Keiji Hasano + SUMAC – Even for Just the Briefest Moment Keep Charging This “Expiation” Plug in to Making It Slightly Better

4 out of 5

Label: Trost

Produced by: Soh Ki Moon

See, your improv jam session doesn’t have to be super loud and skronky for me to like it. I mean, it helps, but it’s not a set requirement. Case in point: SUMAC’s second recorded team-up with Keiji Hasano is significantly less brash than their previous outing. There are no heavy metal riffs from Turner and speed metal drumming blasts from Nick Yacyshyn. Heck, the first track, with a bit of wind instrumentation from Keiji, is almost pretty. (Y’know, if there wasn’t the gloom of death hanging over this whole affair.)

Ultimately, of course, it comes down to taste: the first session with Hasano felt, to me, very much led by that artist’s whims, with Sumac almost worrisomely following behind, then getting in their rock n’ roll when given the OK. It wandered. It, thus, had some great moments, but a lot of lulls, and no real sense of “song” befitting the track listing.

Here, we have a group of players in sync. Maybe these tracks were more “written” this time; maybe it was just the benefit of having established the groove from the first session; maybe it was a purposeful decision to let Brian Cook’s bass sort of grind out guidelines for the tracks, keeping everyone welded to a sense of push and pull and pacing. Whatever the case, the whole album has a successful sense of buildup to it, with Keiji’s sporadic guitar flangs and vocal sputterings coming across as reactions to the music – something we can relate to – as opposed to guttural improvisations out of the blue. The opening track, ‘Interior…’ is a woozy lead-in, starting in disarray and gathering elements, leading to the death march of ‘Now I’ve Gone and Done It…,’ which builds its tension for a long, delightful stretch before unleashing an explosion of distortion and pounding… but then bringing it back to that core, plodding stomp. The almost 30-minute title track expands on these modes, keeping things tight, initially, before another burst of sound, then allowing it to unravel with Keiji’s distorted chants. Closer ‘Once, Twice, Thrice…’ is the only iteration of things that doesn’t really evolve the method, acting as more of a coda – a repeated of the title track, to a certain extent, although more welded to the slow bass beat.

Keiji Hasano and SUMAC met one night and both played their styles: Keiji loose and weird; SUMAC super loud. It was interesting, but to my ear, disjointed. The second outing not only has a more organic production style and mix, but feels more composed as well, sinking deep in to moods and letting the improv spirit only overtake for selective outlets of fury, the two artists meeting in the middle for a truly cohesive and unique sound.