Rake – Rake Is My Co-Pilot

4 out of 5

Label: VHF Records

Produced by: Rake (?)

Two seamlessly stitched together 20+ minute compositions – Thin the Herd on the A-side, Motorcycle Shoes on the B-side – that are apparently comprised of various recordings from over a few years (I’ll note that the B-side shares a name with the first VHF release, also from Rake – comments pending on whether or not the songs are, in part, the same…), but there is no indication, whatsoever, of these being composites of bits and bobs. Yes, each side swings between section of squall and post-rock and punk, but there somehow feels like musically thematic throughlines, not only within each “song,” but across the album; it really sounds like all of this material belonged together.

On the A-side, Thin the Herd starts out with sketches of feedback and buzzing ambience, slowly building (very slowly – one of my only criticisms, which I’ll get to) into the first bit of guitar / drums / bass, which could sit side-by-side with any Chicago post-rock act of the time, or moody dudes like Mogwai. This slips back into noise, and then it springs forward into more amped up instrumental rock, and back and forth once more, even dipping into horns that give this thing an improv jazz edge.

Motorcycle Shoes feels like the process in reverse, kicking off with a long-form punk-ish jam, which should dash aside any doubts that these dudes can play their instruments. The flip-flopping with interstitial noise follows, eventually concluding on a minimalist, stoned play-out of a beat, a heavy bass, and a tip-toeing melody. This stretches on for a bit too long, honestly; wrapping back around to my aside about the intro, which also takes maybe a minute or so more to get where it’s going than it needs to – but then it’s sorta cool that those effects mirror one another. In both cases, there’s also the “reward” of where that crawl is leading to – Thin the Herd’s morphing into post-rock, and with Motorcycle Shoes, when it becomes clear that the group is actually playing slower, and slower, and slower, the section becomes quite ingenius, molasses-ing its way to a conclusion.

What makes all of this especially impressive is how much Rake commits to each “sound,” and yet, how cohesive the whole thing is. They’re not faking being a noise-rock band; nor rock; nor punk. They’re doing it all, and making this apparent mix-tape sound like it was intended to be heard this way forever and always.