This inaugural release from Alex Ward’s out-rock trio crashes through its six frazzled tracks like an old-school Starsky & Hutch car chase, careering though piles of cardboard boxes, screeching round corners and demolishing conveniently placed street markets in a cascade of squished fruit and flapping chickens.
The jagged no-wave blusterof Power Trips emphasises Ward’s position as a class act. It’s hard to think of another musician who switches between the field of rock, free improvisation and modern composition so fluidly and confidently as he does (Jim O’Rourke’s parallel expertise in retro rock and avant-minimalism is perhaps another example). He has a singular talent of inhabiting these very different musicks and creating compelling work, which rarely (if ever) descends into pastiche or dilettantism.
Power Trips is no different. Ward’s on guitar here and is in flaying, flailing form, shredding and shrieking like there’s no tomorrow. James Sedwards provides another layer of axemanship and, for five out of the six tracks at least, they lay down a righteous barrage of snotty thrash and broken glass soloing, urged forward by Weasel Walter’s heavy artillery drumming.
Although divided into six separate tracks, the album isn’t a collection of songs per se, unlike, say, Sedwards’ recent forays into alt-rock with the Thurston Moore Band. Rather, the tracks here are all of a piece, their common elements taken apart and recombined each time. Six thick, bloody slices of meat hacked from the joint for your Sunday roast.
Time Funeral (Bury the Hero) starts with a titanic blast of doubled-up one-chord riffing, before Ward and Sedwards fork off into their separate paths, one heading up the neck for a series of splintered, screaming runs, the other staying lower and wrenching tortured, pitch bent tranches of fuzz from his instrument. The second half is almost proggy, with one guitar holding down an insistent, repeated chord while the other carves a deft jig all over the fretboard, all set to a sprightly offbeat from Walter.
Ward picks up an alto sax for Oversized Cupid, resulting in a proper, no-holds-barred wig out. Imagine James Chance in a gentlemen’s disagreement with a passing chapter of Hells Angels. This probably the most free-improv thing on here, each of the trio spinning through their own repertoire of riffs, blarts and blasts in joyous cacophony.
And, although the 10-minute Strictly the Spike starts in a relatively chilled manner, there’s no danger of them stretching out into a summer jam or easing off for a mellow outro. In fact, things get even more crazed, like some insane tape collage of nauseating pop noise. The extended duration and frenzied tempo hit Fushitsusha-like levels of intensity and it’s impossible not to be swept away in the rapture.
Enjoy this trip.