Now Hear This 2004

by PopMatters Staff

1 January 2004

NOW HEAR THIS 2004   Can’t figure out what to listen to? Listen to us. Once again, PopMatters’ music team presents a highly opinionated, undoubtedly superlative but ultimately revelatory examination of 18 artists that demand your attention. NOW.
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:: Best Band to Render Led Zeppelin Obselete

In a genre that pushes the limits of technical ability, Et At It seem like math rock’s equivalent of the 8-bit gaming system. While duos such as Orthrelm venture out into frontiers of high-speed riffage that would make Malmsteen drool, this trio is still trying to get Ms. Pacman to eat those cherries. They don’t even have a drummer, fer chrissakes. Yet on their debut cd, i count, Et At It makes the point that guitars can expertly handle driving, overlapping rhythms—without sounding like flamenco—while rarely plucking anything faster than an eighth note. With just two guitars and a bass they deconstruct today’s rock music the way Led Zeppelin pared British rock down to its bare bones.

It might not be the type of metal your older cousin would listen to while snarfing whippits out in the high school parking lot, but i count is Et At It’s answer to the entire Zep canon. While one rock powerhouse spaces out to echo effects and ringing feedback on “Dazed and Confused” another does it—and, at 1:37, far more succinctly—on “Petals”. Who needs “Whole Lotta Love”, “Rock ‘n’ Roll” or even “Moby Dick” now that the raw sexuality of “Bodybuilder” and “Hard Cough” are committed to disc? And while Led Zeppelin might have their epics and pentatonic inspirations in “Stairway to Heaven” and “Kashmir”, Et At It covers both bases on “Doubletree” and “Dreema” without subjecting you to any half-baked Celtic mythology.

Et At It—likely named after a work by surrealist painter Roberto Matta—have been floating around DC and its environs for awhile without releasing any recorded material. It has always been tough to appreciate them live: their performance could easily be mistaken for a soundcheck to the uninitiated and their volume-level is no match for even relatively loud talking. Now that Fugazi and Dischord founder Ian MacKaye’s has decided to start Northern Liberties, a tiny label focused on releasing music from the outskirts of rock, it’s at last possible to discover how metal their song structures really are. It’s also our only chance to wrest control of the volume knob away from the band and finally let these songs rattle the woofers in our cousin’s Camaro like they’ve been waiting to do for lo these many years.

— Peter Joseph

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