My, what an odd band. Weasel Walter was the drummer and ringleader of the Flying Luttenbachers, a group dedicated to finding common ground between free improvisation, art music and the most extreme strains of punk and hard rock. Mary Halvorson is an avant-garde guitarist who splits her time between rock and jazz. Peter Evans studied classical trumpet but plays in the irony-fueled jazz group Mostly Other People Do the Killing.
Electric Fruit rumbles out of the gate like some unholy alliance of Derek Bailey, Die Like a Dog and P.T. Barnum. That instruments could make some of these sounds is probably news to many. Walter doesn’t so much drum as he tinkers with the kit like a college student who’s consumed a bit too much Four Loko; Halvorson does everything imaginable to her electric guitar—plucking it gently, distorting it, power-rocking it—often within the space of a few measures. Evans comments over the interplay, trying to get a note in edgewise.
And what is one to make of these song titles? “Mangosteen 3000 A.D.,” “The Pseudo Carp Walks Among Us,” “Scuppernong Malfunction.” One must assume the point is that the organic has encountered the mechanical. On songs like “The Stench of Cyber-Durian,” Halvorson begins to play what sounds like a bona fide melody, but then she warps and asphyxiates the notes into something damaged. Evans enters with a passage that approximates an air-raid siren. And Walter—well, he’s all over the place, beating the kit into submission with wire brushes. Five minutes later, Halvorson shreds like she’s ripping through a wood log as Walter pounds a thunderstorm out of the drums. Then, suddenly, tranquility—or, at least, this trio’s idea of it—emerges. Borne of some sublimely screwed-up notions of what constitutes music, Electric Fruit is both frightening and beautiful, simultaneously disturbing and comforting.