Monday, November 14, 2011

Containing Multitudes

Last night, my band, STATS, shared a bill with fellow Brooklyn trio Multitudes, our second time doing so this year. The show commemorated a new Multitudes full-length, the digital-only Twelve Branches, which you can stream below or on Bandcamp. At $4, the record is a steal; you should buy it.

The band plays a kind of instrumental hardcore, with a progressive edge. Concise themes, tons of movement and sweat but also a math-rocky attention to detail and rhythmic twists that keep you on your toes. The band's greatest achievement is an ability to "jam" while keeping the kinetic energy at skateboard-friendly levels, ensuring that the tension stays taut.

There's enormous swing, rawness, abandon to the Multitudes approach. I definitely hear some mid-'80s SST going on—and a healthy amount of Bad Brains worship—but even more so than, say, the instrumental Black Flag material, Multitudes hits on an honest-to-God full-band looseness. These are vamp structures—two members holding it down while a third goes off—but totally nonrigid. They breathe together, bleeding outside the lines, rejoicing in the blur.

Multitudes' drummer, Alex Lambert, astounds me. He somehow injects an beautifully organic feel into various extreme-rock percussion styles, namely grindcore-ish blastbeats (which he peppers with jazzy ride accents) and classic turbo-punk patterns. Brian House offers a fat, strummy bass presence, and guitarist Pat Foley brings the shimmering fuzz. When the three musicians align (check out "Boar," one of 12 Chinese-zodiac-based compositions on the new record), it's a crunchy, brain-invading blurt, with chaos creeping all around, but not that annoying phenomenon my bandmates and I like to refer to as "thingin'," where there's an in-jokey pretense of "messing up" or "awkwardness." This is simply an expanded-mind version of hardcore, where locking in and deconstructing are two sides of the same strategy.

Twelve Branches is a straight-up representation of the Multitudes vibe. It sounds totally live, totally amped, both gross and gorgeous, just like the band's shows. I feel like for all the punk-jazz and the noise-fusion and whatever other hybrids have come down the pike, this is the true thing I want to hear from a group with an awareness of all these styles, where we're really seeing what it means to follow the thread from, say, Mahavishnu to Black Flag and beyond, and leave all the egghead cleverness out and just make it about pure sweat and exaltation, to borrow a phrase from my Tony Williams Lifetime post.

On Twelve Branches, you're hearing a genre being interrogated, widened, advanced, but you're not hearing any of the tedious weighty Thoughts and Concepts behind that process. You're hearing total rock, with all the doom of Sabbath, the searing catharsis of Sonny Sharrock (I'm hearing both at once on "Ox" right now)—all the right raw gods, fully digested and shooting out like electricity bolts from the fingers of some comic-book hero. I am awed and inspired by the loudness, the obnoxiousness, the aliveness, the inner sensitivity, the joy of this music. Multitudes is the best kind of writhing rock organism, one of the most convincingly unhinged (but NOT abstract or meandering) I've heard in a long while. For those in search of the real punk fusion, it has been achieved with totality on Twelve Branches. Nonthinking, unstinking—amen.


Anonymous said...

Hey Hank,

Listening to this new Multitudes release at the moment, this is great stuff and I definitely see where the Bad Brains/Inst.Flag comparisons are coming from.

I'm wondering if you've ever heard Nomeansno? I'm sure you've probably come across their stuff, but if not, you should check em' out. One of the first hardcore bands to mix jazz, punk and funk. Probably old news, but just in case.

Keep up the kick ass work sir!!

Anonymous said...

man, I'm sorry I missed the show Sunday. these guys sound real good, like a demented early Dinosaur Jr