Kaiser, Cogburn, Hoffnar & Håker Flaten Rock Free and Lovecraftian
A track premiere from the Mountains of Excess
By Kevin Curtin,
12:35PM, Mon. Mar. 26, 2018
Henry Kaiser lays out his artistic credo: “I’m a die-hard improviser and I’m a die-hard experimentalist. I always want to try things I haven’t done before and see what happens.”
The premise behind the veteran Bay Area guitar wizard’s next release pivots on collaborating with new musicians. That scenario came to fruition on a 2015 session that found him interfacing with a trio of A-list Austin improvisers: bassist Ingebrigt Håker Flaten, drummer Chris Cogburn, and pedal steel expert Bob Hoffnar.
“There was no plan,” admits Kaiser. “There was no discussion. We hadn’t met. We came to the studio, set up, and we played without talking much at all.”
The resulting En Las Montañas de Excesos (In the Mountains of Excess) cuts loose an expressionistic, free-form fusion alternating between aggressive musical pile-ons and anti-gravitational space sections. Cogburn’s malleable meters and Håker Flaten’s muscular electric bass serve as the quartet’s rhythmic tail fin. Meanwhile, Kaiser and Hoffnar beam prisms of squirrely melodies that challenge electric guitar and pedal steel conventions.
While it’s tempting to deem such unrestrained movements as free jazz or avant-garde, Kaiser characterizes it as something more familiar.
“It’s just rock & roll,” he chuckled over the weekend. “It’s improvised rock & roll and I grew up with a lot of that in the Bay Area where it went to a lot of crazier extremes than it did on the albums by San Francisco bands like the Grateful Dead, Moby Grape, and Quicksilver Messenger Service.“You’ve got little fringe things with improvisation in what passes for rock & roll nowadays,” he continues, “but the way pop music has become so conservative and mainstream, most of what sells a lot isn’t Jimi Hendrix playing ‘Purple Haze.’ It’s indie rock that’s about as experimental as Perry Como.”
En Las Montañas de Excesos arrives April 6 on Austin’s Self Sabotage Records. The collection subdivides into two continuous vinyl sides as well as four longer digital tracks. Each is titled with the self-effacing corruption of an H.P. Lovecraft story. Lead cut, “The Shadow Over Overkill,” streams here for the first time: