I’ve long been of the opinion that instrumental bands are best when they’re seen live. They have the power to make you feel, if they are good enough to hook you in with head bobbing beats early on, any way they want. At times like these, your ears and your body become literal clay, and the artist or artists move you around the floor like puppeteers. Though I can surmise that for others, musicians most likely, one of which I am not, that listening to recorded instrumentals is probably an unknown pleasure that many like myself just cannot fully appreciate.
So to begin by getting any quips or qualms I may have with Bat Country, eponymous debut from the Melbourne jazz-rock trio consisting of drummer Sarah Galdes, bassist Stephen Hornby and guitarist Lincoln Mckenzie, it is simply my own misunderstanding or perhaps ignorance of having not really had much success getting into instrumental bands in any sort of analog or digital format in the past.
Albeit I would be the first to give the Aussie trio kudos for their accomplishments in life, (all three members graduated from the Victorian College of the Arts contemporary improvisation course) as well as their contribution to the music world as a whole with the making of Bat Country despite my ignorance of the genre they’ve chosen to imbibe in.
Of the seven tracks on Bat Country, only one is under five minutes long, and nearly all of them are firmly rooted in finger picked bluesy guitar riffs, deep jazzy bass, and often cymbal-heavy percussion, many times sounding like when a band is winding down the song near the end, though this is not the case, as the song simply takes a different form, there’s an interlude of sorts that gives birth to a whole other song within a song, like on the seven minute rocker turned introspectively mystical, “The Great Beast Stretches Its Jaws.”
Then there are other compositions such as the nine minute mammoth, “Ubiquity” which rolls through with primarily jazz standard styled guitar riffs, tom and snare heavy drum solos and, that thick and sweet jazz bass that stretches out the sounds like a rubber band, and in the same way keeps the song taut enough to not get out of control. Though some songs do get slightly out of control such as the final track, “Montage” which as its title seem to suggest is simply that, a mish mash of ideas strung together for the hell of it, though a true montage can in fact and usually does contain some sort of loosely based theme, however this one does not.
For all its seemingly dissonant moments though, Bat Country is a solid record which fans of free jazz and experimental rock will really be able to groove to.
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