Not for the faint-hearted, but not to be missed.
Bill Tilland 2010-04-28
The Little Women quartet combines the turn-on-a-dime accuracy of math-rock with the raw energy of metal and thrash. Even though the music, according to the band, is “very structured compositionally,” that structure is undermined, subverted and pulverised throughout Throat, and sometimes reduced to an almost subliminal presence. This creates an intriguing aural paradox – music that’s both disciplined and chaotic, balanced perfectly on the brink of the abyss.
The program’s opening salvo grabs the listener and administers a good shaking. Foghorn blasts from the tenor and alto saxes of Travis Laplante and Darius Jones respectively are loaded with thick harmonics, and although nothing close to a melody emerges, the riffs keep mutating, separating and then coalescing. Meanwhile, guitarist Andrew Smiley contributes clangourous, dissonant chords and drummer Jason Nazary sounds as if he’s locked in a battle to the death with his drum kit. It’s a glorious cacophony which serves notice that Little Women take no prisoners. However, the piece also demonstrates the method in the group’s madness, with the underlying collective control gainsaying any initial impression that this is just another casual (over)blowing session.
The six additional pieces in this seven-part suite don’t offer any major concessions to the listener, although a quiet lyricism does emerges from time to time – often when it is least expected. The range of tempos, timbres and textures – even within a single piece – keeps the listener continually off balance. The music accelerates and decelerates, smooth arpeggios gradually disintegrating into angular shards of sound. Throat II suggests a Tibetan Buddhist ritual, with the two unaccompanied saxes playing multiphonic drones before slipping into a final bit of quiet meandering. Throat III is full tilt almost from start to finish, with some highly energised guitar skronk from Smiley. Throat IV, the longest track, opens with the two horns providing some sonorous, churchy harmonies, after which the ensemble slips into a cyclical motif before guitar and drums interrupt for a private conversation. It finally builds to a strident, single-note crescendo.
The true test of the Little Women’s originality is that, aside from some very general comparisons with ecstatic free-jazz saxophone stylists such as Albert Ayler, Pharoah Sanders and late-period Coltrane – and some occasional trance-like riffs which could be loosely associated with the Philip Glass school of minimalism – the music is quite free of any overt influences. Not for the faint-hearted, but not to be missed.