Power trio Slobber Pup‘s new album Black Aces will clear a room fast. It’s not for people who like their music in concise, hummable, self-contained verses and choruses. This ensemble of downtown outsider-jazz types inhabits the deliciously abrasive netherland somewhere between noise-rock, postrock, metal and jazz. Their music is ugly, assaultive and long-winded, but in an intriguing way. On one hand, their album Black Aces sounds like one long jam where everybody’s soloing at once; on the other, everybody’s on the same page rhythmically, and they get out of each others’ way when a shift in the dynamics calls for it. The band’s secret weapon is frontman Jamie Saft’s organ, which swells and swirls and provides a stygian backdrop as well as a sometimes unexpectedly melodic center for banks of distorted synths, Balasz Pandi’s tumbling drums and Trevor Dunn’s growling, pitchblende bass, with noisy bluesmetal guitar that usually takes centerstage. Those hearing this for the first time might be surprised to discover that’s Joe Morris on guitar playing all those unhinged, bluesy leads: it’s quite a change from the resolute, defiantly atonal approach that defined his style for many years. Although he does revert to that style from place to place here as well.
The album is best appreciated as a whole. The practically half-hour opening “track,” Accuser, comes across as something akin to Deep Purple on speedy acid. Morris finally leaves the blues scale for some jagged noise, then veers between the two styles over the often jarring wash of liquid organ and buzzing, acidic synth, roaring, gritty bass and careening but steady drums. The organ hits a menacing tritone and leads the band into an inchoate horror movie theme about thirteen minutes in; later on, Dunn tries to take everybody in a Floydian, anthemic direction but eventually descends into the maelstrom around him. They go out sudddenly with a gentle cymbal hit. Some might find this self-indulgent to the extreme, but as a menacing, defiantly noisy mood piece, it’s hard to resist.
Morris uses a more metalish, sustained tone on Basalt, the bass trying to push it toward Slipknot territory, then everybody drops out, leaving Morris to linger by himself. His off-center, dancing single-note lines and creepy, unsteadily bending microtonal fretless guitar chords are the high point of the title track, while Suffrage, a slower, slinkier and heavier groove, features unexpectedly tuneful, bluesy organ juxtaposed with Morris’ gleeful Friday the 13th chord-chopping. The final segment, Taint of Satan maxes out the contrast between the dirgey rhythm and Morris’ frenetic axe-murderer attack on his strings. Slobber Pup are at Shapeshifter Lab on Dec 13 at around 10 for Rare Noise Records night; cover is $15.