THE HAT CITY INTUITIVE
It's kinda stunning that after like a decade or more, the HCI are still so unique. I can't think of another band that plays a hybrid of jazz, rock, and noise so diversely. Everyone plays everything and does it really well, so that when one of them switches instruments, it sounds oddly fluid. Say, for example, that Thoroughly Atlaffed jumps from a high-end guitar scrape to a low-slung horn moan. The continuity of thought is so pure, it's like he's just switched from fork to spoon - either way he's still eating. Unlike other rock/jazz/noise blenders, HCI doesn't hide behind a continous wall of sound. They're fine with silence, pauses, ebbs, flows, stutters, etc. The way they can quickly turn moments that feel awkward or out of their control into a massive mix of crescendo and communication is pretty unreal. Basically everything that can happen does happen, and then the HCI reacts and something new happens. That's improv.
There are two new HCI albums out, both stellar. In a mag I write for, a writer I usually like slagged these records, and his points about them not coaslescing or having a "point" are ok, I guess. I can agree to disagree there, but his conclusion - "I fear that HCI won't get close to fulfilling their potential until they stop enjoying themselves so much" - is a fat load. Not only does that fuel the standard beef about this mag (i.e. too dry/academic/serious), but it sounds like he heard these records with weary ears. HCI are definitely always having fun, but they never do just one mood. They can be serious, somber, goofy, sloppy, precise, slow, fast, etc, all within one short blast of fire-seeking sound. Another writer (who also writes for the mag in question) agrees - not that it's a competition, you can like or dislike HCI, just don't say they do one thing too much, because anyone listening closely will see that you weren't. I'm sympathetic - this writer obviously had a massive stack of recs to plow thru - but he got these two wrong.