Powerplant bill themselves as a noise project, though it’s a little hard to pin down exactly what kind of noise that might entail.
The duo’s three-album drop at the end of January included “Shmed Sessions,” “Organ Day” and “Live at Hell House,” which cover a wide variety of noise one can hear from the un-Googleable Missoula band, made up of Dusty Shriver and Justin Matousek.
Those looking for a single entry point to Powerplant may want to check out “Shmed Sessions.” It’s the densest work of the three, but the free-jazz influences and live drumming add positive layers to Shriver and Matousek’s electronica/trumpet/saxophone output.
The album, at seven tracks long and totaling just over 45 minutes, hooks the listener with its opening three songs, which comprise nearly 20 minutes of steadily escalating jazz drumming, from the opening neo-noir-tinged “420 blaze up (my) ‘dude’” through to the climactic “zensual lads sulking salty and hungry,” which ends with such a fit of musical overload one can’t imagine it’s just Powerplant’s opening salvo.
Quick aside to call out Shriver’s drumming here, who’s doing work that makes one tired to even listen to; equal parts manic and tight, both off the chain and in the groove.
But, after a brief breather beginning the next track, (“a nice afternoon at the break in Missoula on a sunny day with all of my friends drinking coffee together with an elderly woman behind the counter”) Shriver and Matousek dial it back up and don’t let their foot off the gas until album closer “county spud mocky macho glub,” which features wordless scatting vocals (though “scatting” is about as equivalent to classic jazz scatting as the rest of the album is to classic jazz music, that is to say, not all that close and with layer upon layer of electronic effects).
“Shmed Sessions” is cheekily listed on Bandcamp for the price of $900, because, as the band writes, “the actual price of this album is seventeen thousand dollars but bandcamp doesn’t recognize what art is really worth, what are you worth, what did you eat for breakfast this morning?”
(Matousek told the Missoulian the albums were uploaded as a “digital filing cabinet,” for the band to track their many recorded works, as well as to submit for Billings’ Dreyfest.)
So, probably just stream these, as “Organ Day” and “Live at Hell House” are listed for $750 and $97, respectively. Or drop the money and give your local boys a month or two of rent!
“At some point we’ll put out some physical stuff, but the whole point is to have fun with it,” Matousek said.
“Organ Day” leans ambient, its three long tracks mixing drone-y synths and bare beats with effects-laden trumpet and bits of samples poking through the rough, squirelly and squealy like the sound of an over-recorded cassette tape.
“Jeff publix trip 2 the mar ket” brings some upbeat melody and chanted lyrics to the party, but the tracks slow, drone beat pulses behind still, dragging the track back down.
“Thrash columbo s--t and a 2000 ticket” pick up the pieces, though, and layer jittery circus sounds atop each other, evoking images of an abandoned beachside carnival, whose rides, though rusted, still creak to life at night due to some paranormal influence.
The final release, “Live at Hell House,” documents a 15-minute set from the duo at the underground Missoula house venue. It follows very much the path laid out from “Shmed Sessions’” opening tracks, with a steady build, intense drums and all of the ridiculous sounds Matousek can make with a saxophone and a bevy of effects pedals. Watch for the breakdown at the 8-minute mark that showcases the best wild jazz these two offer sans electronics.
The ending of “Live at Hell House’s” single track ends with Matousek and Shriver’s talking to audience members who come up to congratulate them. Overriding all of the talk is Shriver’s breathing, heavy and sounding like he just ran a race, into the microphones. A full two minutes later, Shriver’s still exhaling heavily while someone tells him and Matousek to look up some other band they sound like.