Music

Ahleuchatistas: The Same and the Other

Politically-charged math-rockers' second album gets a John Zorn-approved reissue; for better or worse, time hasn't softened the music one bit.


Ahleuchatistas

The Same and the Other

Label: Tzadik
First date: 2004
US Release Date: 2008-02-19
UK Release Date: 2008-02-25
Amazon
iTunes

Over the last five years, North Carolinian instrumental trio Ahleuchatistas has made four albums' worth of music that proudly avoids repetition and repose. Almost always through-composed, and frequently played at bewilderingly fast speeds, their songs rarely let an idea last for more than 45 seconds before it is steamrolled by an entirely different idea. It's a challenging sound, to say the least. It doesn't shock me that experimental music legend John Zorn was fond enough of Ahleuchatistas to reissue their second album, 2004's The Same and the Other, on his Tzadik label. Zorn's endorsement should expose the band to thousands more listeners, the kind who don't flinch when suffixes like "prog-" and "math-" are attached to their rock music. Everyone else, though, should probably steer clear.

After a three-second intro of blast beats straight out of a death metal record, opener "Cracked Teeth" runs through at least five distinct sections in less than three minutes. At the beginning of the song, drummer Sean Dail crams so many snare rolls and hi-hat trills into his rhythms that he almost falls out of sync with the rest of the band. At another point, the song takes a 12-second detour into funk before launching into a series of false endings. The song peaks when guitarist Shane Perlowin and bassist Derek Poteat start wrenching abrasive screeches and diddles from their instruments. Their ability to make such a racket is pretty impressive, considering that both Perlowin and Poteat play sans effects.

The most approachable songs on The Same and the Other are those in which the band either allows ideas to repeat themselves, or bridges them smoothly enough to imply some sort of linear progression. On "Imperceptibility", the trio runs two central riffs through every possible permutation it can think of – adding and subtracting notes, applying odd syncopations, shoehorning them into odd meters – without letting its skittishness disrupt the song's momentum. "Good Question" boasts a long, unaccompanied guitar solo in which Perlowin wanders up and down Middle Eastern scales in a way that would make Sir Richard Bishop proud. During the mid-section of "Lee Kyang Hae", the band jams on a melancholy four-chord riff for such a surprisingly long time that I wonder if their beers were spiked with Adderall when they recorded it.

The reissued version of The Same and the Other appends the original album with five bonus tracks from the same sessions that find the band engaging in full-on improvisation – which, frankly, isn't their strong suit. These tracks basically sound like Perlowin and Poteat strangling their instruments while Dail practices paradiddles. The original album was already an exhausting listen at 28 minutes; increasing the running time to 46 turns it into the kind of ordeal that only Trumans Water completists would enjoy in its entirety.

The members of Ahleuchatistas are outspoken about their political motivations: the first part of the band's name comes from the famous Charlie Parker tune, the second from the infamous Mexican revolutionary group. I suspect that the band's music is intentionally designed to imitate the tumult of modern life. If so, then it may be a bit TOO successful. Just as watching a news anchor tell tales of violence and turmoil for a half-hour can compel me to seek refuge in even the most insipid sitcom, if only to remind myself how to laugh again, listening to The Same and the Other could compel many listeners to reach for the nearest Rihanna CD, if only to remind themselves how to dance and sing along to music again.

5

Cover down, pray through: Bob Dylan's underrated, misunderstood "gospel years" are meticulously examined in this welcome new installment of his Bootleg series.

"How long can I listen to the lies of prejudice?
How long can I stay drunk on fear out in the wilderness?"
-- Bob Dylan, "When He Returns," 1979

Bob Dylan's career has been full of unpredictable left turns that have left fans confused, enthralled, enraged – sometimes all at once. At the 1965 Newport Folk Festival – accompanied by a pickup band featuring Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper – he performed his first electric set, upsetting his folk base. His 1970 album Self Portrait is full of jazzy crooning and head-scratching covers. In 1978, his self-directed, four-hour film Renaldo and Clara was released, combining concert footage with surreal, often tedious dramatic scenes. Dylan seemed to thrive on testing the patience of his fans.

Keep reading... Show less
9
TV

Inane Political Discourse, or, Alan Partridge's Parody Politics

Publicity photo of Steve Coogan courtesy of Sky Consumer Comms

That the political class now finds itself relegated to accidental Alan Partridge territory along the with rest of the twits and twats that comprise English popular culture is meaningful, to say the least.

"I evolve, I don't…revolve."
-- Alan Partridge

Alan Partridge began as a gleeful media parody in the early '90s but thanks to Brexit he has evolved into a political one. In print and online, the hopelessly awkward radio DJ from Norwich, England, is used as an emblem for incompetent leadership and code word for inane political discourse.

Keep reading... Show less

The show is called Crazy Ex-Girlfriend largely because it spends time dismantling the structure that finds it easier to write women off as "crazy" than to offer them help or understanding.

In the latest episode of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, the CW networks' highly acclaimed musical drama, the shows protagonist, Rebecca Bunch (Rachel Bloom), is at an all time low. Within the course of five episodes she has been left at the altar, cruelly lashed out at her friends, abandoned a promising new relationship, walked out of her job, had her murky mental health history exposed, slept with her ex boyfriend's ill father, and been forced to retreat to her notoriously prickly mother's (Tovah Feldshuh) uncaring guardianship. It's to the show's credit that none of this feels remotely ridiculous or emotionally manipulative.

Keep reading... Show less
9

To be a migrant worker in America is to relearn the basic skills of living. Imagine doing that in your 60s and 70s, when you thought you'd be retired.


Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century

Publisher: W. W. Norton
Author: Jessica Bruder
Publication date: 2017-09
Amazon

There's been much hand-wringing over the state of the American economy in recent years. After the 2008 financial crisis upended middle-class families, we now live with regular media reports of recovery and growth -- as well as rising inequality and decreased social mobility. We ponder what kind of future we're creating for our children, while generally failing to consider who has already fallen between the gaps.

Keep reading... Show less
7

Gallagher's work often suffers unfairly beside famous husband's Raymond Carver. The Man from Kinvara should permanently remedy this.

Many years ago—it had to be 1989—my sister and I attended a poetry reading given by Tess Gallagher at California State University, Northridge's Little Playhouse. We were students, new to California and poetry. My sister had a paperback copy of Raymond Carver's Cathedral, which we'd both read with youthful admiration. We knew vaguely that he'd died, but didn't really understand the full force of his fame or talent until we unwittingly went to see his widow read.

Keep reading... Show less
8
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image