Random acts

No stupid questions — A self-reflexive exploration of a self-seeking local band

on the culture industry, Ahleuchatistas (Ahleuchatistas, 2003)

Q: What’s this album like?

A: About once in any given three minutes, Ahleuchatistas will steer your ear vastly off course and completely fool you into thinking they’ve forgotten where it was they set out to go in the first place.

Even when your stereo’s display confirms in unmistakable LCD that there’s at least another two minutes left of whatever dark, foreboding jam that the trio has gone off together to explore, you find yourself thinking that, surely, this crescendo is the end. Not so.

This makes for an alternately enthralling and frustrating listening experience. The trick to enjoying it is simply to let the three players — bassist Derek Poteat, drummer Sean Dail and guitarist Shane Perlowin — lead you down the tangled path they’re clearing.

Granted, you’ll frequently have to look around to avoid stumbling over or into debris — the snagging branches of an unexplored song hook; the stony, jagged edges of superfluous improvisation. Yet I think you’ll find the journey was worth the trouble.

The music does tend to lose itself; in the end, however, the jams usually find their way back.

Q: Does that mean it’s a pretty good album?

A: It’s not bad, though I wouldn’t go off robbing gas stations to scrape up the cash to buy it. It’s sort of like any number of prog-rock instrumental albums — only in the case of Ahleuchatistas, there’s more metal influence at play than surf rock or free jazz. This release is not going to replace Monk, Davis or Coltrane in your CD rack, but it wouldn’t be bad for playing in the background while you’re cleaning your house.

Q: Best and worst moments?

A: The packaging is beautiful. Artist Danny Reed’s sense of tattoo-inspired graphic design is beyond excellent, and on the culture industry is easily one of the most visually striking local releases I’ve seen.

Of course, you probably weren’t asking about the cover. Personally, I like the final track, “Lament For Bhopal,” because, for a few odd seconds, it almost sounds like a Man or Astro-man? song that’s strayed from its nerd-rock foundation and sneaked its way into a Tool jam of a Misfits cover.

The album’s worst moment is harder to pin down. If you don’t like this sort of nomadic, amorphous rock to begin with, you’d likely declare that the disc’s low point is its mere existence. In that case, my advice for you: Forget on the culture industry and spend your money on a nice wool sweater that won’t go anywhere.

I hit bottom in “Tentacle,” a repetitive song of lackluster arrangement that’s almost as hard to listen to as AM radio.

Q: I don’t want to take your word for it. Where can I buy this album?

A: I found this one at Green Eggs & Jam, and I strongly suspect there are probably a few more scattered around various downtown music shops. On the other hand, you can reach the band to buy on the culture industry directly by e-mailing ahleuchatistas@hotmail.com.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

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