Holus Bolus 2017
New New York ensemble take instrumental onslaught to event horizon and return with fanciful textures down to this mortal coil.
This era suffers no shortage of virtuosi in the field of art-rock, but only few are possessed with a virtue of overtly showing their humanity, and this quartet wear vulnerability on collective sleeve with much bravado, serving up an array of melodies on their debut album and using blistering attack as a means to an end rather than blinding the listener with their delivery. The band’s choice of instruments needed to construct complex cuts is varied, so where lesser mortals would go for boredom-inducing passages, the foursome base arrangements on mood’s demands, and the results of their approach are truly triumphant.
While “There And Back” seems to subtly foray into fusion, once Eric Olsen’s spacey keyboards pass elegy to his brother Peter’s guitars, it’s a tune introduced by a folk flute that will unravel overall dynamics to create a richly ornamented tapestry and return the original intent to the fold. There’s sensual acoustic lace leading into “Beyond Beyond” before the flamenco filigree is intensified enough to get fleshed out with electric riffs and become breathtaking in its incendiary dance, organ fugue falling in the groove at the piece’s finale and unfurling further down the line in “Primal Antenna” which is quite funky – so yes, the ensemble know how to have fun.
For all its sci-fi angle, the beautific balladry makes “Ultimate Reality” the most grounded number on display, and when the group gradually speed up the tempo and veer between hard rock and jazz, the effect is vigorously vertiginous, so the unhurried desert meander of “Abraxas” will be required to mitigate such a spin – only frenzied zigzags that comprise “Ziza Ori” start the madness anew. More traditional, pure prog setting takes “Starseed” from latent escapade to a full-on, if well-nuanced, trip toward alluring unexpectedness, whereas “The Spark” has raga woven in an even heavier, and sometimes twangy, matter, and “Impact” is distilling the drone to taut, sitar-like curlicues. Ironed out for “Transmission” to let Takashi Otsuka’s bass and Dejan Dejkoski’s drums shine, the collective’s licks are deliciously playful – and concealing a serious promise, too. If they’re in for the long haul, PODD are to be followed.