Portland, Oregon, from whence does thine creativity flow? Experimental rock is alive and well in the City of Roses, be it the sample-charged ingenuity of Menomena, the prog-folk pomposity of The Decemberists, and now, from the latest in a long line of innovators, comes the angular hedonism of 31 Knots. For a band that describes their music as “post-apocalyptic Vaudevillian punk,” there is surprisingly no trace of pretension on latest effort The Days And Nights Of Everything Anywhere. It is the sound of schizophrenic guitars, industrial drum fills, frenzied piano and Joe Haege’s desperate yowl that define 31 Knots’ unique sound, which is nothing if not indefinable.
“Savage Boutique” is pure acid-fueled marching band revelry, and only rivaled in eccentricity by hammers hitting sheets of metal in the plodding piano dirge “Sanctify.” Like fellow PDX residents Menomena, 31 Knots are no amateurs in the art of sampling, and make ample use of layered vocals and the inclusions of sounds located somewhere on a scale ranging from strange to downright bewildering. Where other bands shy away from such risky endeavors, 31 Knots embrace this weirdness, thereby elevating their music to bizarre new heights.
Guitars shred and crackle with the dissonance of thunderstorms, while skittering ever on the verge of collapse. The rhythm section of Jay Pellicci on drums and Jay Winebrenner on bass resounds and nearly adumbrates Haege’s impetuous singing, as he vigorously relates allegorical redemption tales (“Man Become Me”) or the pitfalls of maintaining artistic control (“The Days And Nights of Lust And Presumption”) with sentiments like: “We drew our lines in the form of pantomime/ It caused a rift, miniscule but pertinent.” Here and elsewhere, Haege’s poetic prowess looms powerfully. “Walk With Caution” sounds as if recorded in a cathedral, a chorus of voices ring ebullient as an echoing bell provides the only percussion.
Moments of lucidity emerge on the Steve Reich-ian keyboard droner “Everything In Letters.” The band is at its most restrained here; the song acts as an aural breather amidst its exhausting peers. “Hit List Shakes (The Inconvenience Of You)” almost reaches a crescendo and the suggestion of an awesome keyboard riff, but dissolves into electronic chatter before a chorus arrives, hence inviting the inevitable “experimental rock” moniker. This anti-climactic aesthetic works advantageously for 31 Knots, keeping the listener ever unprepared for the next strange outburst of frenetic sound. The closest approximation of a full-out rock song is “The Salted Tongue,” a showcase for Haege’s adroit yet frantic axe-wielding which would make Nick Zinner envious. Not to mention his profound lyrical urging: “Delay the salted tongue/ Forget forbidden tastes/ Ascend to chemicals.”
31 Knots disassemble expected song constructions, rarely relying on a verse-chorus pattern, instead opting to meander freely across a vast horizon of potential musical destinations. Whether or not their sound ever arrives at such a place seems inconsequential, the experience is in the journey, and what a strange journey it is.
MP3: “Man Become Me”