Twelve piece avant-garde rock band from Milwaukee, Group Of Altos make their music by huddling together when drunk or angry or excited about thunder. They build themselves into a frenzy of expression through loud humming, heavy beats and blown out guitars. The result is a an instrumental intensity of beautiful human sound.
LP on Mini50 Records.
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It rocks, it rolls and it whines: ‘R U A Person Or Not’ is askew art rock with a secret reverence for the harder stuff of old, back when riffs were endearingly over-articulated, drums were slapped down with more enthusiasm than precision and everything sounded blood red impassioned. Featuring members of the more formally avant-garde Volcano Choir, Group of the Altos have been at it for a little while now, and while their sound has licks of experimentation in it, it lives for riffs. It sounds kind of like a meditating Aerosmith -- though citation is very much needed for such an outlandish comparison.
Group of the Altos are tightest when slow: the centrepiece might just be the immaculately constructed and accidentally proggy “News From Wino”, which builds from its slow tempo to a climactic flurry of gang vocals and fiery guitar -- it strangely recalls the communal energy of TV On the Radio circa ‘Dear Science’, harbouring both a great deal of melodic force and the feeling that it’s secretly judgment day. At a snail’s pace, Altos know how to be both good and weird, with “Gun” coming in shots fired with a choir of frenzied wanderers and a few slapdash chords that pay them no attention -- the violin strings swell and the trumpets blare as if confused as to their purpose, making for a delightful bit of disorientating but anthemic rawk.
‘R U A Person Or Not’ is audacious art rock that has no right achieving greatness when it exists on such a ridiculous compass: it sounds showy, obsessed with bad tropes and occasionally spits out a lyric like “FUCK / ahhhhhhh! / YOU” over a languishing beat. But it does work, and with gusto -- Altos know what they’re doing, and they frame you as one of their choir’s people -- always a character, never an observer.
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