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"Even in the Midst..."

I was watching We Jam Econo recently, a documentary chronicling the Minutemen, and I wondered for a minute what it would be like if they had been an instrumental band. What if they didn’t have D. Boon’s bark on top of their tight, funky, and harsh compositions? Would they have seemed so political? Would they have seemed so innovative? Probably. Maybe even more so. With no vocals or less than subtle lyrics, to obscure the hollow treble of Boon’s guitar with Mike Watt’s deep-in-a-trench bass over George Hurley’s uncanny drumming, the band would have sounded just as political, just as jarring and fantastic.

What does this have to do with Asheville, North Carolina’s Ahleuchatistas? Well, they call to mind the Minutemen in a lot of ways. In fact, they may be what the Minutemen would be like if they’d been an instrumental band. It isn’t necessarily that Ahleuchatistas sound like the Minutemen, because they don’t, really. But, like the Minutemen, they don’t sound like anyone else. And while Ahleuchatistas could be grouped in with punk or with metal or with some sort of avant-jazz, they aren’t exactly any of those things. They are simply a tight three-piece making their own noise and cranking out great albums nearly every year.

The most refreshing thing about this band is that they sound political. Their name—derived from a particularly aggressive Charlie Parker number—is as difficult to get a handle on as their music is. But, unlike so many artists labeled “difficult”, the band isn’t excluding us. They want us in the fray with them, to figure out the chaos of sound surrounding us, and to get lost in it. “...Of All This” starts with some off-kilter guitar that moves back and forth between bent off-tune notes and a quick surf-rock riff before the drums and bass kick in and the band hits breakneck speed. The bass rises and falls and the drums drive the bus along. It builds to a crescendo of guitar chords and cymbals, and the band sounds larger than it has on any of its previous records. And then the bottom drops out of the song. Just like that. Drums crash and the guitar slaps out haphazard notes. And then the whole cycle starts over again, with the chugging drums, the quick-strike guitar.

Their formula seems to be that they don’t have one, and that is what keeps this all so surprising. They maintain an energy throughout ...Even in the Midst that is truly astounding, and their ability to turn on a dime, switching time-signature and pace two and three times in a song without blinking, makes even the longest entries on this record seem fresh from moment to moment. Perhaps the most deceptive thing the band does is appear disheveled. The way their songs crumble into awkward drum fills and buzzing bass notes might sound, to the casual listener, like a deconstructionist mess. But, if you listen close, you can hear one of the instruments—and not always the same one—keeping the thread going.

And while their song titles, particularly “Take Me to Your Leader Never Sounded So Alien”, are not terribly subtle, the way they approach politics is. Taking a cue from their hero Charlie Parker, they make music that represents a frustration both germane to our times and tragically timeless. Much of the album sounds like the soundtrack to a tense chase scene. The trouble is that we’re the ones being chased, and we can’t see exactly what is creeping up behind us. Ahleuchatistas do not make the mistake, like so many artists do, of claiming to have the answers. Instead, they illuminate institutional problems by transmogrifying the frustration and confusion and anger and exhaustion that the individual can feel in a world divided into music as jarring and brash as it is controlled and unified, as minimalist as it is intricate.

The band closes the record with “Where We Left Off”, and the distant bass and fading drums make the band sound worn out. As guitar notes run backwards and the song starts to peter out, however, a looping feedback rises up, and while the song never comes to a full peak, it gives off a feeling that shakes off defeatism in favor of something more urgent. The band sounds, as the record ends, like they’re ready to start right back up again. There’s tension all throughout ...Even in the Midst, as the band takes on something bigger and stronger than itself. But, rather than letting themselves get beaten down by the uphill battle, they are charging back up to start the protest all over again, urging us to join in with them.

And, somewhere, the Minutemen are smiling and raising a can of beer in approval.

- PopMatters

"Even in the Midst..."

By Glenn Astarita

As a teen growing up in the 1970s, I was enamored by the complexities of a budding transcontinental progressive-rock scene. Odd-metered time signatures and jazz-like explorations were a feast for the ears, thanks to bands such as Gentle Giant, King Crimson and others. Fast-forwarding to the millennium, a new harvest of performers is perhaps ruling the roost.

Take for example, this North Carolina-based trio, which approaches from every conceivable direction via an intricately-carved and mind-bending approach to the rock idiom. On its fourth album and second for this estimable record label, Ahleuchatistas gushes forth with insurmountable enthusiasm as it abides by a painstakingly scrupulous mode of attack.

