Gentleman Surfer — Hard Pass
(Bandcamp no#, 2018, LP / MC / DL)
by Jon Davis, Published 2019-01-26
Somehow I missed Gentleman Surfer’s 2016 album, Reanimate Ore, after really liking the two previous releases, but here I’m back on board with Hard Pass. These Northern California musicians are serving up another helping of complex mostly-instrumental music that could be counted in both the math-rock and prog-rock categories (if you’re into categories). This time out, they’re maybe a bit noisier, though a kind of wild abandon has always been an element of their sound. Some of their oddball rhythms form what might be called grooves, while others are too stop-start tricky to warrant that description. The energy is pretty much relentless from beginning to end, maybe a bit like Cardiacs crossed with Hella or Chon. The prominence of Zack Bissell’s keyboards (electric piano, organ, and synths) lightens the sound a bit and provides structure for Barry McDaniel’s crazier excursions on guitar, when he soars off into freaky-effect territory. Leader Jon Bafus provides the complex drum parts — I’m tempted to say he holds the music together, but honestly that’s a group effort, with each player synching their part into a whole that’s more than the sum of the individual parts. Bassist Blake Armstrong does his part, with an aggressive tone that maintains the edge of the music. The album’s best feature is that within their chosen element of complex, energetic music, they manage to sound different enough from track to track that it doesn’t get old. They use a variety of harmonic textures, sometimes dissonant, sometimes downright pleasant, and use a range of different arranging strategies from unison lines to contrasting, interlocking parts, to backing with melodies. Hard Pass is another winner from this impressive band.
Related artist(s): Gentleman Surfer
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