Matthew Papich and Dustin Wong, the two musicians who make up Ecstatic Sunshine, both play electric guitar desperately, as if they’re trying to prove their musicianship to the listener. On their debut, Freckle Wars, the instrumental duo packs in riff upon riff, ideas crowding themselves out with an attack of fuzzy distortion or an unexpectedly pretty melody. Most of the time, though, this Baltimore duo melds attack and melody into a challenging and constantly changing type of hyper-minimalism. Opening track “Ramontana” begins with a jazz progression that bends out of tune, heralding a twisted Appalachian dance that alternates between aggressive strumming and lilting polyphony. The two guitars twist around each other in waves throughout the disk, and melodies are always quick-in, quick-out, so as a listener you’re challenged and kept on your toes. The group’s not afraid to use distortion, either; but this effect’s best when it is a continual accompaniment (“Swirling Hearts”), rather than used as a shock signaling a change of riff (“Beetle”). They bring back themes and ideas throughout the disc, which is really one long tone poem with twelve movements—this unity is reflected in the circular arrangement of tracks on the CD packaging, and on a micro scale in the looped themes that make up the bulk of the songs here. Ecstatic Sunshine will be too esoteric for many listeners, but in their math-esque loops and folk-and-drone riffs there’s plenty to digest.
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