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WA: Cross The Center

Glenn Astarita By

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Led by prominent Seattle improvisers—drummer Gregg Keplinger and guitarist Simon Henneman—WA tenders a prime example of the regional avant-garde scene that is heavily influenced by rock and free-jazz. Spanning a few decades (give or take), Seattle's entrepreneurial spirit resides as the West Coast contingent of New York City's infamous Downtown Scene. Here, the bass-less quartet imparts a megalomaniacal viewpoint, pursuing the outside via distortion-laced guitar movements, background electronics and haunting thematic constructions. The musicians' breadth and clear-sighted focus transcends similar projects where wanton cacophony rules the roost.

The band's sound-shaping mechanisms are reinforced by Keplinger's polyrhythmic assault and asymmetrical treatments. The two guitarists (also including C.J. Stout) ring in the psychedelic age amid a few nods to Jimi Hendrix's wah-wah phrasings and chatty dialogues, toggling between human and alien encounters, with several movements within the program modeled with expansive formats, including ethereal passages built on gradual ascension.

The time-honored pop standard, "Nature Boy," will never sound the same after this version, spiked with ominous guitar treatments and a spooky recitation of the primary melody. WA spins this ballad into a stark framework that slowly rises out of the ashes, but adds to the intensity level in spots. The artists add a psycho-rock touch on "Carcassi," featuring the guitarists' drifting lines that may spark remembrances of classic '70s West Coast jam fare as they tear it up towards the finale. Indeed, a fun listen that is not derivative in scope, but points to various eras and concepts that are handled with a contemporary flair, complete with more than just a few mind-bending occurrences.

Track Listing: Funfish; Nature Boy; Liuzza’s; Adagio and Babel; Carcassi.

Personnel: Gregg Keplinger: drums; Simon Henneman: guitar; C.J. Stout: guitar; Sean Lane: bicycle and electronics.

Title: Cross The Center | Year Released: 2012 | Record Label: Tables & Chairs


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