Little Women seem to enjoy puzzling listeners. For starters, this is an all-male quartet. Their sophomore release consists of one track, but they don’t simply blow freely for 42 minutes. “Lung” sounds loosely structured, yet it has discernible sections and recurring cues. In fact, the group claims it’s based on a Shakespearian form, with the cyclical theme of life and death. While some sections could use a little more forward momentum, the result is an intriguing hybrid of Art Ensemble space jams and postrock moodiness.
“Lung” begins in silence. Drummer Jason Nazary eventually begins rolling on his cymbals until finally, four minutes in, Andrew Smiley (guitar) and Darius Jones (alto saxophone) play a pastoral riff topped by a slow melody from Travis Laplante (tenor saxophone). A few minutes later, the Women are all holding long notes with their human voices, which continue until a saxophone squeal breaks the mood. This seems like the cue for wild blowing to start, but Little Women don’t work that way. Instead Smiley plucks the notes of a dissonant chord, one of the recurring themes of the piece.
As the music proceeds, the band keeps returning to another motif where things come to a loud crash over an atonal chord. In between they lock briefly into a 7/8 riff where guitar and drums lead and the horns choose altissimo long tones over solos. The band frequently gets loud and wild, but something always reveals structure and thought, such as when Smiley and Nazary hit a stop-time riff together amidst what sounds like chaos. While music like this is often better in person, it’s easy to get caught up wondering where Little Women are headed—and to want to follow them.