Horse Lords

(Copyright © 2021 Piero Scaruffi | Terms of Use )
Horse Lords (2012), 6.5/10
Hidden Cities (2014), 6/10
Interventions (2016), 5/10
The Common Task (2020), 6.5/10

Maryland's quartet Horse Lords, consisting of Owen Gardner (guitar), Max Eilbacher (bass), Sam Haberman (drums) and Andrew Bernstein (a distinguished saxophonist of the improvising/creative scene but here mostly on percussion), were descendants of Glenn Branca's guitar minimalism who debuted with the two lengthy improvisations of Horse Lords (Ehse, 2012). The 16-minute Wildcat Strike is the manifesto of their style based on repetition and slow variation: the guitars intone a brief melodic pattern and repeat it several times, letting then evolve gradually, repetition after repetition, while drums and rattle keep a steady Caribbean-tinged beat. The acceleration reaches a climax after eleven minutes and the saxophone takes over with a more vibrant melody, and then a synth starts dueting with it. The (inferior) 22-minute Who Taught You to Hate Yourself is a multi-movement suite in which each movement employs a different kind of repetition. It opens with sliced vocal samples and peaks with some tribal collective jamming, while the second half is a subdued, abstract, liquid improvisation that only slowly builds up repetition.

Hidden Cities (NNA Tapes, 2014) is a humbler work that nonetheless includes some new experiments. The twelve-minute Outer East brings out the saxophone to establish the powerful opening pattern, then dissolves in dissonant sax-less repetition, and then unleashes tidal waves of saxophone for the last, booming section. The repetition in the ten-minute Macaw is more frantic and harder rocking, the counterpart to the cerebral Outer East.

The Horse Lords helped out Matmos on Ultimate Care II (2015).

Interventions (Northern Spy, 2016) contains nine pieces of various duration, from two minutes to nine, and of various kinds, from liquid computer music to their trademark repetition-based jams. Intervention III is mostly a guitar solo. Bending to the Lash sounds like hard-rock. The centerpiece is the nine-minute Toward the Omega Point, whose crescendo of repetition leads to something sounding like a bluegrass breakdown.

Eilbacher was also a member of the electronic-oriented trio Sef III with Alexander Moskos and Duncan Moore, documented on Sef III (2016). He also produced several recordings of computer music: Subtle Scatter documents recordings of 2013-14, while 2015 performances of computer music are documented on Conjunctive Wave Synthesis (2016) and Live on the West Coast USA (2018).

The Common Task (2020) contains some of their most discordant pieces, starting with the syncopated seven-minute Fanfare for Effective Freedom and moving on to the saxophone-bombed eight-minute Against Gravity, which seems to overflow with urban neurosis. The 18-minute Integral Accident begins with guitar and sax drones. After a few minutes the repetition picks up and one can then appreciate the female voice that is dueting with the saxophone amid the intricate mechanical patterns, while handclapping joins the bass and drums in propelling the piece. It all dissolves in a loud processed drone.

Eilbacher's computer music is documented on several recordings. Music for Piano #7 (2017) is a computer performing music based on Toshi Ichiyanagi’s score “Music for Piano #7”, half of it electronic sounds and the other half field recordings. Schizophrenia as Architecture (2018) contains the 19-minute You Have to Pay for the Public Life. Besides the Electronic Music Tape (2018) and the albums A Crude Explanation of Russell's Paradox (2018) and Here a Peak there an Abyss (2020), there are the 22-minute Metabolist Meter (2020) on a split album with Lucy Railton, the 35-minute piece of Telescope Casual (2021), the 35-minute piece of 165 x 165 cm (2021), which is a "study in pulses metered by symmetric and asymmetric sets of numbers", the 33-minute piece of Beamforming a Temporary City (2021), Bell Formations (2021), a collaboration with Henry Birdsey "constructed entirely of detuned and processed orchestra bells", the two 20-minute compositions of Digital Sketch For Strings (Ultra Violet Light, 2022), etc.

In 2020 Max Eilbacher also formed Emergent Structures with Birch Cooper to focus on computer-generated music, notably on infinite-duration cybernetic compositions.

(Copyright © 2021 Piero Scaruffi | Terms of use )