Monday, June 18, 2012

The post-high school prog of Les Rhinocéros

Posted By on 06.18.12 at 05:33 PM

Les Rhinocéros
  • Les Rhinocéros
Of the recent Chicago-area bands who've found success while their members were still of high school age, the ones that spring to mind have mostly had fairly retro sounds (Redwalls, Smith Westerns), but Les Rhinocéros—an instrumental group from Washington, D.C., who make their Chicago debut on Wednesday at Township—are a whole other can of worms. Last year they released their self-titled debut on John Zorn’s Tzadik label, and in style as well as skill level it sure doesn't sound like the kind of stuff I'd expect from high schoolers (they've graduated since recording it in December 2009). Led by bassist and composer Michael Coltun, Les Rhinocéros mix prog rock with various strains of international music—jacked-up klezmer, West African trance—and emphasizes his concise writing rather than the hollow excess that's unfortunately typical of prog bands, especially when they're young.

The project began as an improv duo between Coltun and saxophonist Kenneth Congmon, who turns up on the opening track. But once the latter moved away for college, Coltun enlisted two classmates, guitarist Peter Tran and drummer Tom Klecker, to forge the rock-leaning sound captured on their debut. Tran is a nimble player, his leads alternately hypnotic, busy, and atmospheric, and when he locks into high-velocity unison parts with the other members, it's often giddy but almost never wanky. A restrained, slightly ambient piece such as "Moon" hangs a slow, mournful melody—by two guest players, saxophonist Andrew Landau and trombonist Kevin Downing—over flickering electronic tones, liquid bass, and what sound like backward guitar lines. The propulsive "Johnway" has a tuneful slide guitar snaking through it.

Below you can check out a couple of tracks from the album; at their Bandcamp page you can listen to the whole thing.


Today's playlist:

Harold O'Neal, Marvelous Fantasy (Smalls)
Bill Frisell, All We Are Saying . . . (Savoy Jazz)
Neil Diamond, The Bang Years 1966-1968 (Columbia/Legacy)
Joyce, Curriculum (Discobertas)
Bill Evans, New Jazz Conceptions (Riverside/OJC)

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