Structured upon a wiz, bang and thoroughly in-your-face gait, the trio amplifies the knotty time divisions and metrics heard by fabled musical warriors of a bygone era. And it’s balls-to-the-walls all over the place throughout Even In The Midst... that serves as a continuation of the unit’s previously chartered excursions. The music presents an innumerable degree of oddball niceties, all underscored with a skyrocketing impetus.

Ahleuchatistas fuses punk, grunge, free-rock and spacey improvisation into punishing, discordant riffs and polyrhythmic cadences, with Shane Perlowin’s twangy guitar lines eliciting a crossbreed stylization that merges country, psychedelia and avant-garde concepts. It’s partly about diametrically opposed and mathematically correct forward-motion.

The group submerges itself into free-jazz/rock on “The Bears of Cantabria Shall Sleep No More,” where phantasmagorical inferences are enacted by Derek Poteat’s scraping of his bass strings, counterbalancing Perlowin’s subliminal lower-register voicings.

For the most part, the trio conveys remarkable depth, while often countering pre-conceived expectations. Many of these sinuously designed unison lines are executed by Poteat and drummer Sean Dail, which in most situations goes against the grain, especially when Perlowin is apt to man the back-end of a given composition. Otherwise, the musicians don’t always play by the rules, offering a bit of respite and deviation from the roads too-often traveled.

No such thing as a dead-end here, as Ahleuchatistas skirts the fringes of fantasy amid cartoon-like jovialness or sparking imagery of mice scurrying about in a multidirectional maze. Either way, the band’s penchant for generating excitement might be akin to a visualizing an oscilloscope that calibrates energy rapidly moving across a histogram. Pleasantly neurotic and irrefutably stimulating, this album stands on its own amid the sometimes murky waters of contemporary rock.

- All About Jazz

"The Same and the Other"

What a brilliant, insightful album to arrive right now in our consciousness. There are daily bombings in Iraq and elsewhere, witnessed by the eyes of bewildered schoolchildren who undoubtedly ask, "Is this freedom?" - we have seen Abu Gharib and its aftermath, as all the while, our heads of office blow through farm towns in Iowa to argue semantics, and about how much good they've encouraged in the world. It is a painful time, made for painful art and keen observation. Ahleuchatistas have both, and without words, have something important to say.

Bass lines recall bombs, and free jazz unpredictability and violently sharp guitars state a clear message of their convictions. Frenetic shifts among the everyday places us in a context of uncertainty, where everything happens to us and we must react - swiftly. The Same and the Other is a massacre - and a thought-provoking one at that.

Throughout this wordless political statement, we learn of us and them - that our war is their death and that our lives and goals abroad are both trite and questionable. We are haunted by many images within the album: "Cracked Teeth" is taut, fearful and overwhelmed, playing like an attempt to scurry to safety in a world of disarray, where strangling, choking debris clouds lungs as explosions go off. "Ecstacy Combat Boots" begins like a warped sense of hope and promise, soon decimated by screeching, pounding noise, signaling progression and collapse in the same instant. "Good Question" relies on the perspective of a distant aerial view, dropping missiles magnanimously, with a dangerous sense of pride. The triptych, "RPG" series, numbers one through three, starts as if skulking with night vision goggles, then gets wrapped up in a thrilling war game that is far more serious in another perspective. It ends as we realize the attack is real, and that the aftermath to the "game" is not held in ceremonies or medals.

As the album ends in the symbolic quagmire of "Joyous Disruptions," we must wonder what so-called victory will look like, and the feeling that it will be marred and ugly cannot be dismissed. There is no symbol of triumph, no flag waving, only more turmoil - we know that success is only decided, not felt. Whether you agree with their implied stance or not, The Same and the Other makes a powerful statement whose questions resonate very deeply.

As someone who likes instrumental CDs on the surface, but rarely ever picks them back up off of her shelf, I feel that this one should not leave my player because it has something to teach. Speaking for those whose voice has been silenced by the noise of battle, The Same and the Other is far too important to be ignored.

Reviewed by Sarah Peters
- Lost at Sea

"Even in the Midst..."

