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Album Review

Billie Davies: Whadeva (Live at Dangerous Art Studios February 13, 2020)

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Billie Davies: Whadeva (Live at Dangerous Art Studios February 13, 2020)
When you think of the music of New Orleans, chances are you're not imagining anything like Whadeva—semi-avant-garde improvisation with light electronics is hardly the first association that comes to anyone's mind. Nonetheless the Big Easy's personality is still clear through this freewheeling EP, which was knocked out in a Ninth Ward studio in one free-spirited day. The trio of players are all based in the city, if not lifelong natives, and they like to channel its spirit of celebration and spontaneity alongside any other parts of their respective backgrounds. This session got a little extra dash of seize-the-day spirit from being made at the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, just when everyone was aware something was going on but not yet realizing how big it would be.

Though it leans toward the experimental end of the scale, Whadeva has enough groove for anyone to follow, at least as long as they're not put off by this half-hour's noisier moments. Billie Davies leads from the drum kit with playful abandon, setting out the group's no-rules approach and propelling the others with a steady toe-tapping sense of fun. Her electronic drums wander from old-school bebop skitters to edgy fuzz crackles. In reacting, the others find themselves drawn into the same open space, never knowing what each piece is going to involve. If you didn't know what Damani Butler was doing, it might almost seem like a rotating hodgepodge of guitar/bass lines and synth tracks; as it happens, he deals entirely in electronics to turn the soundscape into a challengingly ear-bending soup.

It's left to Maude Caillat to provide the session's analogue side, which she does with small blizzards of exploratory sax. From wild stabs reminiscent of the late Ron Aspery to John Coltrane-esque sheets-of-sound wailing, she runs right in step with the others as the set gets increasingly free. She glides through slinky Eastern scales in the early going, flails to match the heat of clanging synths by the point of "Whadeva 5," and just as smoothly backs off as the entropic finale lets all forms dissolve. N'awlins wouldn't be a true melting pot without room for everyone on the fringes, and if the listeners who dig Whadeva are probably a small niche, they'll doubtlessly be fervent enough to make up for it.

Track Listing

Whadeva the Cobra; Whadeva 2; Whadeva 3; Whadeva 4; Whadeva 5; Whadeva 6.

Personnel

Billie Davies: drums; Damani Butler: electronics; Maude Caillat: woodwinds.

Additional Instrumentation

Billie Davies: electronic drums; Damani Butler: samples, waves, beats, loops; Maude Caillat: alto sax, flute;

Album information

Title: Whadeva (Live at Dangerous Art Studios February 13, 2020) | Year Released: 2020 | Record Label: Self Produced


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