North Carolina instrumental rock duo Ahleuchatistas belongs to the beyond-category sector of such iconic, genre-flouting combos as John Zorn’s Naked City, Captain Beefheart’s Magic Band, Swans, Tortoise, and Sun City Girls.
Ahleuchatistas combine wicked precision with intense abandon, droll humor with analytical construction, and a sly gregariousness with uncompromising vision. This pair interweaves elements of punk rock, jazz, classical music, speed metal, grindcore, progressive rock, noise, folk musics from Asia and North Africa, electronic music, and ambient aesthetics, along with volatile, unpredictable improvisation, flowing organically in a virtual world of their own. With a devoted international cult following, Ahleuchatistas is considered by many to be one of the most innovative and ever-developing instrumental groups of the past decade. Cerebral but never ponderous, Ahleuchatistas make immediate music that reaches for the mind, heart, and gut.
Ahleuchatistas was founded in 2002 by guitarist Shane Perlowin. [Their name, pronounced "AH-LOO-CHA-TEES-TAS", is a portmanteau of "Ah-Leu-Cha", the jazz standard composed by bebop legend Charlie Parker, and "Zapatistas", the Mexican revolutionary movement.] The guitar/drums duo is the third edition of the band, which had two different trio lineups in previous years. The project began with roots in prog rock, punk, and free jazz, forging an intense sound and a distinctive combination of composition and improvisation. Five trio albums were released, two appearing on Cuneiform Records and two on John Zorn’s Tzadik Records, cutting-edge labels acclaimed for genre-challenging releases by international artists. Ahleuchatistas has built a devoted cult following among fans of rock, jazz, and assorted “out” musics via recordings and potent live performances. With the late 2009 retirement of bassist Derek Poteat, the duo version premiered at the Big Ears Festival in Knoxville, Tennessee in March 2010, alongside such artists as Terry Riley, The Ex, and Joanna Newsom.
Shane Perlowin (born 1978) is a guitarist, composer, improviser, and teacher who began playing guitar at age 14 and thus pledged his life to music-making. He is a professional musician finding work in various styles in various locations and teaching. He is a prolific composer and runs his own label, Open Letter Records, which released his solo albums The Vacancy in Every Verse (2009) and Shaking the Phantom Limb (2011), Doom Ribbons' The Violence The Violence (2011), and Ahleuchatistas' Location Location (2011).
Ryan Oslance (born 1984) began his drumming career at age 4 on a toy kit. He played in several bands in his teen years, becoming enmeshed in the jazz and rock scenes in Carbondale, Illinois during his college days. Following the departure of Sean Dail in 2008, Ryan replied to an Ahleuchatistas MySpace bulletin for a new drummer. He drove to Asheville, auditioned, and the band immediately rehearsed for over 25 hours over a four day period, followed by a three-week USA tour. Relocating, he rapidly became a first-call drummer for gigs in an array of styles, from jazz to bluegrass to rock to gypsy/Roma music. He is an in-demand session player and an avid outdoorsman. Freeing himself of most worldly possessions, Oslance lives as a traveling musician, also playing in the Shannon Whitworth band, collaborates with members of European ensembles ZU, Tapetto Traci, and Picore, and performs solo percussion concerts.
Percussive, staccato riffs burst forth, sounding something like a cross between electric guitar and oud, backed by percussion that alternately keeps pace with the speedy riffs and creates a clattering textural framework around them.
Elongated guitar tones overlap like a Jimi Hendrix hornet’s nest, while the drums provide an almost impressionistic commentary throughout, until they turn propulsive and start challenging the guitar for domination and the whole thing turns into a firefight.
Guitar and drums continually shift in and out of sync with each other, sometimes echoing each other, sometimes sounding like two halves of one whole, and sometimes complementing each other’s gestures, as they rattle, rumble, roll, and tumble with a lifetime supply of nervous energy.
Guitar ostinatos cycle by quickly in a minimalist tapestry of sound, while the drums keep a syncopated accompaniment going, dropping out momentarily at key points to magnify the musical tension.
The guitar’s scrappy, percussive tones collide with polyrhythmic percussion, creating a swirling maelstrom of sound that eventually abates to make way for more sustained tones. Things continue shifting between the hectic and the meditative while evoking everything from African sounds to the musical traditions of the Far East.
Contemplative guitar arpeggios twinkle like the sun-dappled surface of the sea, creating a pensive mood just on the edge of foreboding, until the drums begin to goad the guitar into more urgent explosions of sound, waves churning up the previously placid water.
Rolling, almost tribal-sounding tom-toms create momentum for biting guitar lines, for an intense, visceral track that feels like a cross between surf music, Greek folk melodies, and prog rock.
Angular, minor-key guitar licks and propulsive percussion fade in and out as if soundtracking a cat-and-mouse chase where both animals periodically fall asleep for a few seconds before continuing the pursuit.
A lambent electric guitar gracefully unfurls twilight sounds somewhere between Americana and jazz – gentle and meditative but with a slight undercurrent of tension that keeps the ear from relaxing completely and leaves the door open for a shift in mood.