Ches Smith and These Arches – Hammered (CF 270)
One might on occasion be given to pause and consider the future of music in the hands of people who have grown up with the history of recorded music just a You Tube search away, in a world we might conceive of as (or even hope will be) post-genre. That generation might well already be looking at such players as drummer Ches Smith to mark the way. Smith has been largely a rock drummer who has booked time with such familiar-to-these-pages personalities as Trevor Dunn, Fred Frith, Ben Goldberg and Marc Ribot.
More central (perhaps) to Smith’s own field of vision are his oddly fascinating duo Good for Cows (with former Deerhoof bassist Devin Hoff), his equally offbeat solo project Congs for Brums and These Arches, a group he leads with the stellar lineup of saxophonists Tim Berne and Tony Malaby, guitarist Mary Halvorson and Andrea Parkins on accordion and electronics. What perhaps holds his contributions to all of these projects together is a fluidity with rhythm – contrasting, overlaid and sliced with the ease of a hip-hop DJ.
Such characterization might be unexpected for a record given the name Hammered, but Smith is as solid as he is nuanced behind the kit and this, the second outing for These Arches, is a rewarding, exciting listen. The band does hammer away at times and in fact several of the compositions – according to Smith – were originally written with a rock band in mind, but they are still roomy enough for healthy improvisation, name checking in its titles such departed influences as Chicago drummer Phillip Wilson and Haitian Vodou drummer Frisner Augustin, suggesting a couple more touch points informing Smith’s work.
With the addition of Berne to the band’s original lineup, the group’s sound is now thick with, well,sound. They’ve crossed that nebulous line between sounding like some people in a room and becoming a blur of group think. In very different ways, Berne and Parkins have traipsed that territory for decades and here in fine company they are continuing to hammer a way at blurry lines.