EOTO: Razed

[22 May 2008]

By Chad Berndtson

EOTO’s Razed is nothing earth-shattering in the spectrum of groovy electronica—you could call it safe and unchallenging, and you’d be right. But then think about what you don’t hear after several rounds with its 12 chewable tracks: clutter.

Michael Travis and Jason Hann, two-thirds of the former String Cheese Incident rhythm section, aren’t breaking any new ground, but it’s awfully refreshing to hear improvised, loop-and-programming-centric groove music that you can engage or let float into the background, depending on your mood, and regardless of said mood have it feel easy, digestible, and gimmick-free, without being substance-free. It’s a tasty collection of head nodders and slippery beats—no more, no less. The String Cheese Incident had plenty of groovable moments, sure, but unleashed on a playground of tech toys—Hann is credited with drum kit, sampler, and programming, and Travis with keys, bass, guitar, percussion, and live mixing—you might expect the duo to get crazy with untethered freak outs, experimental weirdness gone haywire with the freedom to explore beatmaking and not have to supply 4s and 5s for long, twangy bluegrass-funk jams. So if you know Travis and Hann from their now-defunct jam machine, you especially admire the restraint: there are plenty of head-trips in EOTO, but they’re mostly after creating hooks and expanding nanosecond-new ideas with color and shading, not blowing things up.

The twelve tracks were improvised live in the studio, and they feel like it: darting hooks that form a refrain and gradually change their gradient as additional ideas emerge, songs that conclude abruptly for lacking a natural point of closure, and nebulous song titles—“Cacao”, “Ash”, “Warp”, “Say It”, “Camel Bend”—that sound appropriately plucked from stream-of-consciousness mental reactions to the sounds being heard. You pick out your favored progressions, and here that means “Health Plant”‘s squishy beats and goopy textures (a swampy, humid sludge); the restless propulsion of “Tar Tar”, and the trip-hop trudge of “Graved”, which throws in a wailing guitar tone curveball part way through its ten minutes.

Published at: http://www.popmatters.com/pm/review/eoto-razed/