Great instrumental outfit from Knoxville, Tennessee. On their debut 7" they do something like a hybridisation of Sun City Girls and Minutement (at their most Beefhearty). Which is not to say that all the music occurs at quite that level, but the intent is certainly there and the delivery is not far behind.
Double Muslims hail from my hometown of Knoxville, TN and have the dubious honor of being one of my favorite local bands from the past few years. On this recording they are Eric Lee on guitar, Jason Boardman (proprietor of local venue The Pilot Light) on drums, and Marcelle Good playing cello. Everytime I've seen them live I've gotten a completely different impression, once they were two drummers and two guitarists playing complex math-rock but then another time they were Lee alone with Mountains of Moss main man Adam Ewing joining him on banjo. Regardless, they make some great music and you get a taste of both of those elements here. "Errors of Menace/Stupor Creek" comes off like a hybrid of Dirty Three, Abilene, and possibly Don Caballero to a lesser extent. This one's limited to 300 copies, numbered and sealed with a wax stamp. Good stuff.
Wiry, spacious rock/improv trio of guitar, cello and drums, in bed together, and the mattress springs are sticking out all over, if you get my drift - sharp turns of play and space, subverted by digital delay and percussion that allows the musical elements to breathe and sweat as needed. Squalor, to them, would probably equal the most uniform and thought-out compositions of your GHQs of today, with a composition-based attack and a full command of its wide vocabulary. Wouldn't place these guys too far away from Gastr del Sol in terms of the attack, though there's considerably more geniuine "rock" action here in a precipitated kinda way. "Twice But Once" has a fine time exploding into reverie, then pulling back with the appropriate amount of tension, until the track sounds like it's weeping at its unresolved ending. Smart, joyous times within a beautiful package, all from somewhere small in Tennessee. Numbered edition of 300 in a letterpressed, foldover sleeve, closed with a wax seal.
The two sides of Double Muslims ' new 7-incher couldn't be more different. It begins almost indecipherably, as a ghastly, mournful miasma of thick noise, punctuated by Marcelle Good 's cello. Good rips at the strings, jerking the notes out. And Pilot Light owner, Jason Boardman , handles percussion, keeping the song from spiraling toward chaos with his disciplined beats, preferring moderation to brute force and madcap speed. Yet there's still a noisenik pathos driving the song; they create hauntingly powerful sheets of sound, with the cello plucking on top, backed by a slow, rhythmic pulse and plenty of clang.
The B-side is a little more subdued, which allows Eric Lee 's delicate guitarwork to breathe. His style is virtuosic, expertly running through single-note lines. It almost feels Arabesque, like an old Turkish folk ballad that's been electrified and distorted. Then it starts getting faster, with Lee playing hectically, yet fluidly, until it finally pops, fading away, slowly.
The night the current line-up of Double Muslims played its first show, Marcelle Good-a classically trained violinist who'd been working occasionally with R.B. Morris-just happened to have a borrowed cello in her car. She asked the band's guitarist, Eric Lee, which instrument she should play.
"Whichever makes you more uncomfortable," he told her.
She chose the cello.
"I've played violin since I was 6," she says. "I could always fall back and play something pretty. But I'm playing an instrument I don't know how to play. After one show, my mom said, 'Would it have sounded different if a fine cellist had been playing it?'"
Double Muslims has existed, in its present incarnation, since the spring of 2006. The trio-Lee, Good and Pilot Light owner Jason Boardman on drums-got together with the idea of being, in a sense, a basic rock band.
"I'd been in some improvisational hell for five years," Lee says, drinking beer in the band's Central Avenue basement rehearsal space on a recent afternoon. "Then I thought, 'If I can get Marcelle and Jason, I can write songs again.' I wanted to be in a conventional rock band. The songs are hard to play, and they sound different every time, but it's like what Jason calls 'soul.' There's soul to it. It's not just ABC and repeat four times."
The music on Double Muslims' first recording, a seven-inch single on Knoxville Voice contributor Matt Silvey and Cain Blanchard's Laboratory Standard label that's scheduled for release this month, is intense and tightly focused. But it's also limber: Boardman's a restrained and disciplined drummer, Lee prefers clean, single-note guitar lines to chords, and the bottom-end is taken up by Good's cello instead of a bass. The first side of the single is two songs-"Errors of Menace" and "Stupor Creek"-sequenced as a single track. It's a patient performance, two minutes of mournful post-rock dirge followed by a brief release of scattershot notes and a long coda that finally fades to solo cello. The B-side, "Twice, But Once," begins with a clang of noise, followed by a plucky guitar figure and shuffling drum beat. After a minute and a half, the song breaks wide-open, with cello on top, punctuated by sharp spasms of guitar and light, jazz-tinged drumming.
"If everyone plays unorthodoxly, then it doesn't sound so conventional, maybe" Lee says. "Ultimately we're just trying to make songs. But I want it to be fucked up."
There's a clear element of funk in the single, despite the lack of bass. It's built on the tension and restraint in the music, the sense throughout the songs that something's about to happen. "One of the reasons it's fun to play with Eric is that there's such a high rhythmic content in his guitar parts," Boardman says. "We get to play rhythm together."
That interplay is what attracted Good to the band when she saw an earlier line-up play in 2005. "That last show before [Lee] went to Chicago-that made me want to play music with you," she says. "It looked and sounded, to me, more like chamber music. Everybody was so completely engaged. It was all these people listening to each other hard."
They just get better and better, so if you haven't yet seen or heard Eric Lee (guitar, etc.), Jason Boardman (drums), and Marcelle Good (cello), you're still in luck. The next show is always the best. The most creative, exciting thing going in town right now.