Kill the Vultures

Kill the Vultures
Midnight Pine

A film's soundtrack isn't necessarily the best indicator of its content, but if it were, Midnight Pine would have to be either a neo-noir or a Jim Jarmusch pastiche, or both. This six-song EP follows relatively closely on the heels of last year's beat-poetry/hip-hop/bop/freak-folk album The Careless Flame, but there's more than ten months separating the two releases. The jazz influences that seeped through the seams of Careless Flame tracks like "The Spider's Eyes" and "The Wine Thief" are stretched out and further elaborated on here. This reveals close aesthetic ties to a few of the greats of late '50s/early '60s free jazz—particularly the earlier recordings of Sun Ra's Arkestra, whose loose-jointed piano lines and exotic, close-harmony saxophones shape most of the album's sonics. It all flows organically and seamlessly, through the fine layer of pop-and-crackle grit on the up-tempo bop of "Where the Cutthroats Stay" and the sense of age and neglect in the delicate balladry of "CemeteryÊStroll."

As serene as the album can be, however, Alexei Casselle's stark, often harshly spat verses bring out a certain fuming intensity in the old jazz loops. This is some of his most harrowing, evocative, and bleak lyricism to date, a Raymond Chandler-meets-Mike Ladd take on the deterioration of the urban landscape and the lives of the people who reside there. And aside from the brisk delivery of "Where the Cutthroats Stay" and the smooth hectoring in "Can't Buy Forgiveness," most of his lyrics benefit from a deliberate, almost world-weary grumble, as if they're being scowled out over a bottle at 2:00 a.m.: "It feels surreal, kinda sleazy, maybe hopeless," he admits on "Cemetery Stroll," "as the leaders drown and spend their final words on how the boat's flipped." Arkestra samples notwithstanding, this isn't the sound of joy—but it's still worth hearing.

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