Dismal Nitch | (blouseusa)

It's a shame that Nicole Thomas-Kennedy lost Seattle's City Attorney race, but if it's any consolation, her husband Benjamin Thomas-Kennedy is about to drop a phenomenal album under his (blouseusa) alias. He's a veteran of Seattle's underground music scene, playing drums with cerebral metal band Lesbian and improvisational psych-rockers Fungal Abyss, and guitar for his other semi-solo project, Shitty Person, which features Nicole on bass. Under his (blouseusa) handle, Thomas-Kennedy has created some of his most inventive music, often diverging from his best-known exploits in Lesbian and Fungal Abyss. The latest full-length, the improv-heavy Dismal Nitch (Drongo Tapes), might be his most interesting one yet. “The pandemic really allowed me more time to explore some more complex ideas,” Thomas-Kennedy said in a message to me.

The lead track from Dismal Nitch, “Bellss,” is a spontaneous combustion of tantalizing tintinnabulations and swift, metallic percussion clusters. Sounding like a manic, Western take on gamelan, the piece serves as a radical stimulant and an intriguing gateway into (blouseusa)'s seventh album. A mere tease at 66 seconds, the song's a showcase for Thomas-Kennedy's deft percussion and collaging skills, as is the entire album, which was mastered by Mell Dettmer. Dismal Nitch reveals his affinity for robust funk (“Slim Rhonda,” “Hope Smotes,” the latter with Master Musicians of Bukkake guitarist Jim Davis), out jazz (“Pysht,” featuring Diminished Men guitarist Simon Henneman doing Sonny Sharrock wheelies on his guitar), the fractured fusion of Miles Davis ca. On the Corner (“Wayst,” with trumpeter Greg Kelley), heavy-metal rampaging (“Broken Down”), doomy disco (“Pressured Speech”), and rolling thunder (“Bala” with Amanda Vaporkott).

In its wayward way, Dismal Nitch recalls Wrecking Crew drummer Hal Blaine's 1967 cult classic Psychedelic Percussion, offering a panoply of crazy rhythms in concise bursts of off-kilter inspiration. That's the highest praise I can give to a solo record by a drummer.

Pick up Dismal Nitch via Drongo Tapes starting November 9.