The first two albums from Typical Sisters – their self-titled release from 2016 and Hungry Ghost from 2019 – showed a trio maneuvering through masterful compositions and well-oiled improvisation with the ease of seasoned veterans. It certainly didn’t hurt that their style embraced a light quirkiness, refreshing from a lot of the usual sweaty, furrowed-brow style of some of their overly serious contemporaries. Much of the trio’s freeform eclecticism stems from their collective resumes: guitarist Gregory Uhlmann has performed with the likes of Perfume Genius, Fell Runner, and Josh Johnson, while bassist Clark Sommers has worked with Kurt Elling, Ba(SH), and Lens, and drummer Matt Carroll’s CV includes collaboration with Ohmme, V. V. Lightbody, and Rooms. This is a band brimming with experience and a willingness to try just about anything.
With their latest album, Love Beam, Typical Sisters put that type of “anything goes” approach to the test. Many songs here inhabit glitches, loops, field recordings, and some warm, lo-fi vibes. It’s apparent right off the bat with the opening track, “Water Plants”, as an odd, warbly vocal sample provides the song’s center, and the band use this strange, distorted piece as their guide. That leads to the heavily percussive “Well Done”, as Carroll’s mesmerizing, multitracked syncopation gives way to brilliant interplay with Uhlmann and Sommers. Some trippy synths (or maybe guitar synth?) rise in the song’s second half, surprising and enthralling the listener.
The trio joyfully immerse themselves in the weirdness, bringing all sorts of strangely beautiful ideas to the table. “Owl” is a slinky number that incorporates a colander, an out-of-tune zither, and more spacey keyboards to flesh out the three-piece dynamic without seemingly overly busy or fussy. “King Flipper” locks on to a delightful funk groove that recalls a low-key version of Medeski, Martin and Wood. Some of the odd, unique moments aren’t even musical. “Clairvoyant” is something of an idiosyncratic interlude, merely 30 seconds of an unidentified narrator talking about a tree. “Uni Lunch” is a strange collage of voices briefly ruminating on coffee and lunch breaks.
But anyone put off by these diversions will only be thrown off momentarily. As usual, Typical Sisters are focused primarily on the music. The relentlessly funky – but sadly brief – “Clamata” is both a superb groove vehicle and an endless source of melody and bright sonic ideas. “Grains” combines freaky backward vocal samples and a skeletal funk beat, resulting in a dream-like slice of retro experimentalism.
The songs on Love Beam are mostly fairly brief, but they save their longest track – still a somewhat modest four minutes in length – for the closer, “Ephemeral”, in which Uhlmann’s guitar is awash in reverb, creating a sort of surf-music-on-Nyquil effect. It creates a wonderful, narcotic vibe and is typical – no pun intended – of this trio’s innate ability to constantly explore new sounds while remaining faithful to their commitment to musical interplay. Love Beam is a pretty strange album, but it’s very easy to fall in love with.