and Parish had already begun an improvisation-based duo as a side project. When the group’s original bassist left the lineup, the remaining members folded that improv sensibility into their music and continued as a two-piece. Some of those improvisations made it onto the first Ahleuchatistas duo record, 2011’s Location Location.
Oslance describes some of the elements that go into Ahleuchatistas’ music: “droning bass frequencies, looping and me filling in the low end on drums.” He says that a goal of the music is “keeping the energy high.”
Parish believes the duo format allows “more rhythmic freedom. When things are a little more open, you can really communicate a lot.” He suggests that the music can be more “fluid and direct” with two people, when the musicians aren’t necessarily “locked into a particular groove — groove can sometimes box you in rhythmically.”
The musicians in Ahleuchatistas communicate without the use of words, but are their songs about anything? “Yes,” Parish says. “Sometimes a song title will communicate that. It’s often more of a feeling. ‘Shelter in Place’ refers to the general order that was given to the people of Boston during the time of the Marathon bombers. That was a foreboding, spooky thing to tell an entire massive city.” The song aims to convey that sense of disquiet and danger.
The music on Arrebato also pays wordless tribute to the DIY groups with which Ahleuchatistas formed bonds while in Spain, Parish says. Those groups share a “collectivist, community mindset and a sort of radical ethic to create culture.” But, he cautions, “it can be somewhat disingenuous to give most of our songs a specific meaning.”
WHO: Ahleuchatistas with Common Visions
WHERE: The Mothlight, themothlight.com
WHEN: Friday, Nov. 20, 9:30 p.m. Free