The Messthetics (members of Fugazi)

The Messthetics

The last time drummer Brendan Canty and bassist Joe Lally were in a band together, they were the rhythmic architects for Fugazi, an organization whose decade and a half of disciplined progressivism provided a necessary bridge between the zenith of late-punk expression and everything alternative in rock that followed. In 2016, the two were enlisted by guitarist Anthony Pirog in a conspiracy to subvert and reimagine the power trio, bringing fully into the 21st Century a form that may have reached near perfection with Hendrix’s Band of Gypsys on the very first day of the 1970s.

With a self-titled recording scheduled for release in the Spring of 2018 on Dischord, the Messthetics will widen the reach of a decisive instrumental music that so far, they have only shared with a privileged handful of east coast and southern audiences. Across its eight original compositions and one cover, Anthony guides the sound through complex changes and harmonic densities that might compound, but never confound or muddy its connection with the listener’s body. Recorded by Brendan in their practice space, the group’s debut gives Anthony ample opportunities to swap guitar textures and styles as freely as an octopus changes patterns.

Brendan’s kit has a big heavy bell that he brought back from the Fugazi days. He maneuvers through this rhythmically shifty music with a fluid briskness that is periodically disrupted by the clang of his bell. Joe spent 8 years in Italy, among other things, woodshedding on eastern rhythms counted in 7 and 13, perfect preparation for the oddly-metered work of the Messthetics. He brings a rock-solid foundation to the groove at the same time playing a harmonic complement as ambitious and interesting as Anthony’s lines.

Bands can be dangerous when their members have accrued enough mileage to see their chops season into something like musical wisdom. When that understanding has the rare opportunity to percolate through a collaborative environment founded in love and anchored in gratitude, well, then shit can get rather intense. Anthony Pirog writes difficult music because original music usually is. Yet the ideas that he feeds through the Messthetics, are embraced by the Canty-Lally time machine, not just with precision and nuance, but with soul, joy, and groove. These last three are, indeed, the big guns in this spiritual war that music must become in the post-Trump era.

The initial concept was to mix noise/improv guitar with dance grooves – a kind of apocalyptic dance party where the beat keeps you moving, but the guitarist relentlessly terrorizes you. The first track, “Mythomania” retains elements of that posture, but as reality has itself become more daunting, Anthony – a fearless guitarist – has moved closer to his listeners, and is now willing to astonish without being so confrontational about it. That doesn’t mean the Messthetics in any way retreat from the responsibilities of a “hard” sound, just that its volume and edge never eat the bold structural ideas that define this new music. Anthony will even lubricate his tricky time signatures with energetic two-note riffs to keep the listener head-bobbing through the twisting structures. And when their collective voice is thick and heavy (like on “Crowds and Power”), it is neither ponderous nor plodding. Their performances and this debut recording have a lift and buoyancy that reflect back into the audience the love and gratitude at the foundation of this trio’s journey

— Dr. Thomas Stanley (aka Bushmeat Sound)

Cochemea

Cochemea Gastelum is coming home to connect with his roots. After nearly 15 years of touring the world with Sharon Jones and The Dap-Kings, the saxophonist offers a deeply personal album of jazz and indigenous-influenced rhythms. All My Relations¸ out February 22 on Daptone Records, is 10 tracks of mesmerizing and spiritually ascendant instrumentation.

“All My Relations is a way for me to explore my roots through music. Some of it is a memory that is imagined from a time and place I’ve never been (‘Sonora’) or a musical impression of ritual (‘Mitote’),” Cochemea says. “I felt compelled to add the way I feel when I go to ceremony, when I feel connected with my ancestors, to the musical narrative.”

A California native with Yaqui and Mescalero Apache Indian ancestry, Cochemea grew up surrounded by music but without knowing much about his heritage. Both his parents were musicians, and gave him a heavy name meaning “they were all killed asleep.” Cochemea has spent much of his diverse musical career – as a soloist, musical director, composer and ensemble player – exploring and iterating on roots music, and All My Relations is a capstone meditation on his own ancestry.

Originally conceived during Sharon Jones and The Dap-Kings’ final year of touring, Cochemea and Daptone’s Gabe Roth cast a varied but familial set of New York musicians to bring All My Relations to life. A large portion of the album was created through improvisation and collective writing, where its 10 musicians created a melodic, percussive conversation. “It was a beautiful experience – people would start playing and we’d work up these arrangements on the spot, then record it.”

The album begins with an invocation and plays like a story. Several songs have indigenous names and each track is an experiment in roots – from the Sanskrit prayer on which “Asatoma” is based, to the Mexican huapango rhythms in “Mescalero” and “Song of Happiness,” which is partly derived from a Navajo melody called Shii’ Naasha.’ “In a sense, this record is a prayer for unity, love and the recognition that we are all part of a web, and everything we do effects everything else,” Cochemea says. “These days there’s so many lines being drawn, I wanted to focus on what unites us.”

Cochemea has a long history of uniting multiple genres with his powerful polyrhythmic sensibilities. His roots in jazz, Latin, funk and rock led to multiple tours with funk-jazz organist Robert Walter’s 20th Congress, and connected him with SJDK for their 2005 Naturally tour. Cochemea also played tenor sax with The Budos Band and Antibalas, and Baritone sax on the Amy Winehouse sessions, before becoming a full-time Dap-King in 2009.

In between marathon tours, Cochemea recorded a critically acclaimed solo album of soul, funk, and afro-Latin jazz, The Electric Sound of Johnny Arrow, all while doing session work for the likes of Mark Ronson, Rick Rubin and Quincy Jones. He’s performed alongside Archie Shepp, Beck, David Byrne, Public Enemy and The Roots. Cochemea was also a featured soloist in the award-winning Broadway play Fela!, which led to historic performances in Lagos, Nigeria.

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