Little Women: Teeth

[4 March 2008]

By Nate Dorr

There are arguably few meaningful divisions in experimental music, and so Brooklyn quartet Little Women have been called everything from punk to noise to jazz. The latter seems the most useful signifier here, as the four members all seem well versed in free-jazz technique (I’m guessing this is about 50-50 arrangement to improvisation) and quote little recognizable bits of bebop and lounge here and there, but the attitude seems to owe more to no wave spaz. Likewise, from what I can gather, the quartet splits their time between jazz clubs and warehouse punk shows; in either context they likely baffle a certain proportion of the audience. So it’s hardly surprising that the group shares members with other notables in the semi-populist avant-garde like Zs and Extra Life. 

Teeth, the first entry in a planned one-a-year release schedule, the 19-minute piece (arbitrarily divided, on CD, into four sections) seems a good overview. Splitting its time between spiralling twin-sax freakouts, tightly coordinated jazz-as-thrash-metal noise blasts, and almost-smooth melody references (I may even have heard a little bit of klezmer in there), the recording is perhaps most notable for its balance of technical skill and concrete visceral force. It’d be a lot of fun to see kids mosh to this somewhere, and it doesn’t seem entirely unreasonable to think they might try. At the same time, there’s arguably not a whole lot of momentum and development across the long-form piece, at least until the final minutes, which may be questionable in their own way. Perhaps to preempt concerns that technique can sweep aside content in this sort of work, the quartet seem to be sobbing into their instruments in a gradual build to near-shrieking emotional-parody. It’s either the most wildly innovative or most tastelessly over-the-top moment, and as such may sum up the bands aggro-eclecticism quite nicely.

Published at: http://www.popmatters.com/pm/review/little-women-teeth/