Thollem/Clouser/Chase – Dub Narcotic Session Vol. II (2018)

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Thollem McDonas — better known as simply Thollem — got our attention last year when he had an impromptu pairing with Rob Mazurek that was captured in a memorable recording Blind Curves and Box Canyons, but it was noted then that little is beyond the capabilities and daring of this keyboardist/author/political activist/teacher.

That’s why Thollem’s idea of taking a break from the usual grind of wearing all those hats is to duck into a studio in Washington state and jam with a noted, up-and-coming fusion guitarist and the drummer from an established garage-punk band. Dub Narcotic Session Vol. II is part of that output from Thollem, Todd Clouser and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ Brian Chase (Vol. I is Thollem/Chase only).

This shares with Blind Curves a random nature but that’s about it. Harmony and rhythm may avoid structure, but the sounds are way more euphonious, if roughly hewn: there’s a lot of fuzz emanating from both Thollem’s Fender Rhodes and Clouser’s electric guitar. Chase isn’t guessing where the two are headed, somehow he already knows. And no bass player? Too much interesting going on to even notice. Yeah, you won’t miss that guy.

“It’s A Drab” strings together a series of motifs, with many of these ideas ending abruptly as the next one begins, like a sharp edit. Clouser’s reverberating guitar graces the start of “Obituary Of The Unknown,” which veers into angular free jazz and then settling into chord sequence that gets progressively noisy and then regroups for the albums first groove, which appears out of nowhere when Thollem finds a funky circular pattern oh his Rhodes. Later on, they sketch out a barren sonicscape.

The intro to “Cell Rejuvenation” features an unusually definable melody but that only lasts a minute. It’s followed by a succession of other micro songs of varying intensity, some featuring Clouser briefly off the leash. I particularly like the twenty-five second funky excursion that starts around the 1:20 mark, followed by a Slavic folk melody of roughly the same short length. There’s a wealth of other styles touched on over the first half of this fourteen-minute jam, but never do they take them head-on; it’s more like glancing blows. The desolate back end of this particular jam serves as an extended, soft landing.

Dub Narcotic Session Vol. II is going on sale in CD form on May 25th, 2018. Order or download Dub Narcotic Session Vol. II from Bandcamp.

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