From the cover of Horse + Donkey's new self-titled debut – a bright-red horseshoe-shaped sofa sitting in an empty room, imposed upon a postapocalyptic desert backdrop – you know it's gonna be a long, strange trip. The 15 songs morph and mold into a holy mountain of galloping bass and drums, reverbed guitar gunk, and equine-centric paranoia, which had previously only been available through the Austin trio's live shows. And where singer/guitarist Jaime Zuverza's hiccupped, super-reverbed vocals had once left meaning to our imagination, Horse + Donkey peers into another dimension of lyrical mysticism.
"I think it's fun to live life indulging in paranoid thoughts, playing psychic games, and feeling generally mysterious," Zuverza explains. "It's fun to see everything as a symbol and believe that everything is significant. I would say we all sing about the same things – love, money, death, dreams, pleasure, progress, the Man – but in different ways.
"I think 'Jump' and 'Cum On Feel the Noize' are totally mystical too."
Symbolic is one word to describe Horse + Donkey, which longtime friends Zuverza, Luis Martinez (drums), and Ollie Valdez (bass) formed in El Paso in 1997. Dead dogs, shadowy figures, amorous mares, and vertiginous riddles make for a uniquely unsettling and addictive listen. Synergistic is another. The energy flows equally from all three members, interlocking like gears but never traveling at the same speed.
"Sometimes I'll come in with a riff or a finished song, which we then chop up and arrange," says Zuverza of the creative process. "There are a couple we made by trying to play some of our other songs backwards."
Zuverza's descriptions of their sound – "hot, stylish, superinsane" and "dark, occult stoner no-wave punk" – add to the layers of neon buzzing under all that cryptic, clandestine imagery. Another LP is already in the works, but for now, they keep bucking and snorting like a horse that's been spooked.
Copyright © 2021 Austin Chronicle Corporation. All rights reserved.