Music

Mostly Other People Do the Killing: Loafer's Hollow

For their latest avant rendering of jazz and culture in a broader sense, MOPDTK take on trad jazz in a decidedly non-traditional manner, using literary titans from Pynchon to Joyce to Vonnegut as source material.


Mostly Other People Do The Killing

Loafer’s Hollow

Label: Hot Cup
US Release Date: 2017-02-24
UK Release Date: 2017-02-24
Amazon
iTunes

One of the guiding aesthetic tenants of Moppa Elliott’s Mostly Other People Do the Killing has long been sly references to identifiable cultural touchstones. Whether through their recreations of iconic jazz album covers on their earliest outings or their subversion of the form in general, MOPDTK has taken the familiar and turned it on its ear. For their latest release, Loafer’s Hollow, Elliott again turns to well-known source material as the basis for his idiosyncratic compositional approach. Instead of jazz -- or even music in general --, he turns to some of his favorite passages in literature, converting them into a form of post-modern traditional jazz of the bizarro varietal. It’s an intriguing idea in theory made even more so by its wildly imaginative practical application.

On its surface, the album is an otherwise straightforward reading of trad jazz with decidedly avant-garde leanings. And while there are certainly plenty of elements of a trad jazz sound -- much of this coming through in the form of Brandon Seabrook’s banjo -- MOPDTK has been and always will be an avant-garde jazz group. Less than two minutes into opening track “Hi-Nella", the entire band breaks for a nearly two-minute solo trumpet improvisation from Steven Bernstein that obliterates the previously established form in its seemingly formless exploration of drones, flourishes, and other non-traditional trumpet sounds. This last part is critical as, though his approach is certainly musical, Bernstein here is looking to create sounds on his instrument that subvert the trad jazz approach that bookends the track.

“Honey Hole", perhaps the most traditionally-minded piece on the album, rolls along on a pre-bebop, Count Basie/Duke Ellington aesthetic underscored by Kevin Shea’s tumultuous drumming. Indicative of the bands’ approach, this refusal to play anything entirely straight is at the heart of their appeal, allowing for genuine surprises to come about organically rather than feeling forced (check the out-of-left-field electronics courtesy of Seabrook that helps usher in the close of the track). It’s a wildly imaginative approach to otherwise staid notions of what jazz could/should be.

It’s not until “Bloomsburg” that Elliott’s ‘literary suite’ comes into play, the track dedicated to James Joyce and the lead character from his epic Ulysses. Like Joyce’s own idiosyncratically inimitable style, Elliott’s compositional approach here is one of a free-flowing, seemingly structure-less narrative that allows for each instrumentalist’s individual voice to come to the fore. Yet despite this largely free approach, it still manages a remarkable cohesion that helps hold the track together. Wandering and often non-linear, “Bloomsburg", like its inspirational source, can be something of a heady acquired taste, but ultimately one well worth it if given the chance to simply experience on its own terms rather than within a conventionally understood manner.

Similarly, “Kilgore", named for that favorite literary conduit of Kurt Vonnegut’s own thoughts and ideas, relies on an almost cartoonish lead from trombonist Dave Taylor that leads into an equally surreal extended solo passage from saxophonist Jon Irabagon. Beginning with an impossibly long toneless drone that devolves into a series of squeaks and squawks, Irabagon wrestles all manner of sounds both intriguing and grating from his soprano saxophone before ceding control once more to the full band. It’s a thrillingly incongruous passage that shows Irabagon’s free jazz chops and sense of playful experimentation on his instrument to not have been lessened by the band’s otherwise straight-forward approach to a pre-bebop style of jazz.

The remainder of the album continues in much the same way, with full band motifs giving way to extended unaccompanied solo passages showcasing each member of the band while working their way through such literary giants as Thomas Pynchon (“Mason and Dixon", with yet another killer solo from Irabagon), Cormac McCarthy (“Meridian”) and David Foster Wallace (“Glen Riddle”). While potentially high-minded in concept, in execution Elliott’s work on Loafer’s Hollow continues this wildly exploratory group’s loving embrace of jazz and its history, albeit one filtered through a fractured, post-modernist lens. It’s this lack of self-seriousness that helps make an otherwise alienating art form using as its source material equally alienating literary works far more accessible than it should. For this, Elliott and company deserve the highest commendation from those concerned for jazz’s future and continued relevance as a uniquely American art form.

