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Bandit 65: Bandit 65

Geno Thackara By

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It's not unheard of for groups to include drums without a bass as rhythmic partner, though the rest of the players may sometimes be surprised how much they miss that anchor (which is easy to take for granted after all). A small combo has a couple basic options for working around that absence. They can have some other instrument fill the role, or else leave things loose, trust each other's timing and allow for the possibility of getting lost. The members of Bandit 65 are willing to do either one with their brand of juiced-up electric fusion. It means that things can and will get wobbly, but that's rather the point. The uncertainty of free improv is just where they thrive.

"Free" for these fellows means on-the-spot and unrehearsed, but not formless or aimless; it's more about inventing patterns as they go along. This emergent behavior makes a series of pieces all based around groove on their first release. There aren't really heads or melodic hooks here, but the trio are willing to thoroughly feel out each new idea like explorers mapping out an unknown canyon. It's no coincidence that the track titles here revolve around themes of place and travel. They're always looking to go somewhere, even if the space in question is more mental than literal.

The band's balance of qualities is one key to its success. Kurt Rosenwinkel has an open ear for guitar effects while remaining an innately melodic player; Tim Motzer doesn't go for rapid lines as often, meanwhile, but knows how to squeeze a colorful range of expressive tones from six strings. If you recognize Bandit 65 as the name of a versatile guitar amp, you won't be surprised that this group is interested in creating the right sounds just as much as playing the right notes. They wander from ringing envelopes of echo to animalistic squeals worthy of Adrian Belew.

While that pair wrings out their axes, Gintas Janusonis stays in the center keeping the rhythm mostly at a steady simmer. A groove might coast for a mere six minutes (see "Remembrance") or keep shifting for sixteen before the payoff (as in the uncommonly patient slow build of "Lost Temple"). Any member can hang back or take the lead as the impulse hits. Often one guitarist will follow some idea while the other finds the right background shading to complement it. With "Racing the Precipice," it's Janusonis who abruptly decides it's time to kick into high gear and leave his bandmates no choice but to jump on for a crazy flight.

The grooves of Bandit 65 manage to be extensive and often circular while avoiding anything near monotony; these players are skilled at steadily flowing with each other and still keeping an ear on the bigger picture. There's no telling where they'll go next, but we can be confident it's somewhere myterious and intriguing.

Track Listing: Ever the Horizon; The Cycle; Lost Temple; Remembrance; Racing the Precipice; The Distance Traveled.

Personnel: Kurt Rosenwinkel: guitars, electronics; Tim Motzer: guitars, guitar synth, electronics; Gintas Janusonis: drums, percussion, bent toys.

Title: Bandit 65 | Year Released: 2017 | Record Label: 1K Recordings

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CD/LP/Track Review
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Bandit 65

Bandit 65

1K Recordings
2017

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