Chaos theory is based on the idea that even the most seemingly random events have an underlying order. Edward Lorenz is credited with discovering chaos theory as well as with introducing the idea of the “butterfly effect”. The image of a butterfly flapping its wings in Brazil and causing a tornado in Texas a few days later perfectly illustrates the concept of chaos theory. That two random events could be connecting by an underlying rational system is fascinating.
Perhaps propelled by the idea of organized chaos, Gorge Trio’s US debut Open Mouth, O Wisp (officially their third album, after two European import releases) has been in the making for three years. Carefully considered and meticulously constructed, Open Mouth, O Wisp sounds anything but calculated. Testing the patience of even the most open-minded listeners, Gorge Trio throw any semblance of form out the window. In the process they have created a careening, visceral album that is immediately compelling.
Guitarists Chad Popple and John Dieterich (the latter of Deerhoof fame) are the stars here. With electric stabs that sound like the process of smashing mirrors and stitching them back together, Popple and Dieterich keep the album tenuously held together while simultaneously tearing it apart. Take for example “Roof Halves and Dewdrop Gems”. Starting with minimalist guitars, the song cascades and fades, accented by thunderous crashes before a noisily beautiful grand finale. The odd chords and off-kilter timing keeps this song tied together while the rest of it flutters like string in the wind, only to be picked up and blown away by a stray gust of guitar. “Youth Island” shows flashes of Deerhoof styled rhythm guitar, but only briefly. A vibraphone, moving into a soft acoustic outro, fleshes out the tune. It’s this planned spontaneity that keeps Gorge Trio interesting, and many listeners will find it jarring. But for the adventurous instrumental rock fan, there is much to be savored.
“The Spa Bird” opens gorgeously, with humming strings offering a brief respite from cacophony of the previous thirteen tracks. Building slowly into electric guitar sheets and cymbal swirls, it’s more free jazz than noise rock. It’s also one of the disc’s highlights. Equally stirring is “The Age of Almost Living” which finds Popple and Dieterich laying their offerings at the altar of Yes. After a textured synth-driven opening, the two guitarists flex their collective muscle on this track, providing one of the album’s most melodic moments before letting the sound fade into the next song.
Much of the album seems random, but the flashes of rhythmic beauty and odd climax suggest something more lurking beneath the façade of improvised noise. With a sound somewhere between Storm & Stress and the Sun City Girls, Gorge Trio bask in the difficult and are challenged by the formless and shapeless. Whereas their contemporaries, such as U.S. Maple, might offer more melodic hooks, Gorge Trio stubbornly refuse to make it easy. Confrontational music is rarely this intriguing. Ambitious and bordering on the pretentious, Open Mouth, O Wisp is graced with a swagger that these kinds of projects rarely possess. Brimming with confidence, Gorge Trio have made an impressive US debut that will captivate fans of ambitious outsider music.
// Notes from the Road
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