Sunday, April 16, 2006


Been hearing rumbles about Bryan Ramirez's new-ish trio Poor School, so I ordered two CD-R's from Killer Tree and was generously sent a third for free just cause the order was delayed by, like, five minutes. Ramirez used to slay strings (aside the drumming of current Wolf Eye John Olson) in Universal Indians, previously discussed here...he's since played with Ex-Cocaine who I still need to hear, but probably not for a while, cause Poor School might take up a lot of my forseeable time. All three discs are excellent in a way I have yet to fully absorb - Ramirez, drummer John Niekras, and saxist Nathan Hoyme obstensibly play full-tilt improv welded to tribal heavy rock, but there's so much more happening inside the thick folds of their hurtling jams that ripping them open and idenitfying the guts inside is like trying dissect pudding - eventually you just have to give up and eat it.

To me, Poor School's closest referent is the almighty Hat City Intuitive - both bands are super-deft at form and chaos, use horns that actually sing as well as skronk, and are magenetically attracted to unexpected corners - but otherwise Poor School's foggy sound is pretty peerless. 3 offers two 20-minute-ish tracks of loose, sparse improv pocked with bursts of gravitational rock. My bonus CD-R, Live at the Elk's Lodge 6/6/2005 (sorry, just realized this is called Hickory Disc), nicely adorned with wood grain on both the cover and the CD, is 24 minutes of guitar/drum expansion (Hoyme wasn't in the band yet), with Ramirez's string ramblings generating pastoral fuzz, rubbery warble, and chunky chord strangulation, while Niekras' unruly precision suggests punk without the stiff trappings. The result is Coltrane/Ali-worthy duo sky-seeking, languid Neil Young ca. Dead Man twang, and some semi-straight riff-a-thons that threaten to become "songs" (for some reason I expected to hear Hendrix start singing at certain points) before collapsing into burbling puddles of noise.

The range of all the above is super wide, but practically monochromatic compared to The Holy Master, three tracks full of improv jams that bend the eye, sun-staring reflection that stiffen the spine, and dense fogs that numb the brain. The peak is track 2 (linked below - caution, large file), which opens with mournful horns and wave-cresting cymbal, rubs fiery sticks into Morricone-esque smoke, and then hits an insane apex: at 11 minutes in, the massive din dissolves into a hypnotic rock-climbing riff that sounds uncannily like the Sun City Girls ca. Let's Just Lounge. Somehow not done yet, the trio shifts into a heavy-riff, nearly-Sabbath mode that grinds the track into dust. This cut broke my brain the first time I heard it and 20 listens later it's still grating my cortex into cheese. Apparently The Holy Master will get "proper" release via Ecstatic Peace sometime in the not-past, but don't wait til then to e-shower Mr. Ramirez with some well-spent cash.

Also, check out an amusingly mistake-filled ("a record called Universal Indians"? Black Dice is "a hardcore eastern rock group"?) Poor School bio here.

POOR SCHOOL - (second track) from The Holy Master


Blogger Art said...

hey! I enjoyed that.

7:13 PM  

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