Creating memorable music is not always about throwing musical spaghetti at the wall to see what sticks; like any recipe, there are common ingredients to music‚Äôs magic‚Äîtempo, chorus and yes, a certain predictability‚Äîand the best dishes come from the extrapolation of the cook‚Äôs own prime ingredients into their own musical concoctions. Having a formula is no more dangerous to "real" music as a recipe is to a "real" chef; the best music in the hands of masters balances an adherence to these rules with free-flowing creativity, while those less experienced either know nothing about the recipe, or follow the recipe too strictly. Boston based trio E comprises all masters: guitarist Thalia Zedek (Come, Uzi, Live Skull), guitarist and inventor Jason Sidney Sanford (Neptune) and drummer Gavin McCarthy (Karate). Their third release doesn‚Äôt create any new formulas, but rather expounds on the tasty blend of the prior two releases, honing the skills of three masters into an even finer dish of practiced and precise dark energy.
"Caught" initiates the recipe and the group bands together to deliver their formula of lots of crunchy chord structure right from the start; tight guitar interplay between Zedek and Sanford is marshaled by McCarthy‚Äôs furious rhythms. There is no bassist here, but it isn‚Äôt missed at all with Sanford‚Äôs handmade instruments filling in the gaps. Zedek, a legend in the alternative indie scene since the eighties, makes her weary and impassioned vocals present in the rallying cry "don't be silent, don't go quietly without a fight, there's no alibis - I wanna hear you." And there are plenty of reasons to fight here; ingredients include less than savory bacteria and virii, the flavor only salvaged by the promise of hope and a new future. "Acid Mantle" mockingly appeals to better living through science, asking the listener to "Anoint me with oils, inject me, complete me." "In the back of a lab, we engineer the germs, witness diagnosis man, I can confirm: it's contagious, spread it around" eerily echo current events in "Contagion Model," a model which seems to "synthesize, terrorize, dehumanize, normalize."
Like any good recipe, the resulting concoction will be rejected if not edible, and viral ingredients are offset by the sweet flavor of hope in "Sunrise" as Zedek urges the listener to "regenerate yourself again, start from the end and begin." In the midst of poisonous "Miasma," we are reminded that an open window, an analogy for pressure release, can work wonders: "Open a window, vapors are rising, miasma retreating, the patient reviving." Even "Gelding," the title referring to a castrated horse, can have a positive outcome in what some may view as a vicious act. In the act of castration, hormonally driven behavior is eliminated, allowing the animal to be more gentle, thereby experiencing "freedom at last in the absence of need." The fight is not unrecognized, and there‚Äôs inspiration to continue fighting. "Like a Leaf" addresses the struggle of feeling like you just want to let go, but encourages "take your time and you can set the tempo, if you fall into a heap." Yeah, they get it, the chorus knowingly reminding us that "sometimes along the way we break down, yeah...we all break down."
There is a saying that too many cooks spoil the broth, but for this recipe, each member takes equal turns, never overpowering each other and creating a balance of noise and warmth. No song is over four and a half minutes, allowing for a concise and masterful blend of loose aggression and technical skill. It is a recipe that has held true for two prior albums, full of melodic guitar lines, Zedek‚Äôs unique voice, McCarthy‚Äôs powerhouse drumming and Sanford‚Äôs musical ingenuity. The album is a powerhouse of honesty, a trait Zedek has been skillfully practicing for years, and she lets us in on her humanity in the closer "Apiaries Near Me" via the lyrics "I'm just trying to hold the tide, to draw the line."
I hear you. We hear you.