Ahleuchatistas, What You Will (Cuneiform Records): Four Stars
• Genre(s): Experimental, jazz, art rock.
• You’ll like it if: You favor rapid, multi-instrumental conversations over extended solos.
• Defining song: “If, Whenever” — Not even a minute long, the song makes its point in what usually takes a full album. Thus, the philosophy of Ahleuchatistas: Burn the brain with brisk playing, and cram drum/guitar/bass fills into even the tightest of spaces.
Watching the Ahleuchatistas live (drummer Sean Dail, guitarist Shane Perlowin and bassist Derek Poteat) can be intimidating. Defying the laws of math, the trio inserts notes into spaces that shouldn’t exist. Perhaps that’s why their new album, What You Will, can also be daunting to untrained ears. Full of gorgeous artwork and song titles that reveal the band’s social and political philosophy (“Remember Rumsfield at Abu Ghraib” is a nod to Charles Mingus’ protest song “Remember Rockefeller at Attica”), the album never traverses into vocal territory. It doesn’t need to. The Ahleuchastistas are one of those special bands that iron out all their distress in their instruments. Listeners that appreciate this urgent form of dialogue will not be disappointed.
Animal Collective with the Nix Noltes at the Orange Peel: Five Stars
• Genre(s): Experimental, noise rock.
• Be glad you stayed home if: Your good time is contingent upon constant beats and grooves.
• Defining moment: The whole show. Relentless in intensity, Animal Collective took a stream-of-consciousness approach that didn’t abate (except for one allowance of clapping midway through the set) until the lights came on.
I’d never heard an Animal Collective song until I stepped in the Orange Peel for the evening. Given their stage names (including Panda Bear and the Geologist), I’d decided they would be some novelty quartet from Baltimore that could plink some noise here and there and call it music. When guitarist/vocalist Avey Tare began his banshee vocals, my spine did a Q-like twist. Disturbingly refreshing, AC fed samples through what sounded like a meat grinder. Shimmers of pop would appear, only to be drowned out by Panda Bear’s relentless stand up drumming or the Geologist (appropriately donning a headlight) tinkering with his numerous sample gadgets. By the end of their song “Grass,” my mind finally relented to the noise, and by show’s end, I felt cozy in the chaos. While not gorgeous, AC takes a risk each second, proving that music doesn’t need structure to turn heads and making this performance an early contender for show of the year.
[When he’s not bending readers to his will, Hunter Pope cooks, gardens, hikes and spends his mortgage money on CDs he’s never heard.]