Become a member and get exclusive access to articles, live sessions and more!
Start Your Free Trial

This is the 1st of your 3 free articles

Become a member for unlimited website access and more.

FREE TRIAL Available!

Learn More

Already a member? Sign in to continue reading

Garage a Trois: Always Be Happy, But Stay Evil

JazzTimes may earn a small commission if you buy something using one of the retail links in our articles. JazzTimes does not accept money for any editorial recommendations. Read more about our policy here. Thanks for supporting JazzTimes.

Garage a Trois may have started 12 years ago as a groove-intensive jam outfit centered on the eight-string guitar ministrations of Charlie Hunter. But the group, with Skerik on tenor sax and effects, Mike Dillon on vibraphone and percussion, Stanton Moore (of Galactic) on “drum pummelling” and keyboardist Marco Benevento having replaced Hunter, has undergone a gradual evolution into a more striking style. These days, the quartet specializes in an aggressive, frequently demented mix of anthemic rock, noise pop, punk jazz, metal and the kitchen sink, referencing everything from free improv to film noir and horror movie soundtracks.

The title of the group’s second disc with Benevento, Always Be Happy, But Stay Evil, aptly reflects the contrasting light and dark tonalities expressed in the band’s often hypnotic music. On the bright side of the sonic spectrum is opener “Omar,” with its unaccompanied vibraphone intro, prog-rock rhythms and guitar-like riffing that hurtles forward until dropping off for a long, laidback passage. There’s something pop-pretty, too, about much of “Chimp and Flower,” which is reminiscent of mid-period Pink Floyd, and sections of the cycling and recycling “Earl Harvin.”

Two “interludes,” “Kansas” and “Dark Bogul,” are all wandering saxophonics and sound effects. Then there’s the even more uncategorizable side of things: the fuzz bombs and squiggles of “Resentment Incubator,” the minor-toned, scary atmospherics of “Swellage,” the creep-crawling thicket of textures on “Thumb,” and an eerie, heavily percussive reading of filmmaker John Carpenter’s theme from his “Assault on Precinct 13.”

Skronk ‘n’ roll? Future jazz? By any label, the music of Garage a Trois comes off as a genre unto itself.

Originally Published