Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Outhouse: Straw, Sticks + Bricks

Outhouse (quartet)
Straws, Sticks + Bricks (Loop/Babel Music; 2011)
Robin Fincker (sax, clarinet)
Tom Challenger (sax)
Johnny Brierley (bass)
Dave Smith (drums)

Hilmar Jensson (guitar)

On their third outing, Outhouse seem to be completely focused and created a solid and highly auspicious album with Straw, Sticks + Bricks. It's big, loud, scratchy and sometimes brooding. But at it's center, Outhouse have made another statement as to why they are becoming one of the most exciting British bands on the scene.

At times you might think Outhouse were actually part of the Chicago scene. The set of horns, bass and drums provides a unique, bold and cacophonous quality that is sometimes associated with the aforementioned scene. But once you get into the heart of pieces like the opener, "Kitchen In The Middle" you realize this quartet have different intent altogether. I got the feeling I should be reading a creepy version of Jack and the Beanstalk. The succinct one beat of the drum kit and sax helped me tap out "fe fi fo fom." Pretty funny for me. You may not notice this. The addition of Hilmar Jensson on guitar pulls out a grit that was always there on previous Outhouse's records but is more crystallized on Straws, Sticks + Bricks.

"Fool" builds slowly and compounds a number of tones and rhythms. Finker and Challenger worked brilliantly off each other while Brierley and Smith add perfect time and pace. Jensson's guitar cuts across the patterns at just the acute time. "Fool" works it way to a quiet conclusion in its last two minutes. Steady and unwavering. A number of disjointed and aggressive emotions balance neatly like Kurt Rosenwinkel mixing it up with John Zorn and Ken Vandermark. Great work.

"Alignment," more of a ballad, opens with a gentle but steady beat from Smith before the rest of the group join in to provide a calm hypnotic aesthetic. The vibe was reminiscent of Aram Shelton's recent work. This is exploratory and emotional with deep revolving effects. "Long Notes" led by Smith's rolling patterns, some soft plucking from Brierley and some intersecting notes from the rest of the group create an intense, expressionist closing number but still manages to leave the listener hypnotized by Outhouse's ability to craft some really evocative notes.

Unlike a number of their compatriots, Outhouse don't tend to go for the thundering beat. They are an investigative quartet that seems to be searching for next process in the rhythm. This is a journey we at JazzWrap are always willing to go on. The British scene is definitely rising. And with Straw, Sticks + Bricks, Outhouse are continuing to stay right up there with Acoustic Ladyland/Polar Bear, Neil Cowley, et al. Brilliant stuff.

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