For too long, the guitar-drummer duo format’s been defined by garage-rock-turned-dad-rock outfits like the White Stripes and the Black Keys. Ahleuchatistas have come to pulverize that paradigm. Hailing from Asheville, North Carolina, guitarist Shane Parish (clean-cut in T-shirt and jeans) and drummer Ryan Oslance (sporting a beach-bum hippie look with board shorts) play barefoot. Now, this is not what you’d expect America’s current greatest live rock band to look like, but that somehow makes Ahleuchatistas’ next-level post-everything rock seem that much more special. Their first song at the Sunset Tavern before a modest Monday night crowd was stunning noise rock augmented by beats that seemed to be sucked into a vortex, manic paradiddles, and tintinnabulation from Oslance’s ankle bells. These guys flaunted more surprises and thrills in one song than most bands do over entire albums. And Ahleuchatistas were just getting started.
“Sundownings”—from their latest LP, Arrebato—is wildly inventive math rock that's swathed in exotic, abrasive timbres. It’s the kind of soulful, machine-like music that This Heat and MX-80 Sound plied in the early ’80s, and it’s all too rare these days. Another track heads into fierce, spasmodic gamelan-rock territory, with Oslance dragging chains over cymbals and standing up to pound his kit with more force.
Throughout the set, Ahleuchatistas gave us brutal radiant epiphany after brutal radiant epiphany, indelicate displays of virtuosity and radical eruptions of inventiveness. The proved that the lexicon of guitars and drums hasn’t been exhausted yet or worn threadbare through cliché. When Ahleuchatistas ended their performance, the crowd begged for one more… on a Monday, Earth’s deadest entertainment night. These people had school and/or work to go to the next morning, but, fuck it, they knew this show was too amazing to end just now. The band complied and proceeded to set off astonishing, rolling drum/cymbal explosions and downtuned, rippling guitar that shredded beyond your wildest conception of shredding. It was like Glenn Branca conducting the apocalypse, but with only two humble dudes. Holy fucking shit. Holy. Fucking. Shit.
Before this mind bomb, Seattle’s Chemical Clock reminded us that Seattle is becoming a hotbed for vibrant new jazz made by youngish folks. (See also Bad Luck from last Monday and the work of Syrinx Effect and the Table & Chairs crew, for further proof.) A quartet consisting of keyboardist Cameron Sharif, trumpeter Raymond Larsen, drummer Evan Woodie, and bassist Mark Hunter, Chemical Clock ran through six songs of freaky jazz and oddly metered funk. Touchstones included ’70s Miles Davis, the weirdest aspects of Weather Report, Ornette Coleman’s Of Human Feeling, and Henry Threadgill. But Chemical Clock aren’t slavishly imitating these fusion giants and avant-garde innovators; they’re just drawing inspiration from them while gracefully journeying into their own contorted sonic nooks and crannies. After their set, Fungal Abyss/Lesbian drummer Benjamin Thomas-Kennedy testified that Chemical Clock are his favorite thing right now. This man knows whereof he speaks.