Jacob Garchik – Ye Olde (2015)

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photo: Peter Gannushkin

Making creative music requires some imagination. Jacob Garchik took that a step further and used a child’s imagination to come up with one with that uncommon record that’s both highly creative and highly fun.

The idea behind Ye Olde was inspired by all the ersatz Gothic architectural trimmings found on old apartment buildings in the Brooklyn enclave of Flatbush. Garchik conceived of an alternate world a millennium ago in Flatbush, imagining these old buildings being in their original state as medieval castles. As described by poetry found on the CD sleeve, Garchik formed a “merry band” to do battle against an evil architect responsible for this urban blight.

Garchik’s merry band that he fronts with his trombone and electronic wizardry are three electric guitarists: Brandon Seabrook, Mary Halvorson and Jonathan Goldberger, along with drummer Vinnie Sperrazza. Understanding the cutting-edge work that all of these participants are known for, this is a lineup you look at and surmise “there is no way that this record is going to be anything less than very good.” And it’s a suspicion confirmed. This experimental, electric trombone-led getup isn’t the only such one Goldberger is involved with (Bizingas is another), but like the Bizinga’s Brian Dye, Garchik blows up all preconceptions about how a trombonist should behave when he leads.

So the project Garchik chose to follow a 2012 recording of a 12-piece trombone choir (Atheist Gospel Trombone Album by The Heavens) is one that hearkens back to feudal times. Well, not really. Ye Olde is as archaic as a title and subject matter can get for Western music, but the music itself is much more forward-looking than backward-looking. Prog rock fans would find much to like here as long as they’re not looking for any vocals and don’t mind a slide brass instrument playing alongside a trio of axes. Garchik makes it an inspired mix, actually.

Rocky, thick textures prevail on the opening number “Ye Olde of Flatbush,” full of blistering guitars with Garchik handling the lyrical part and Sperrazza threatening to tear the song apart at the seams. For “The Sinister Scheme of Mortise Mansard” a simple riff serves as a jumping-off point for Garchik’s very rock lead guitar sounding ‘bone. The interlocking guitars of “The Lady of Duck Island” do have a bit of medieval flavor, much as a lot of progressive rock makes a nod toward medieval music. But the best part comes when the three guitars trade licks at end in the order of Seabrook, Halvorson and Goldberger, all displaying their distinctive personalities in bite-sized pieces.

Seabrook’s shrill noise-rock shreds slash through “The Elders of Ocean Pathway,” and Goldberger takes his turn with an acidic rock guitar solo over Sperrazza’s skipping beat for “Post-Modern Revival.” Halvorson’s note contortion showcase amid heavy guitar riffs and trombone lead lines comes on “The Battle of Brownstone Bridge,” a song laden with a drugged-out Pink Floyd groove and dark motifs.

A driving funk akin to Stevie Wonder’s “Superstition” with a hitch in the rhythm best describes “The Opossum King of Greenwood Forest,” at least until the three-headed guitar rhythm track fades to the background as random sounds come to the fore.

“Refuge in the Ruins of Castle Martense” has many moving pieces to it: courtly overdubbed horns over a guitar/trombone ostinato with other guitars layered on top, cropped drum fills throughout and Goldberger’s baritone guitar coming close to taking on the bass role. And like the faux medieval facades in Brooklyn, the multi-sectioned “The Throne Room of Queen Anne” has a faux medieval as well as a mildly militaristic quality to it. A bunch of interesting sub-minute passages are sprinkled throughout the album, brief impressionistic sketches mostly painted by the guitar players.

Ye Olde might be about the hardest rockin’ thinking man’s fusion record in recent memory, which keeps the theatrical intentions of the record from ever approaching anything hokey or baroque. This is pretty serious music for being sprung from a child-like imagination. Jacob Garchik’s imagination, apparently, knows no bounds.

S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron is an SQL demon 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. E-mail him at svaaron@somethingelsereviews .com or follow him on Twitter at https://twitter.com/SVictorAaron
S. Victor Aaron

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