ALEX MAERBACH “Will the Low E Still Be There Once You’ve Come Down?” C60 (Orb Tapes)

Alex Maerbach drafted the Low E Ensemble to help out with this thing, and it’s a doozy. As a “rumination on the IV humors, medieval pseudoscience, alchemy, and gnosticism,” Maerbach and Low E fully lean into the forms and functions inherent in medieval performance, all while injecting it with a healthy dose of twenty-first-century technology and rumbly noise. Ostensibly beginning as drone pieces, each of the three long-form compositions shortly incorporate all the players into a more traditional “band” performance. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t a lot of room for experimentation (because there is!). Acoustic passages appear, as do static and feedback clouds, all making for an exhilarating and astounding experience.


If we were going to dilute the utter complexities of this release into a hamfisted comparison, we’d probably come up with something like “Seaven Teares meets Do Make Say Think at a freak-folk convention (or maybe Voice of the Valley).” But that wouldn’t even scratch the surface of tape closer “Choleric + Phlegmatic,” thirty minutes of heaving exploration and interplay, the roiling tensions and seamless transitions from maddening buildups and oscillations to cathartic bursts of frantic playing. Of course it ends on acoustic guitar and lonely brass and reeds, all atop apocalyptic spoken samples and feedback. If the apocalypse was going to come, and, if my theology is up to par, those medieval folks sure probably thought it would, I’d want it to sound like this: utter uninhibited id ready to go down with the ship.


Plus that artwork … *chef’s kiss*