Josh Sinton’s Holus-Bolus Leaves Some Good Memories
Low-register reedman Josh Sinton’s Holus-Bolus project is defunct at this point, but they have an intriguing album to show for it. Strangely, Sinton shopped the band’s one and only recording, Pine Barren (a reference to his rural New Jersey youth) for the better part of a year before landing with upstart Brooklyn label Prom Night. Which is surprising: challenging as much of this is, it’s full of wit and irony, not to mention an impressive amount of straight-up tunesmithing considering the quintet’s fondness for the strange. Has what’s left of the labels become completely polarized between accessibility and more adventurous sounds? Sinton’s hardly an unknown, this band is playful and has star power to the extent that such a thing could or should exist: Jon Irabagon on saxes, Peter Goldberger on guitar, Peter Bitenc on bass and Mike Pride on drums.
The opening track quickly grows to a tricky circular vamp that wouldn’t be out of place in soukous music, Pride’s drums and overdubbed vibraphone mingling into what’s essentially a rhythmic tone poem, individual voices dropping out elegantly one by one as it winds down. It makes a jaunty contrast with the plaintive, rain-soaked, dirgy Water for My Father, Sinton’s growling bass clarinet and later his baritone sax providing an ominous contrast with the stately, shifting voices overhead. Deeper in the Woods Than You quickly moves from skronky guitar swing to a free-for-all, while The Earth for My Father – a variation on track #2 – raises the dirge’s intensity by setting Goldberger’s tersely majestic lines against a quarrelling cluster of horns echoed by Pride, pushing the austere beauty of the melody further and further out of the picture.
My Clarinet Teacher – a Steve Lacy tribute, possible? – takes a goodnaturedly funky groove, deconstructs it and then has fun with individual instruments doing their best to pull their completely intractable bandmates back onto the rails. I’m Still Trying wryly yet plaintively illustrates an endless series of defeats, while Goldberger’s immutable skronk anchors the twisted clave funk of Dizknee Justice Abounds.
Solo drums, solo bass clarinet and then metal-tinged guitar build an arc in the gnomically titled Five, followed by the viciously sarcastic Full of It…Love That Is, the album’s most assaultive moment – with a surprise ending. A sense of longing returns with the surprisingly quiet Starfuckers, its terse exchanges of voices slowly rising over Goldberger’s acidic resonance. They close with a warmer and more focused return to the initial Afrobeat-tinged theme. In sum, an ambitious but richly listenable and entertaining album. That’s why it seems weird that it would be overlooked – it’s not hard to imagine this band connecting with a young, hungry crowd on a bill with one of the new breed of dance/punk/jazz groups like Moon Hooch.
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