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Saturday, June 24, 2023

More Soul and Fire

By Lee Rice Epstein

Another in a loose, completely unpredictable series of round-ups, featuring three more albums of high-wire, fiery music that falls somewhere in the wide and expansive realm of this blog’s readership’s listening habits. (See the first Soul and Fire round-up here)

Editrix - Editrix II: Editrix Goes To Hell (Exploding In Sound Records, 2022)

Editrix is a sharp-edged, hooky trio with guitarist (and blog-fan-fave) Wendy Eisenberg, bassist Steve Cameron, and drummer Josh Daniel. The second album from Editrix sends the band to hell in name only, the music is as fun as the debut, if not more so. Eisenberg’s guitar shimmers on the opening title track, like a spiky remnant lifted from eight tracks of shoegaze noise. As they sing, “Don’t stop, don’t look away, I’ll run away from you,” Cameron and Daniel lay down a sinewy punk groove that immediately pivots to metal madness on “The Hunt.” The songs are catchy as, well, hell? “Queering Ska” mashes up a ska-punk backbeat with Eisenberg’s pointed, melancholy lyrics, while “Two Questions” is a dub-inflected headbanger. One of many of the album’s highlights, “I Can Hear It” rises and falls in crashing waves, Cameron surfing right through alongside Eisenberg. Where, on previous albums, the rising and falling melodic lines from guitar and bass hinted at Eisenberg’s jazz bona fides, their Editrix compositions thrash and romp unexpectedly.

Ahleuchatistas - Expansion (Riverworm Records, 2022)

Ahleuchatistas is a trio, sometimes duo, that’s been going so long it’s probably old enough to drink by now. Most recently, guitarist Shane Parish pulled together a trio with bassist Trevor Dunn and drummer Danny Piechocki. Ahleuchatistas has long occupied an intersection of arch wit, punchy drums, and swinging up-tempo guitar that, to reference one track, keeps on giving. After Parish spent some time with this band as a duo, Dunn and Piechocki are brilliant additions to the Ahleuchatistas extended family. Titles like “Megamegalopolis” and “End Times Careerism” give an idea of the sense of humor, and both also feature Parish laying down remarkably layered riffs that play delightedly off of Dunn’s mind-blowing bass lines. For the impatient listener, the trio rarely (if ever) stop moving; for the patient listener, the hallmarks of Parish’s other albums are present and accounted for: folk and blues colliding with punk and classical. And where is the jazz, per se? Well, what’s not jazz about it, says I.

 The group is on tour in June to support Expansion...

Max Kutner - High Flavors (self-released, 2022)

Max Kutner is something like a guitarist-plus on High Flavors, an album recorded just around the tail end of the COVID-19 pandemic with trumpet player Eli Asher, saxophonist Michael Eaton, bassist Kurt Kotheimer, and drummer Colin Hinton. As usual for Kutner, the music pulls from his deep well of jazz, synth funk, and prog rock, with a warm humor that shaves away any pretense associated with those genres (for the purposes of this review, assume genre is a thing—for the purposes of enjoyment, there is no genre only music). Throughout the album, layers of overdubs and samples slot in and out of the tracks (with, as the liner notes mention, “A High Point of Low Culture” highlighting Kutner’s grandfather on saxophone). Around the halfway mark of opener “Deramping,” Kutner, Asher, and Eaton start in on collectively melting faces. The group has more surface jazz markers than Editrix or Ahleuchatistas, occasionally dropping into all-out swing or gutbucket blues territory. Like Eisenberg and Parish, Kutner has a kind of infectious, fearless joy that comes blazingly through.


Gary Chapin said...

"Old enough to drink by now." That there is a great line. Good reviews.