The obliquely titled Good for Cows are truly one of the greatest experimental bands in existence. A heroically pared down affair—the band consists of only upright bass and drum set—they make truly unusual, thrilling, and utterly new music. Between them, bassist Devin Hoff and drummer Ches Smith have past and present engagements as members of the Nels Cline Singers, Secret Chiefs, Mr. Bungle, Xiu Xiu, and many others. As reflected and enriched by this pedigree, both Smith and Hoff are players of great facility and technique, but more pointedly, they are musicians able to plumb astonishing emotional and intellectual depths via their instruments. The music they make as GFC is deeply satisfying, both on the most visceral, Sabbathy levels and as more erudite, architectural music, but it belies easy stylistic consecration. The most immediate comparisons could perhaps be drawn to modern, post–Ornette Coleman forms of jazz music, and to a kind of raw, stripped-to-the-bone metal (ore?), but ultimately GFC's musical adventures are fully and expansively polyamorous.
"We began by writing jazz tunes in which we improvised over cyclic harmonic forms," says Smith of the duo's compositional process. "Then came a period of aural cues which triggered open improvising sections. Currently we have cues that trigger pieces of our entire repertoire. This makes it so we can compose on the spot via arranging areas and improvising within them." Structural concerns aside, what is certain is that GFC are intently serious in their pursuit of art making. Hoff describes the essential mission statement of the band thus: "The key to GFC is that, for us, 'why' is always more important than 'what'—we try to avoid just copying someone else's answers. We want to know how they got there and what about the context, etc., led them to that conclusion. This also speaks to the question of style: Style is just the window dressing on a certain set of conclusions to permanent musical problems of what, how, and why to play."