Saturday, July 24, 2010
My avant-jazz pianist dad told me once that jazz was essentially about instability. All those added 9ths and 13ths, re-voiced chords and unexpected drum accents deconstruct the predictability of a tune, opening up harmonic and rhythmic rabbit holes for the musicians to follow.
He may as well have been talking about Ehnahre, a band of Boston wackos formed by various Kayo Dot defectors. Ehnahre's debut record The Man Closing Up (reviewed here and here) hit the extremes of pretty much every musical binary you can imagine -- slow/fast, soft/loud, rigid/spacious, sonorous/dissonant, composed/improvised -- that it felt like deconstructive exercise as much as a metal record. Brutal death metal is known for its atonality, but few metal bands (Behold...the Arctopus is a notable exception) swear such allegiance to discord that they'll use serialism and to ensure their music's freedom from tonality. Ehnahre took that step.
Ehnahre's two-track Alpha/Omega, limited to just 100 vinyl copies (now sold-out), drifts even further into psychosis than its predecessor. Rhythms are in perpetual flux, melodic repetition and groove are fleeting when they exist at all. The one through line is the psychotic laughter at the end of each phrase of "Leda & the Swan;" other disembodied voices chortle in the background in what must be the oddest gang vocals I've ever heard. The lines between doom, death metal, avant-classical and total abstraction continue to dissolve. The jaw-dropping flexibility and power electronics of new drummer Ricardo Donoso enable his bandmates to unhinge their sound even further.
Alpha/Omega sets two William Butler Yeats poems to music. "Leda and the Swan" recounts Zeus's rape of the maiden Leda, a story that has been interpreted as a creation myth. "The Second Coming" prophesies the apocalypse in the wake of WWI. Violence as both beginning and end -- it's a concept that works in parallel to Ehnahre's music, which destroys conventions and erects new ones with the same spectacularly messy, ugly mass of sound.
Ehnahre will release their next full-length Taming the Cannibals on Crucial Blast in October. Prepare ye.
Rape a swan at Ehnahre's website
You can't. Alpha/Omega is sold-out.