Economy of Control
These days, when people discuss the band Television they tend to focus exclusively on the 10-minute heroic cascading guitars solos of songs like “Marquee Moon” or “Little Johnny Jewel”. To be fair, this isn’t unwarranted. However, separate from the solo histrionics, one of the most appealing aspects of that group was the minimal nature of their songwriting. When they weren’t busy wailing away at solos, Verlaine and Lloyd’s playing locked together skeletal guitar melodies seamlessly, with no note feeling unnecessary or excessive. Their songs were a triumph of economy, conveying epic sentiment through simple passages.
Throughout the duration of Rahim’s Jungles EP, recently released via French Kiss records, there is nary a single heroic guitar solo to be found. The band itself is only minimally reminiscent of Television. Their music, on the surface at least, owes far more to the underground staples of the past decade like Fugazi, Q and Not U, and Blonde Redhead than to late ‘70s new wave. Yet throughout the four songs included on this initial release, they impressively exemplify Television’s tendency towards economy.
On Jungles, clean guitar riffs lock perfectly with vocal and bass melodies, all tightened together through drums that creatively side-step the hi-hat riding clichés that most contemporary post-punk bands continue to hammer into the ground. Most appealingly, the songs sound natural—as if they could be arranged no other way, having burst forth into the world fully formed. Every part the band plays seems completely necessary and no more.
Rahim is a New York City-based trio consisting of Phil Sutton (drums/percussion), Ryan McCoy (bass/keyboards/vocals), and Michael Friedrich (guitar/vocals), and the three have been musically involved with one another on and off since high school. In 1999, the trio began playing under the name Radio Rahim, releasing several 7” records and a three song single on local labels, and touring throughout the Eastern and Southern US.
Impressed with the sound of records like Faraquet’s The View From This Tower, the band (now sporting their newly shortened moniker) took to the studio in 2004 with J Robbins (Jawbox/Burning Airlines) to record the four tracks that would subsequently make up Jungles.
In the four songs included on the EP, Rahim displays a surprising amount of diversity, never falling into one specific formula. “One at a Time” opens the EP with Sutton’s drums leading the song. It’s a big-sounding rhythm that feels heavily influenced by hip-hop, and it guides the tune towards a build up of distorted guitar drone before finally settling down into the song’s core riff. “Trebuchet” builds tension through its constantly shifting rhythms, showing off the band’s apparent affection for Fugazi, and “Enduring Love” closes the EP with Rahim at their most melodic. Here, subtle keyboards add texture behind the haunting vocal melody before dropping into a driving, oddly-timed groove outro. Throughout the record, Rahim somehow straddle a strange line between the familiar and the unique. They hint at a distinctive voice that is all their own, but one that is never lacking in foundation. Finally, there’s that sense of economy, as if they know exactly where they are going and how much sound it takes to get there.
The next few months should prove to be busy times for the band. In October they expect to return to the studio to record a full length for French Kiss, hopefully with J Robbins once again behind the board. The coming months should also see them hitting the road again for extensive touring.