AHLEUCHATISTAS - Even In The Midst... (Cuneiform) - Wow. This is Ahleuchatistas' fourth album, following hard on their breathtaking 2006 release 'WhatYou Will' - and it's even better. More than ever, Ahleuchatistas are a contradiction: a fiddly name that rolls off the tongue with practice, and super-complex instrumental music made easy. A simple, relatively unadorned guitar-bass-drums arrangement, yet endless variety of texture and feel. The production is just right, natural, clean and live - the result sounds like three very, very talented guys playing right there in the room with you. This natural warmth somehow rounds the harsh edges of all those twists and turns, makes it easy to live with. There's enough tunes and riffs and contrasting textures in the first track, '...Of All This', to match the contents of most record collections - yet something about the Ahleuchatistas' approach makes it, well, approachable. It should feel remote and intellectual - instead, it's personal and physical. The sound and pace and melodic changes are not there to show off to other musicians, but to tell a story. One moment, you're in the midst of a riot, the next, living with the consequences... I guess if it was possible to put these things into words, Ahleuchatistas would have lyrics.
The band are based in Asheville, in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Carolina, bassist Derek Poteat and guitarist Shane Perlowin drawn together by a mutual love of things like John Zorn's Naked City, Frank Zappa, Coltrane, King Crimson, eventually recruiting young drummer Sean Dail, who'd started at an early age in agit-punk bands despite discovering the delights of Gong and Univers Zero. Between them their tastes cover progressive rock, hardcore punk, jazz psych and metal and avant classical - and it shows. Since forming in 2003 they've gigged relentlessly across the USA and Canada, starting on the underground punk circuits, recently playing all kinds of festivals (somebody at SXSW wrote that their playing "made Mars Volta a band to yawn at").
There's a couple of handfuls of bands around the world making this rarified high-end intricate rock now - you could list Hella, Ruins, Koenjihyakkei, X-Legged Sally, (early) Dillinger Escape Plan, Farquhar, Tera Melos, Upsilon Acrux and Ahleuchatistas as the standard-bearers. What makes Ahleuchatistas stand out from any 'normal' band, let alone this kind of malarky, is the unforced ease of their playing, the warmth, the immediacy: even when they're hammering through some weirdass counterpoint with ninety-degree turn at the end. Everything they do is about communicating with other humans, whether it's each other (the long-awaited evidence of telepathy, by the sound of it) or with the world at large through their compositions. Ahleuchatistas' particular combination of emotional maturity, imagination and stratospheric musicianship is unique. And whilst their previous album was jaw-dropping good, 'Even In The Midst...' takes the good stuff a little further. There are more passages of straight tunefulness breaking through tension and darkness, more moments of stillness and delicacy up against their furious rock-outs. There are little surprises and joyful twists and a quite brilliant way of balancing a 'predictable' riff with an unexpected flourish. The whole has the best qualities of a good soundtrack, a musical journey that's vivid in itself. There's a coherent purpose underlying the sound, another quality that sets Ahleuchatistas apart from their peers: their overt political and world-aware references in the artwork and song titles are more than a garnish. Take the album and the first track's title as a statement of intent and hear it throughout the music: even in the midst of all this... violence, chaos, fear... of these times... there is beauty. It's an outlook similar to that of Godspeed! You Black Emperor, despite their sound being very different. Ultimately, its all about fragile humans and their trials and joys. Contemporary classical composer John Adams put it best when describing the first part of his Naive and Sentimental Music: there's a melody, and it goes out into the world where all kinds of horrible and nice things happen to it. The gorgeous Where We Left Off is a perfect example of this, lifting gently and relentlessly with spiraling guitar melodies from meditative flowing to buffets of ensemble fake cd-skipping, drifting off into violined-guitar nervousness... a hopeful, beautiful bass melody beneath... running into the tremendous hyper-rhythmic fest of 'Swimming Underwater With a Cat On Your Back' like the next chapter of a novel you can't put down.
Ahleuchatistas really have something. It's not their obvious skill at playing, but what they do with it. 'Even In The Midst...' might dazzle technically, but ultimately it's the emotion and empathy radiating from every moment, and the sheer delight at what they're creating, that makes this 'difficult' - Organ Magazaine

"What You Will"

review by: Avi Shaked

Call me narrow minded, primitive or what you will, but it’s truly hard for me to get along with all the unframed (lacking in structure / melody / rhythm hooks) extreme metal that’s out there. Thank god that Ahleuchatistas has come to save me from the alienation and idiosyncratic of the hard edge.

Actually, Ahleuchatistas are not newcomers, and this is in fact the instrumental trio’s third album. But then again, considering their commercially suicidal name, it is no wonder that these guys don’t gain popularity.

But popularity aside, the level of musicianship on this release is unquestionable. The trio, although primitive in its choice of devices, which consists only of drums, unaffected guitars and bass, is remarkably refreshing in every one of its other aspects.