7

So far J. J. Abrams and Rian Johnson resemble children at play, remaking the films they fell in love with. As an audience, however, we desire a fuller experience.

As recently as the lackluster episodes I-III of the Star Wars saga, the embossed gold logo followed by scrolling prologue text was cause for excitement. In the approach to the release of any of the then new prequel installments, the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare, followed by the Lucas Film logo, teased one's impulsive excitement at a glimpse into the next installment's narrative. Then sat in the movie theatre on the anticipated day of release, the sight and sound of the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare signalled the end of fevered anticipation. Whatever happened to those times? For some of us, is it a product of youth in which age now denies us the ability to lose ourselves within such adolescent pleasure? There's no answer to this question -- only the realisation that this sensation is missing and it has been since the summer of 2005. Star Wars is now a movie to tick off your to-watch list, no longer a spark in the dreary reality of the everyday. The magic has disappeared… Star Wars is spiritually dead.

Keep reading... Show less
6

This has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it.

It hardly needs to be said that the last 12 months haven't been everyone's favorite, but it does deserve to be noted that 2017 has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it. Other longtime dreamers either reappeared or kept up their recent hot streaks, and a number of relative newcomers established their place in what has become one of the more robust rock subgenre subcultures out there.

Keep reading... Show less
Theatre

​'The Ferryman': Ephemeral Ideas, Eternal Tragedies

The current cast of The Ferryman in London's West End. Photo by Johan Persson. (Courtesy of The Corner Shop)

Staggeringly multi-layered, dangerously fast-paced and rich in characterizations, dialogue and context, Jez Butterworth's new hit about a family during the time of Ireland's the Troubles leaves the audience breathless, sweaty and tearful, in a nightmarish, dry-heaving haze.

"Vanishing. It's a powerful word, that"

Northern Ireland, Rural Derry, 1981, nighttime. The local ringleader of the Irish Republican Army gun-toting comrades ambushes a priest and tells him that the body of one Seamus Carney has been recovered. It is said that the man had spent a full ten years rotting in a bog. The IRA gunslinger, Muldoon, orders the priest to arrange for the Carney family not to utter a word of what had happened to the wretched man.

Keep reading... Show less
10

Aaron Sorkin's real-life twister about Molly Bloom, an Olympic skier turned high-stakes poker wrangler, is scorchingly fun but never takes its heroine as seriously as the men.

Chances are, we will never see a heartwarming Aaron Sorkin movie about somebody with a learning disability or severe handicap they had to overcome. This is for the best. The most caffeinated major American screenwriter, Sorkin only seems to find his voice when inhabiting a frantically energetic persona whose thoughts outrun their ability to verbalize and emote them. The start of his latest movie, Molly's Game, is so resolutely Sorkin-esque that it's almost a self-parody. Only this time, like most of his better work, it's based on a true story.

Keep reading... Show less
7

There's something characteristically English about the Royal Society, whereby strangers gather under the aegis of some shared interest to read, study, and form friendships and in which they are implicitly agreed to exist insulated and apart from political differences.

There is an amusing detail in The Curious World of Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn that is emblematic of the kind of intellectual passions that animated the educated elite of late 17th-century England. We learn that Henry Oldenburg, the first secretary of the Royal Society, had for many years carried on a bitter dispute with Robert Hooke, one of the great polymaths of the era whose name still appears to students of physics and biology. Was the root of their quarrel a personality clash, was it over money or property, over love, ego, values? Something simple and recognizable? The precise source of their conflict was none of the above exactly but is nevertheless revealing of a specific early modern English context: They were in dispute, Margaret Willes writes, "over the development of the balance-spring regulator watch mechanism."

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