Nick Millevoi – Desertion (2016)

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Given Nick Millevoi’s reputation as a guitarist who thrives on the jagged edge of music where avant garde jazz and metal collide, where two-thirds of Many Arms is present, The Spanish Donkey and Slobber Pup linchpin Jamie Saft is behind an organ and Ceramic Dog’s Ches Smith at the drums…you might expect Millevoi’s latest project Desertion to be noisy and thrash-y. And you would be wrong. Way wrong.

But even the most far-out experimentalists can count popular or more mainstream figures and forms among their deepest influences, often forming the foundation of some rather daring careers. Millevoi isn’t such stating his influences in words, but via the music of this unlikely crew for such a task. Saft, Smith and Many Arms compadre Johnny DeBlase on bass join Millevoi for Desertion, his ‘back to euphony’ project. And going by Desertion, Millevoi has seen his share of Sergio Leone flicks and spun up and listened to his share Neil Young’s Harvest and Everyone Knows This Is Nowhere.

What makes this album go beyond to just being calisthenics in accessible rock and soundtrack music is that Millevoi revisits these style informed by his well-honed avant instincts and encourages his band mates to do the same. “Desertion & The Anarchist’s Match” might have a simple riff but Millevoi know how to take that riff on a journey of tension building and release, which happens just as Millevoi gives way to Saft’s monstrous B3, and unexpectedly, a bridge is tacked on for a brief coda.

Archer Spade companion Dan Blacksberg is on hand for a few tracks, but again, not in the obvious role for this progressive trombonist. Blacksberg instead arranges strings on “Just For A Moment I Stood There In Silence,” which features Millevoi’s acoustic guitar in intro, and introducing a mellow, new motif for the main section, where the strings enter and provide a gentle heft while Millevoi’s tasty picking drifts from rock into country & western territory. And it all ends with a short spaghetti western motif. That suspended mood carries right over into “Where They Do Their Capers,” hanging like a fog (and efx sounds only adds to the Fistful of Dollars ambience) before slowly evaporating.

“Disneyland In Hamtramck” and “The Big Moment Is Always Out There Waiting” are very accessible, folk-based rock melodies that ol’ Shakey himself could have conjured up, that latter number performed entirely with an acoustic guitar. Full of soul and devoid of pretentiousness, they’re simple pleasures that anyone with even a passing liking of classic rock can appreciate.

Blacksberg leaves his mark once more, arranging orchestral horns for “The Fire That Partially Destroyed City Hall.” On this final track, the free jazz guy finally comes out, but remaining within the context of a Ennio Morricone cinematic flow. Millevoi is at his most impassioned, in the center of a psychedelic swirl akin to Slobber Pup, and then Smith is taken off leash and runs wild as he’s rarely heard doing on record.

It’s by far the most listenable effort led by Nick Millevoi, but lack of harshness, density and dissonance doesn’t mean the lack of art in Desertion. If anything, this relatively embraceable music indicates that Millevoi’s ambitions and the means to achieve them may go even further than we previously thought.


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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