The compositions shift gears unexpectedly, maintaining a terrific flow while relentlessly showcasing a tremendous control of instruments via measured attacks. All of these hard-hitting assaults are far more than a hardcore bash as they incorporate melodic twists, hooks and subtleties into the inferno.

The drumming is perhaps the most representative of all that, as the technical metal-flavored beats are approached with as much snare drum work as double bass and cymbals; and at the same time it is a product of a dedicated interaction with the bass and guitar phrases, getting as melodic as drums can be on top of being rhythmically engaging.

What You Will is what innovative metal groups have been trying to do for a long time – Ahleuchatistas finally makes sense out of the unexpected and extreme, giving up none of its ingenuity. (9.25/10)
- Maelstrom

"What You Will"

If ever an instrumental album were laced with political commentary, What You Will would be it. These three Asheville, N.C.-based musicians — who play likeable, stripped-down, pretentious-free, compressed and complex polyrhythmic music that has been defined as math-rock, avant-punk and avant-progressive — aligned themselves with the fight against imposed artistic and political forms by taking their unusual band name from a Charles Mingus song called “Ah-Leu-Cha” and the “istas” part of “Zapatistas” (an indigenous revolutionary movement in Chiapas, Mexico).

What You Will, the band’s third disc, is loaded with songs like “Remember Rumsfeld at Abu Ghraib” (an explicit political title that also pays tribute to the Mingus piece “Remember Rockefeller at Attica”), “Shell In Ogoniland” (a wordless diatribe against Shell Oil Co.'s operations in the Niger Delta) and “Ho Chi Minh Is Gonna Win!” (a reflection on the insurgency in Iraq via a comparison to Vietnam). Despite the implied politics, there is also a playfulness to the music of Ahleuchatistas. One of the longest tracks on the 14-song, 41-minute album is ”Sometimes There’s a Buggy,” a technical King Crimson-ish piece inspired by the David Lynch film “Mulholland Drive.” Another song, “I Used To Be Just Like You, But Now I Am Just Like Me,” lasts less than two minutes, features a groovy drone and seems to exist for no other reason than to give band members a fun title to use.

Ahleuchatistas leaves aural evidence of Crimson, Pink Floyd, Captain Beefheart, Hawkwind, Gong, Frank Zappa – and even Mingus and Coltrane (at least spiritually, if not so much musically) – all over What You Will. Yet the record also retains its own distinct originality and intense listenability, making a compelling argument for the effectiveness and honesty of the avant-anything genre.

- Sea of Tranquility


On The Culture Industry (2003) - Angura Sound
The Same and the Other (2004) - NFI
What You Will (2006) - Cuneiform Records
Even In the Midst... (2007) - Cuneiform Records
The Same and the Other Reissue (2008) - Tzadik



Formed in Asheville, NC in 2003, Ahleuchatistas immediately began to impact the musical landscape and continues to do so five years later. They have performed hundreds of concerts, from DIY house shows and club dates in the US and Canada to jazz festivals in Europe. Their live show must be seen to be believed, as they seemingly do the impossible with their bare bones setup, creating a beautiful assault of polyrhythms, pointillistic textures, and memorable themes.
Ahleuchatistas has released 4 full length albums of uncompromising compositional rock complexity, three of which appear on the revered bastions of international avant-garde music Cuneiform Records and John Zorn's Tzadik labels.
Here are some recent press quotes about Ahleuchatistas' latest album, "Even in the Midst...":

"Their formula seems to be that they don’t have one, and that is what keeps this all so surprising. They maintain an energy throughout ...Even in the Midst that is truly astounding, and their ability to turn on a dime, switching time-signature and pace two and three times in a song without blinking, makes even the longest entries on this record seem fresh from moment to moment."
Matthew Fiander (PopMatters, 2007)

"Structured upon a wiz, bang and thoroughly in-your-face gait, the trio amplifies the knotty time divisions and metrics heard by fabled musical warriors of a bygone era. And it’s balls-to-the-walls all over the place throughout Even In The Midst... that serves as a continuation of the unit’s previously chartered excursions. The music presents an innumerable degree of oddball niceties, all underscored with a skyrocketing impetus."
Glenn Astrarita (All About Jazz, 2007)

"Ahleuchatistas are a very special band in the sense that their music sticks with you. It is a sick combination of jazz, punk, maybe a little metal, and homegrown political protest folk in the best traditions of Asheville's hippie cauldron way up there in the Appalachians somewhere off I-40. Other artists may be taking the same spirit with them when they create their own music, but nobody sounds quite like Ahleuchatistas."
Patrick Masterson (Audiversity, 2007)