If you’ve been following JOVM for the past month or so, you may have come across a post or two on Silber Media’s experimental 5 in 5 project. The label, which is the label home of the Durham, NC-based Irata is best known to audiophiles for releasing work by experimental acts that specialize in drone and ambient music – sometimes simultaneously, sometimes interchangeably. With the 5 in 5 project, the label enlisted a number of bands on their roster and bands they admired to compose and record a 5 song EP that must be 5 minutes long – and each song has to be a fully-fleshed out song, too.
Why would an artist do that? If anything it allows the artists who participate a unique opportunity to take a different approach to their songwriting and work and to freely experiment.
The Helsinki, Finland-based no-wave, punk jazz quintet of Can Can Heads were enlisted to take part in Silber’s 5 in 5 project, and “Square with a Little Bit of Rectangle,” the first single off King Dong Kong was one of the more unusual things I had heard in some time as the song was comprised of skittering guitar, accordion, saxophones and forceful percussion. The song managed to be incredibly funky while sounding like an old, sputtering car before quickly coming to an abrupt conclusion. From that single you can could clearly hear elements of wild unfettered jazz and punk – and it some way it evokes something both whimsical and downright violent. If you couldn’t picture yourself dancing and yelling around an enormous bonfire, then there’s something very wrong with you.
What frequently happens around here is that after writing about a particular band or a particular artist, i’ll receive an email from the band or artist in question. So I was flattered to receive an email from the Helsinki, Finland-based quintet. Over their twenty year history, the band’s sound has been comprised of elements of no wave jazz, punk rock, free jazz, noise and other marginal genres in a mix that the band has publicly referred to as “The Ramones meet Albert Ayler.” And their latest effort, Butter Life, which was released last March may arguably continue to cement the band’s reputation for defying conventions, easy comparisons and pigeonholing.
Speaking of defying conventions, the band’s structure is highly unusual for any genre. Their frontman doesn’t sing. Nor does he play an instrument. In fact, during live sets, he occupies the space where you’d expect a lead singer/frontman to be – and he gyrates to the band’s music. If you were to ask them which instrument was the lead instrument, they’d likely shrug and not quite know how to answer. If you’re used to conventions and whatever soulless bullshit you’d hear on your super conglomerate radio station, Can Can Heads will be a total “what the fuck is this?” moment. And even for those who are used to listening to challenging music, Can Can Heads will be challenging – and yet profoundly thrilling.
Their latest single “Too Numb To Step” is comprised of scraping, skittering guitar and bass, animalistic growling and swirling noise. In some way, the track sounds ominous and foreboding yet slinky and strangely funky. In some way, it bears an uncanny resemblance to The Stooges – abrasive, primal, furious, childlike and mischievous.
The official video equally captures the essence of “Too Numb to Step” thanks to a relatively simple concept – a man contorting his face in a rather disturbing fashion to the composition.