RAQ deserves better than being compared with Phish. Yes, they come from the same town, rely on the same instrumentation and share that jam band’s stylistic dexterity and exploratory ethos. It bears mentioning that RAQ recorded Ton These at The Barn, a recording studio on Trey Anastasio’s property, and did so under the tutelage of Pete Carini, famous for being Jon Fishman’s drum tech and now, it seems, The Barn’s resident engineer.
But RAQ is no mere knock-off. On Ton These, the quartet hybridizes fervid gospel, frantic funk and uptight rock ’n’ roll with energy and ingenuity, throwing in prog rock and piano jazz interludes as launching pads well-suited to in-concert improvisational ascents to the heavens.
Much of the credit for the punchy particularities of RAQ’s sound belongs to Todd Stoops, the keyboard player who writes most of the songs and enlivens them all with arpeggiatic explosions and the organ skills of the freshest church lady you can imagine. Stoops dominates Ton These, producing a sound more powerful than Page McConnell ever even aimed at—with results these up-and-comers’ elder statesmen should envy. (Jason Wiener)
RAQ plays The Loft Tuesday, March 13, at 10 PM. $7.
Carpet Samples from The Song Diary
Self-indulgent melodrama and the tediously mundane tend to fill the common diary. The song diary of Brooklyn solo artist Paleo (aka David Andrew Strackany), comprising a song a day for 365 days, fortunately bucks that trend. His song diary is an intriguing experiment aimed at capturing memory, and an instance when writing and recording a song per day—not just, say, instrumental prowess—becomes the definition of music athleticism.
Carpet Samples from The Song Diary includes 10 stylistically diverse tracks from the diary, selections dated between April and September of 2006 and written in places from Florida to Kentucky to Arizona. As an album, Carpet Samples succeeds in offering sharp snapshots of loss and desire by rummaging through searing, sparse lyrics: murdering crows and a drooling Dog Star alongside, by contrast, an olive tree. “An Arrangement in 7/8” plays with time signatures and the idea of squandered love. “Boring Together” is a breezy duet where the line “Let’s be boring together, ah! Should we take up jogging, baby?” teeters between cynicism and sincerity.
Paleo’s guitar and vocal composition are both serene and unraveling, and he ignites drama not through narcissistic narrative but with humor and deftly selective imagery. (Erika Fredrickson)
Paleo opens for Sara Softich and Jason Wussow Friday, March 9, at The Loft at 8 PM. $10/$8 in advance/$2 off for Missoula Folklore Society members.
Cosmo Sex School
April Nineteenth began, oddly enough, on August 27 and 28, 2006, when Jerry Joseph, multi-instrumentalist Steven James Wright and drummer Steve Drizos formed the backbone of the album while playing live in front of an audience at Mississippi Studios, located, oddly enough, in Portland, Ore.
Despite its origin, April Nineteenth is not merely a live album capturing the trio’s sound. Several guest artists, including The Decemberists’ formidable keyboardist Jenny Conlee and harmonica player David Lipkind of I Can Lick Any Sonofabitch in the House, chip in during the performances. Several overdubs also make it onto the album, including pedal steel by Jim Brunberg, horns by Rick Homer and Marilee Ford on fiddle.
The dramatic swells provided by the musicians supplementing Joseph’s songwriting never dumb-down or drown him out. Further, any heckles questioning the authenticity of overdubbing on this “live” album should be quieted by the legitimacy of Joseph’s original work—story songs dealing, with something like fondness, in his own rock-bottom experience of living on the streets of Oregon’s Rose Town. (Caroline Keys)
Jerry Joseph plays The Other Side Thursday, March 8, at 10 PM. $10.
Since their first release in 1998, these two East Coast avant-garde hip-hoppers have proven to be years ahead of their underground peers by sticking with an ethos of fierce experimentation and relentless progression, both musically and lyrically. On their latest album, Abandoned Language, they’ve set the bar a notch higher by incorporating dark, dynamically shifting timbres with their trademark biting lyricism and hard-hitting beats.
Their last effort, 2004’s Absence, was forceful and guitar-driven, something like hip-hop’s answer to Slayer. This time around though, MC and producer Dälek teams with producer Oktopus to adopt a broader palette of sounds by injecting brass, woodwind and string instrument samples into their compositions. They’ve tweaked and twisted these sounds into a brooding soundtrack that portrays a world corrupt beyond repair. Indeed, Dälek’s adroit rhymes shine best when riffing on a bleak topic like the government’s slow response to the victims of Hurricane Katrina (“Stagnant Waters”) or airing disdain for the increasing commodification of hip-hop music and culture (“Corrupt (Knuckle Up)”).
Abandoned Language establishes Dälek in hip-hop’s upper echelon, a group willing to experiment with their sound, aiming at and achieving excellence. (Ira Sather-Olson)