Ahleuchatistas reaches new heights, Deerhoof delivers live intensity
It takes ambition to challenge the status quo, but that’s not enough. Having the ability to follow through is the important next step. This came to mind when listening to the exhilarating new album from the Asheville, N.C. guitar and drums duo Ahleuchatistas, Arrebato.
It’s one thing to dream up this kind of music, that’s bursting with ideas and delicious complexity; it’s another thing to actually have the chops and sense of nuance to pull it off, matching ambition with technical ability in an expansive rock context.
Formerly a power trio, group founder and guitarist Shane Parish (previously known as Shane Perlowin) teamed up with drummer Ryan Oslance around five years ago for the latest incarnation of the group. In recent years, Parish has been using live loops—perhaps coming partially from a desire to bolster the group’s sound after a decrease in band size—which has seemingly opened him up to more sonically imaginative compositions; Parish also uses more diverse guitar timbres, going further than his typical sharp guitar sound from years before.
The opener “Sundowning” is a complicated affair, with an album’s worth of twists and turns crammed into a single song, beginning with a ringing guitar looped pattern and Oslance’s busy, chiseled intensity. Parish’s needle-prick melodies lead to smooth, shaped timbres and a maelstrom cacophony with explosions of drum flurries; a dramatic tremolo guitar effect then turns the song into a helicopter landing in a war zone.
“Power With” is another highlight, with a mounting section that resembles a jet taking off and Parish using a harmonizer to duplicate notes, like a puppet master controlling a small robot guitar army. “Shelter In Place” shifts dramatically between an acoustic guitar and a damaged, distorted guitar, and Oslance shows off his prowess with fast bass drum action, usually only heard in speed metal songs; the track is a tangled tapestry, at one moment featuring nosediving notes before offering bursts of near white noise that retreat, revealing a bare strum in the distance.
Arrebato is the sound of two musicians pushing themselves and each other, with an understanding of their own abilities and talents and taking them to dizzying heights.
It is about damn time. Finally, Deerhoof delivers a proper live release (not counting the digital Bibidi Babidi Boo or the Live Session EP) that documents just how insanely intense the group’s live shows can be.
Recording studio Deerhoof and live performance Deerhoof are different beasts, and although this writer disagrees with those who underrate and overlook the recent studio albums (they all have merit—seriously), he does acknowledge that seeing Deerhoof live is the best way to experience the group.
Fever 121614 features recordings from a live show in Tokyo last December, and it favors material from the last ten years of the group, including last year’s La Isla Bonita. Actually, the live versions of that album’s tracks are superior to the studio versions and have increased this writer’s appreciation of those songs.
Like Hello Kitty fronting the Who, singer/bassist Satomi Matsuzaki provides the band’s overt playfulness—jumping around onstage like an aerobics instructor—while monster guitarists John Dieterich and Ed Rodriguez (each heard in a different stereo channel) and drummer Greg Saunier explode together.
However, the true star of Deerhoof’s live shows is original member Saunier, who uses a bare bones drum kit and beats the living shit out of it, wasting no opportunity to unload swift and powerful fills at every moment without a shred of restraint.
The album never lets up with its super-charged approach, although “Buck and Judy” temporarily slows the album’s pace halfway through; stompers like “We Do Parties” and “Fresh Born” steamroll by with vigor, and when “Doom” cranks up to full power, it’s impossible to stay still.
One cover is included—a screaming version of the instrumental “Let’s Dance the Jet” composed by Mikis Theodorakis for the film The Day the Fish Came Out—and the album ends with the band’s favorite for closing sets, “Come See the Duck,” using a little audience participation and smashing together cuteness with volatile, focused rock that only seems unhinged.