2 out of 5
Produced by: W. Ottonecker
When I worked for Tower Records, if you were of the musical persuasion which leaned toward releases which often weren’t on major labels – and I wasn’t in the minority at Tower in that – raiding the boxes from some of our indie distributors was always a good way to find new artists of interest. On one such raid I picked up Chevreuil’s Chateauvallon, as the US version was on Sickroom, a label that floated through stuff I liked, and the artwork was definitely appealing. Add in that the credits were only for instruments – I’m a sucker for instrumental rock, and because this was on Sickroom, chances are it was rock of some type – and a Steve Albini recorded by tag (not a guarantee of quality, but it don’t hurt), and I picked the disc up without hesitation.
My gamble was rewarded: I couldn’t even wrap my head around the “how” of the construction, with the duo playing music back to themselves as they played and iterating on it, but it resulted in a type of decompiled madness that cut through Don Cab and into No Wave loveliness, while maintaining elements of Oxes brattiness but then also… melody? While the album might ultimately be limited, it was like nothing else in my growing instrumental catalogue, and I was dialed in as a fan.
…But it was luck of the draw that I didn’t stumble across Sport that day, as I probably would’ve written off the group as a Good Idea, but not much more than that. Sport, their first album, has the roots of repetition and layering the duo would employ on their later releases, but it is, firstly, more clearly indebted to Don Caballero What Burns / American Don-era playing – moments of tracks feel directly nibbed from the former’s faux-sloppy drumming mixed by offbeat chords and the latter’s more gentle elements – and Storm & Stress noodling, and then, secondly, it’s much less focused than Chateauvallon, or Capoëira. This doesn’t preclude some solid stuff, with the opening two tracks forming a good template of the staccato churn that gives way to freewheeling playing, but thereafter, excepting the title track’s relatively linear buildup, Sport makes you dig for anything else on which to really latch, keeping the sounds almost strictly to guitar and drums and falling back on the loosest of improv-y seeming sections as soon as any groove gets going.
As opposed to their other stuff just being notable on its own, and then you find out how it’s constructed and appreciate it that much more, Sport requires the concept be known up front to give it time; otherwise, it sounds like two dudes who loved how broken What Burns Never Returns was, and tried to replicate with less instruments and less patience.