Period [Mike Pride, Charlie Looker, Chuck Bettis] – 2 (2014)

For years, now, Mike Pride has joined forces with Charlie Looker to make some off-kilter improvised music that touches on several of their favorite bases at once: experimental metal, free form jazz, art rock, electro-acoustic music and the like. Period, as this union of the drummer and guitarist call themselves, hasn’t been confined to just Pride and Looker; Chuck Bettis often sat in with his croaking vocals and light electronic touches, and saxophonists Darius Jones (Little Women) and Sam Hillner (the Zs) sometimes participated in the fun, too.

Pride and Looker did make an obscure album, Period, back in ’06, and it immediately sold out of its limited run. Since then they’ve made Bettis a full-time member and recently signed up with Public Eyesore Records to make a belated follow-up. 2 (on sale May 20, 2014), is probably not going to offer any surprises to anyone who has seen them perform over the years in NYC whenever they took a break from their other projects (Pride alone leads Bacteria To Boys and Drummer’s Corpse), but for everyone else, this record is going to serve as their “howdy” to the world.

2 is a blatant display of doom but not blatant display of chops, at least, not in the jazz sense of chops. It’s a temperament thing, and much of 2 moves at a glacial pace, and yet, the fury is all there. Slow motion death metal.

The seven tracks are all named after numbers, and they aren’t ordered accordingly. “Two” (the title song?) features Looker on an electric baritone guitar, a perfect instrument for laying down the doom with just a single strum, and Looker’s instrument of choice throughout most of the album. Pride’s crawling march is impactful, too: much as a good guitarist can wring passion from a slow solo, he wrests impending doom from his gradually unfolding fills. The song does reach up to a more intense apex at the end but there remains an unhurried pace.

“Four,” on the other hand, thrashes, and thrashes hard for the first four minutes. Bettis lets loose primal screams and Pride unloads. In what is a pattern for other tracks, the violence subsides, and the three peel away from each other to regroup with sparser textures; dead space becomes a fourth instrument. “Six” ratchets up the intensity even further. So much so, it’s over in little over two minutes. They were probably exhausted by then.

By the time we reach “Ten,” the duo playing at the beginning has expanded to a quintet with Jones and Hillmer helping them make hay. Hearing Bettis wail through his throat amidst the wailing by the saxes of Jones and Hillmer, it becomes clear that Bettis’ role is really that of a saxophonist without a sax, and his growls and yells go hand in glove with the horns. Looker and Pride largely stay out of their way here, but both assert themselves against the nasty front line for “Nine.” That results in a monster cacophony for the first few minutes, and like “Four,” drop down to near silence; you can hear Looker’s amp buzz as everyone make threatening spooky noises but never explode again.

Looker swaps his baritone for an acoustic guitar during “Eleven.” Jones emits small random tones in the same style as Looker, and Pride creates soft shapes to frame the mood. Those shapes turn into a restless rumble, which lulls Jones out of his shell, and his expressive, voluminous remarks on his alto make up easily the most beautiful moment of the record.

Listening to 2 makes it easy to imagine why the first album quickly disappeared from stores: music of such profound anger that speaks louder in what is held back than in what is discharged is rarely done so effectively.

S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron is a CPA and mid-level data analyst for a Fortune 100 company by day, music opinion-maker at night. His musings are strewn out across the interwebs on jazz.com, AllAboutJazz.com, a football discussion board and some inchoate customer reviews of records from the late 1990s on Amazon under a pseudonym that will never be revealed. Contact Something Else! at reviews@somethingelsereviews.com.

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