On their self-titled debut, the manic jazz-rock trio Hypercolor don't stop at simply combining their wide-ranging influences into an adrenalized fusion. Instead, guitarist Eyal Maoz, bassist James Ilgenfritz and drummer Lukas Ligeti collide their multifarious interests into one another like a post-modern demolition derby, pulling from the wreckage a sound that is as intricate as it is aggressive. The trio crafts complex structures while simultaneously undermining them, challenging listeners to find their footing while it's constantly being pulled out from under them.
Though Hypercolor, due out January 20, will be released as part of Tzadik's Spotlight series, meant to highlight new, adventurous projects, the trio began nearly eight years ago and has gradually developed its esoterically anarchic identity. Their music brings together the acute-angle skronk of no wave and the cerebral architecture of new music, Israeli melodies and African rhythms, jazz improvisation and punk subversion. The band's name was inspired by a line of clothing from the 1990s that changed color in response to heat, a reflection of the trio's ability to mutate suddenly based on each member's in-the-moment provocations.
"We developed this idea of learning complex arrangements and playing them back completely wrong," explains Ligeti. "We weren't interested in playing these complex arrangements in the super-exact way that most prog or fusion bands play. We quickly found that we really enjoyed replacing that auto-pilot exactness with the communication of free improvisers."
"We're applying a very Dadaist, no wave aesthetic to this music," adds Ilgenfritz. "We wanted to combine reckless abandon with interesting, complex structures to create something that was at once punk and rigorous academic music."
Some sense of Hypercolor's mindset can be gleaned from the album's cover art, which uses a pair of paintings by notorious filmmaker Nick Zedd, who coined the term "Cinema of Transgression" in the 1980s. The trio aims for a similarly transgressive approach, one in which emotion, intelligence, and attitude seem to explode from their sonic interactions. The band holds its opposing urges in an electrifying tension, finding a sweet spot that is both melodic and deconstructive.
Maoz' crunching guitar riff on opener "Squeaks" is buoyed by Ilgenfritz' insistent bass groove and Ligeti's intricate polyrhythms inspired by the little-known court music of the Ugandan kingdom of Buganda. Both "Chen" and "Transist" spotlight the trio's elastic, without-a-net relationship to time, while Ligeti's "Ernesto, Do You Have a Cotton Box?," tempts chaos by moving between free and composed sections. "Forget" is an airy ballad grounded by a disruptive drumbeat, "Far Connection" a wiry start-stop labyrinth. "Glowering" finds Ilgenfritz' bass wandering stealthily through a ferocious rock eruption, while "Palace" feature's Maoz' scything six-string freakout over a raging punk avalanche. "Little Brother," by contrast, shows the trio's subtler side, slowly building in intensity through morphing, aurora-like colors; "Quixotic" closes the album with an experiment in dynamics, marked by space and surprise.
The seemingly incompatible aspects of the trio's influences are rooted in the ambitious work of each of its three members. Guitarist/composer Eyal Maoz brings both mind-scrambling fretwork and his Israeli heritage to the mix. An in-demand composer and guitarist on the New York scene, he leads the bands Edom (combining Jewish music with new wave, electronic music and disco), acoustic Middle-Eastern band Dimyon, The Crazy Slavic Band, 9 Volt (which has recorded with saxophonist/composer Tim Berne), and the Maoz-Sirkis Duet (with drummer Asaf Sirkis). He also performs the music of John Zorn with Cobra and Abraxas.
A native of Michigan, bassist/composer James Ilgenfritz paints himself as a noise-rock enthusiast trained in jazz and contemporary classical music. His ensembles include the reimagined jazz quartets MiND GAMeS and Colonic Youth, the quintet Urbana, and the larger Anagram Ensemble, a vehicle for Ilgenfritz' compositional endeavors. The ensemble recently performed "The Ticket That Exploded," an opera based on the William S. Burroughs novel that will be released on CD in 2015. As a solo bassist he has commissioned works by Elliott Sharp, Annie Gosfield, and JG Thirlwell; and as an improviser he has worked with Anthony Braxton, John Zorn, Steve Swell, Nate Wooley, Jeremiah Cymerman, and others.
The son of renowned composer György Ligeti, drummer/composer Lukas Ligeti boasts a background in both European new music traditions and free improvisation as well as a long-standing interest in various African rhythmic traditions. Born in Vienna, he settled in New York in 1998 and has since composed music for Bang on a Can, the Vienna Festwochen, Ensemble Modern, Kronos Quartet, Colin Currie and Håkan Hardenberger, the American Composers Forum, New York University, and more; he also regularly collaborates with choreographer Karole Armitage. As a drummer, he has performed or recorded with the likes of John Zorn, Henry Kaiser, Raoul Björkenheim, Gary Lucas, Marilyn Crispell, Jim O'Rourke, Eugene Chadbourne, and many others. He has been traveling regularly to Africa for twenty years, drawing inspiration from musical traditions in Zimbabwe, the Ivory Coast, South Africa, Egypt, Ghana, and Burkina Faso.