Adding to the White Noise, Sonic Fois Gras
Dark Rides’ passion, Dominique’s smolder
Walk the Floors
(Do Ya Hear We)
Chattanooga has a relatively tight-knit punk community, roughly centered on venues such as Sluggo’s North and Anarchtica and the Do Ya Hear We label. The community spirit has certain advantages for the local punk band, such as providing a somewhat built-in audience, and in the best situations, it allows its members to challenge each other with healthy competition, like a friendly slice of sibling rivalry.
The stirring debut vinyl full-length from the Chattanooga five-piece band Dark Rides, entitled Walk the Floors, sticks to the two-minute-song power-punk-pop formula with a consistent and unsurprising aesthetic. While the album isn’t groundbreaking, what it does offer is unbridled energy, bursting with vigor and pushing the excitement level to its limit. The opening number “The Fog” also demonstrates the group’s willingness to jam-pack as many hooks as possible into each song, even throwing in ample power-pop vocal “yeah yeah yeah”s and “ahhh”s.
Also underscoring the rampant (yet fruitful) figurative incest of the Chattanooga punk scene, Dark Rides features local notables vocalist Amy Nelson, singer/bassist Eric Nelson (also in the Hidden Spots), guitarists Buddha and Ashley Krey (also in Future Virgins) and Asheville, N.C. drummer Morgan Stickrod (also in Kreamy ‘Lectric Santa).
Lyrically, there’s little obliqueness—it’s just a straight-up passionately turbulent river of thoughts, honest and earnest without being snarky or preachy. The liner notes offer a reproduction of hand-written lyrics, with one key sentence in each song written in purple, as if to capture each song’s essence in one concentrated notion. For “Graveyard Shift,” it’s “Jaded before your prime”; for “Hereafter,” it’s “You’re not alone in the fight.”
While the album is agitated and energized, there’s also a feeling of comfort conveyed through the songs, sung in first person, implicitly offering commiseration. Perhaps the most biting track is “Modern Glory,” which contemplates feelings of relevance and insignificance, singing, “You’re pissing in the ocean” and asking, “Did you spend your life just adding to the white noise?” While Walk the Floors doesn’t cover new sonic territory, it excels with its brisk, charged delivery and unfiltered, gushing word-stream.
Think of the word “ritual” and a picture of some exotic, primitive culture might come to mind, with some high-energy dance around a fire pit on some faraway island. Closer to home, rituals are not uncommon, such as weddings or funerals, and it’s easy to forget that rituals exist for a purpose: for highly emotional milestones, rituals provide structure to proceedings as a way to move things along and let people focus on emotions.
These ideas are evoked when listening to Somerville, Mass. composer David Dominique’s album Ritual, which offers intricately carved arrangements and compositions that inspire fiery performances from his ensemble.
Dominique’s octet suggests a way-left-of-center big-band jazz sound with a tight, lean group; however, while in big band settings, personalities can be lost, Dominique allows his players to express individuality, coaxing performances that are both vivid and personal.
The listener may be struck by how raw—yet not crude—the album sounds, and it avoids sounding sterile while being an articulated, professional recording; its sonic details bring a heightened realism, from the clicking of brass valves to the analog tape ambience, itself a statement in the digital age.
“Big Boned’d Jim” comes out swinging with its ride-cymbal tapping and restless bass movement, but it subverts the notion of it being a typical jazz album with transitions before things get too cozy; this is a common technique on Ritual, with “Mulatto Shuffle” ending with a friendly swing that accelerates and dissolves swiftly. “Golden Retriever” has the mournful lumber of a New Orleans street funeral, with acutely expressive gliding violin melodies from Eric KM Clark, and the inclusion of “Ritual 2 Dirge” (and the liner notes dedication “In loving memory of Philip Dominique”) indicate a theme of grief.
However, the wilder episodes, like “Drunk Hump” which features the requisite free-jazz freakout and tiny blasts, with baritone saxophonist Gavin Templeton’s decadently rich, sonic foie gras, and “Ritual 4 / Release” with choreographed outbursts and pounding rock-influenced drumming, are balanced with the smoldering, unhurried moments on Ritual, making it both compositional and emotionally complex.