Avant-garde for the masses! Can it be done? If it’s up to Horse Lords, the answer will be a resounding ‘yes’.
About five years we dived into the wonderful avant-garde world of the Baltimore outfit Horse Lords. Interventions is our go to record for those ‘let’s put on something complex’ moments which happen quite often. Interventions are such a great misfit record we weren’t actively monitoring for new work but of course learned about The Common Task (2020). We never really sat down with that one so we were happy to hear Comradely Objects was brought out earlier this year. Now of course we wonder if Horse Lords can still count on our illustrious evil seal of approval.
Since Sounds from The Dark Side is all about fear, anger and suffering it’s nice to measure Comradely Objects’ instrumentals by our usual dark triad norms: narcissism, machiavellianism and psychopathy. Also we wonder if Horse Lords are the ancient ancestors to Sith Lords. Get it? No? Well, let’s call upon a Dark Council, just for a change anyway.
When quick scanning through the seven track titles you’ll be quick to conclude that there are no signs of narcissism there. One title even suggests the opposite: Solidarity Avenue. As you can imagine we were shocked. Luckily for them it’s the album’s 100 second halfway point interlude which is based on a simple bass loop. You know the vibe: phone rings with a homicide call, some unshaven, tired detective puts on a trench coat and then hits a murky town for investigations. So yes, it’s dark but it’s not the reason to pick up the album. Regrettably there also is no trace of machiavellianism on Comradely Objects although for a sec we thought Law of Movement could fit the requirements. Our Sith laws do exploit others of course but in this case we didn’t hear enough evidence it would fit up our alley. We did hear a ten-minute track full of long high droning or sax note stretches that are layered of each other. After about three minutes a gloomy rhythm section joins in causing some breathing space but in the end it’s the slow soundscape droning keeps building and keeps things interesting.
To complete the dark triad we also have to say something about the most malevolent feature, psychopathy. Apart from the lack of empathy Horse Lords always has and still is displaying high levels of impulsivity and thrill-seeking. More than one track sounds like vortexes that are a mixture of all kinds of sonics. Free jazz, kraut, tribal and electronica and all in between are heard on Comradely Objects. Zero Degree Machine’s controlled African-jazz cacophony, Mess Mend’s beat filled Ethio-jazz guitar party and the bright saxophone bursts of Rundling all are great listens.
Obviously we can’t grant our illustrious seal of approval to band’s that only score points on one of three features of the triad. But even if they did qualify we had to take in mind that the album’s title refers to Russian constructivist design which is not focused on the artist’s own ego but on the collective. Furthermore we also found that one more than a few instances the sound of their colleagues of the light side, Sunwatchers, is not far away. Horse Lords however does dare to enter unknown sonic regions and thus is toned much darker. But after all considerations we say no seal, yet…
Enough with the nonsense now. The fifth outing of Horse Lords is again a masterful work. The band hasn’t lost their sense of creativity since we heard them at Le Guess Who? festival in 2016. Due to their disquiet fundamentals a high frequency output from the band doesn’t seem necessary but new meaningful work like this one is more than welcome every now and then. In the end it’s difficult to put into words what Comradely Objects or better, Horse Lords’ experimentalism is about. Maybe they are the CAN of our times or maybe they are not. But if you are up for some daring and energetic music though, this one is a must hear.
Label: RVNG, 2022
- Zero Degree Machine (6:59)
- Mess Mend (4:18)
- May Brigade (6:34)
- Solidarity Avenue (1:39)
- Law of Movement (10:20)
- Rundling (3:16)
- Plain Hunt on Four (8:19)
- Andrew Bernstein – saxophone
- Max Eilbacher – bass
- Owen Gardner – guitar
- Sam Haberman – drums
Review by Wander Meulemans // 211222