Exposé print issues (1993-2011)
Three-Layer Cake — Stove Top
(RareNoise RNR128, 2021, CD / LP / DL)
by Jon Davis, Published 2022-01-20
Three-Layer Cake can be nominally viewed as a power trio, with Mike Watt on bass, Mike Pride on drums, and Brandon Seabrook on guitar; Seabrook’s guitar is swapped out for banjo at times, and we also get glockenspiel (Pride), tapes (Seabrook), and organ (Pride). The players are from diverse backgrounds: Watt’s career began in punk rock with Minutemen and Firehose, though lately he’s been working in improvised music; Pride has worked with both Anthony Braxton and Millions of Dead Cops; and Seabrook has drawn attention for his application of avant-garde ideas to the banjo, leading to spots with Nels Cline, Anthony Braxton, and others. Together, these three create something really distinctive, and the group’s name is superbly appropriate. Most of the tracks were created with Pride recording drum tracks and sending them to Watt, who would add his parts and pass it along to Seabrook for his contributions. Two of the tracks have the musicians working in different orders, but the amazing thing is that it all sounds like a real band. A really free band that wanders between spaced-out textures and noisy, skronky groove, but a band. And while improvisation plays a large role in the recording, players do at times indulge in a kind of composition for their own parts, for example when Seabrook adds both guitar and banjo in coordinated melodies or distinct backing and leads. It seems that knowing others would be adding layers encouraged the earlier contributors to think of their parts as foundations rather than aimless improvs. Each of the eight tracks has its own sound, and it never sounds like it should fit in a jazz box, or rock, or anywhere else. All in all, it’s highly creative and thoroughly entertaining.
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