Matta Llama - Matta Llama (Mad Monk LP) / Owl Xounds - Teenagers from Mars (Mad Monk/Colour Sounds Recordings LP)
I love it when two records converge upon me and I can match em up in one post. Killing two birds with one stone is my business, and business is good. I bought the Matta Llama LP on a whim some time ago, while Adam Kriney was nice enough to include the record from his Owl Xounds project along with the La Otracina CD I touched on not too long ago (and another LP from his Colour Sounds label that I hope to get to soon). Mad Monk is responsible for putting both these out, that being the label spearheaded by James Jackson Toth aka Wooden Wand. They also put out that D. Charles Speer I keep hearing about and maybe some day I'll have to look into it. For now, these.
All I knew/know about Matta Llama is that it's a four-piece featuring the excellent artiste Arik Moonhawk Roper on bass. I don't usually buy records just because someone in the band does really good drawings, but I felt compelled on this one. They keep things pretty mum because I can't find out who else is in the group for the life of me - all I can tell you is that they're based in New York City and this, their debut LP, was recorded at the No-Neck Blues Band's Hint House. What's to be found is a curious set of spacey, free rock improvisations courtesy guitars, keyboards, drums, bass, and sometimes vocals. The tracks bandy lazily about from bleary-eyed keyboard/drum plods ("Egypt Chic") to wah-riddled guitar-led, uh, sleepjogs ("Thetan Cruise"). You see, even when the group is pulsing forward as on "Cruise", the sounds are still permeated with an early morning stoned daze that prevents anything from getting too riotous or out of control. I don't even know what to think of the final shouted freak-out piece "A Sky Blue Screw", somewhat Sunburned and somewhat Sun City with lurching bass & drums a la Electric Wizard, doused with the occasional guitar bolt.
Two pieces occupy the B and they're both lengthy explorations in communal harmony vibes, maybe lifting the odd trick or too from the No-Neck book but with more of a discernable psych rock/krautrock structure. Sharp guitar beams wail over "Chortling Crystal" while Eastern ur-rhythms dominate "A Deepening Sky", led by exceptionally tight drumming from, well, whoever. These guys remind me a lot of Blues Control in the way they both borrow heavily from the acid-fried masters of yesteryear and push those sounds way out into the cosmos and the cornfields; I'm hoping to hear more from this weird alien genre skew, if not from these cats then from some other set of heros. All in all the lo-slung free rock moves of Matta Llama's LP call to mind a favorite passage of mine, which I think sums things up in suitably vague fashion: "Sometimes you wanna get higher / sometimes you gotta start low / some people say they gonna die someday / I got news, you never gotta go..."
Owl Xounds (nee Owl Sounds) are, at least on this occasiona, a trio of Adam Kriney on drums, Gene Janas on upright bass, and Mario Techtern on saxophones. Kriney cites the Misfits as his greatest influence, which I guess helps explain the title. And really, Owl Xounds need no introduction for mass annihilation (ahaha!), since you surely know 'em from the record they did with Arrington DeDionyso or the much-lauded "Toxic Raga" LP. "Teenagers from Mars" is another wrecking bawl of whatever kinds of 00's jazz buzzwords you can lay down...post-fire, post-ESP, post-free, post-al, it's everything and more. On opener "The Afflicted Interest", Kriney and Janas stampede forth, heads down and jaws clenched, while grizzled knower Rechtern ripsnorts his own path via insanely tight, skronked heaves. After a near-meditative start on "Our Motives Are Subject to Change", the trio soon return to more hellish wailing, first in the form of Kriney/Rechtern, then Kriney on a great solo, then back to full group for a soulful exit. "Collide a Scope and the Whistle of Doom" is the final piece for the side, rife with gentler/more tense experimenting akin the more knuckle-dragging moments on "Topography of the Lungs"...whereas the rest of the earth-beating while I'd slot em not far from Peter Brotzmann's Die Like a Dog Quartet. Then again, I never claimed to be a jazz scholar.
"X-ounds Memory" occupies all 20 minutes of the flip, with Rechtern sitting back and allowing for free interplay between the Kriney/Janas rhythm core. When they do reconvene, Kriney sticks briefly to the bass drum allowing for a sludgier feel, but soon moves to full-on cymbal smashing and limb flailing. And so it goes - I won't spoil the rest because you should really hear it for yourself but the give-and-take the trio hit on as they slowly dodge and strafe their way toward the climax is exhilerating. Special mention must be made to Rechtern's incredible horn mastery, as he owns this record from start to finish and his temporary bandmates are more than happy to accomodate him. Not to suggest it's a one-sided affair here, not in the least. These three finagle around like they've been on a rigorous practice schedule for years, and have made a good record all the more great because of it. Dunno man, I can't explain it so I'm gonna stop trying, but you'll know it when you hear it. It's not just talent, it's something else at work here. Fuck it, you tell me.