Edward Ricart and Nick Millevoi are guitarists who have staked their musical careers on the experimental fringes of metal and jazz, and each time either has made some sort of musical statement on record, it defiantly stands well apart from the rest of the music world. Not just that, but both are stunning plectrists with little direct influence from anyone else.
So, if you were to be a fan of rowdy, loud outlier music, wouldn’t you think it’d be cool to have these two join forces and form this super band? Yeah, of course you would. Well, guess what?
Haitian Rail is the outcome of such a sinister design, a quartet headed by both of these men, and supported by Little Women’s Travis Laplante on sax and my favorite improvised music drummer of late, Ches Smith.
Ricart, it should be noted, doesn’t play guitar here, he plays bass, but not to worry, he leaves a big footprint, anyway, lumbering, sometimes scampering, across the scales to alternately complement and subvert melodies by Millevoi.
The off-kilter melodic theme of “Linive” is played out in sing-song fashion by Millevoi and Laplante, but Ricart aligns with Smith in offering up a countervailing current. While the guitarist solos unhinged at increasing speed, Ricart is already operating at full speed, bridging the moves of Smith and Millevoi. “Ankadreman” is tentative at first, then volcanic when Smith gets the ball rolling. Ricart’s rawboned shapes give Millevoi just enough structure to latch onto as he breaks into some especially feral improvising. “Primitive Rings” is a ballad where this quintet is concerned, exploring lonesome, foreboding sounds; Laplante finds the whimpering, high end of his alto sax and Millevoi supplements it with ringing, upper register notes.
Every self-respecting loud free jazz album needs to have at least one “primal scream therapy” track and aside from most of “Ankadreman,” “Solarism” fills the prescription nicely in this instance. Millevoi slashes and whack away frenzied notes with the zeal of an axe murderer on meth, Laplante bawls away in a feisty counterpoint and Ricart absorbs all sonic space from the midrange on down. The last song “Coqueternions” that directly follows, goes the opposite direction in tact: long, sustained notes in intervals long enough to leave enough space that the buzzing of amps can be heard. Ricart plays chimes on his bass, and Smith is performing unusual percussive effect on his drums, but eventually, the density of the sounds increases until that space nearly disappears.
This summit meeting of experimental rock-free jazz masters is the freak fest you’d expect, but also with the detailed give-and-take that only advanced musicians such as these do instinctively. That’s what makes Haitian Rail yet another authentically offbeat outing I’ve come to expect from this band’s namesakes.
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Haitian Rail is released this month on LP by Gaffer Records and on tape by New Atlantis Records.
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