Subtle Lip Can: Reflective Drime
Drip Audio

Someone picking up Reflective Drime without having previously heard Subtle Lip Can might make certain inferences based on the cover details. Seeing that the group consists of Joshua Zubot (violin and mandolin), Bernard Falaise (guitar), and Isaiah Ceccarelli (drums/percussion), one might conceivably picture a trad-jazz trio riffing on tunes by Stéphane Grappelli and Django Reinhardt or some such thing. In like manner, track titles such as “Shuffle Stomp,” “Slam Hum,” and “Chackle Clast” could lead one to think the album might feature blues-based romps, be-bop, and concise solo statements by the string players supported by high-energy drum swing.

Well, all such expectations are certifiably dashed by the fifty-two-minute recording, which pursues an entirely other agenda from the one described above. Subtle Lip Can, which formed in 2007 and issued its eponymous debut album three years later, is no Hot Club of France, in other words. Laid down in 2013, Reflective Drime sees Zubot, Falaise, and Ceccarelli digging into ten improv-styled tracks with a hydra-headed unanimity of purpose.

The recording's uncompromisingly experimental tone is established early, with raw swathes of violin and guitar dragging themselves across a lumbering percussive carcass during “Siffer Shump.” Though comparatively more subdued, “Gull Plump Fiver” is no less alien in its overall comportment, though Falaise's playing does surprisingly flirt with jazz-styled melodicism in its textural shadings. In one seeming nod to conventionality, “Shuffle Stomp” includes wiry solos by Falaise and Zubot, albeit ones constantly besieged by the immolating undertow churning alongside. Elsewhere, crabby, atonal guitar shards butt up against glockenspiel tinklings and nocturnal violin scrapes in “Salk Hovered,” while “Chackle Clast” resembles some woozy convergence of spidery guitar picking and convulsive violin micro-textures.

Eschewing standard musical conventions of melody and rhythm, the trio burrows into its material, operating in a free-spirited improv zone and seemingly indifferent to notions of commercial potential or accessibility. Throughout the recording, the musicians appear intent on wresting from their instruments anything but the normal sounds associated with them. Put simply, Subtle Lip Can's pieces are less conventional compositions and more multi-limbed organisms undergoing nightmarish birth before one's ears. It ain't easy listening, as we like to call it, but the musical firmament should be large and open-ended enough to find a spot for the trio's highly individualized brand of experimental psychogeography.

February 2015