Release Date: Nov 18, 2014
Record label: Thrill Jockey
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Indie Rock, Post-Rock
Making music without the heft of a vocal melody puts the spotlight squarely on the instruments, and some musicians take this as a cue to show how nimble their fingers are, or how odd their timings can be. Simply put—instrumental music can be overwrought. It can be boring. But it can be great, too ….
Brooklyn psych improvisers Rhyton jammed their way through a rushed-sounding self-titled 2012 debut, offering up choppy edits of slightly Middle Eastern-flavored guitar leads and droning rock rhythms. The album felt a little vague and directionless, with playing that was just fine, but lacking any easily identifiable purpose. A second album, The Emerald Tablet, followed later that year and saw guitarist Dave Shuford focus a bit more on feedback frenzies of electric mandolin over its three expansive improvisations.
During its first minute, Kykeon's opening track "Siren in Byblos" seems to want to alienate the listener with its abrasive drone and distorted guitar riffs, which suddenly give way to an enticing drum line, to then morph into a harmonious blend of simple bass lines, a repeating drum pattern and experimental guitar compositions. But then again, that's pretty much par for the course with any Rhyton release; they've made a name for themselves by combining traditional Greek and Middle Eastern music with improvisational rock. The name Kykeon literally means "to stir, to mix" in Greek and is a pretty accurate representation of the world the trio explore on their second full-length release for Thrill Jockey.
Pink Floyds' David Gilmour and F1 enthusiast Nick mason proved this month that instrumental music, even the sort put together by two pensioners on a canal boat, can still make it to the top of the Official Album Charts. Flogging a whimsical blues jam is somewhat easier however with an extolled back catalogue to dwarf any other, it's not so simple when you're a trio made up of members from already existing projects, who themselves, boarder obscurity. Rhyton - the name aptly sets the tone for the music to follow; derived from the Greek rhein "to flow" the Brooklyn-based outfit have opted for old school musicianship, basing most of their material on improvised, middle-eastern flavoured, classic rock-routed excursions.
Rhyton infuses open-ended psychedelic grooves with subtle Greek and Turkish influences. The band, led by Dave Shuford of the No-Neck Blues Band (whose Americana-slanting outfit is D. Charles Speer and the Helix), is a trio, but there are never just three instruments in play. Shuford layers the high staccato rattle of bouzouki over American six-string.
It's nearly the end of 2014, and the great psych/kraut butter mountain still continues to grow, groaning under an immense weight of re-heated raga riffs, reverbed vocals and motorik rhythms. I'm naturally inclined to like this stuff, but you can clearly have too much of a good thing. Perhaps there's just more of everything these days, but it does feel that this type of music has become a default position for a whole generation of bands, sucked into its orbit for want of any other inspiration.