Baltimore quartet Horse Lords have been seen as kind of wandering minstrels of experimental music. Taking in influences as disparate as Albert Ayler, the Ex and Glenn Branca they follow an idiosyncratic path marked by a strong political ideal. The Common Task is their fourth album and continues the studio experiments and hypnotic rhythms of 2016's acclaimed Interventions.
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Sometimes the press release does such a good job I start to feel a bit redundant. On the one for ‘The Common Task’, Horse Lords’ fourth album, we get the Ex, Glenn Branca and Albert Ayler all name checked, and yep. That’s the album.
Horse Lords manage to be cerebral without being pretentious, while carrying it all off with the sincere energy of a party band. I mean, just listened to their cover of Julius Eastman’s ‘Stay On It’! Like the Ex, they’re capable of tying themselves into big groovy knots that I find more danceable than a lot of dance music. Even with its off-kilter tempo that I can’t pin down at all, ‘Fanfare For Effective Freedom’ has me bobbing up and down like a toddler in a high chair. Drums and bass and guitar and saxophone all hit different rhythms, creating an improbable storm of fun.
‘The Radiant City’, if you were wondering, is probably somewhere in Scotland. Why a band from Baltimore would stick a bagpipe drone in the middle of an album like this is beyond, but boy does it slap. It acts as something of a palette cleanser, something restful as you pivot to the second half of ‘The Common Task’. After more party, the record ends with ‘Integral Accident’. It opens with more drones; electronic and choral, before the band as we’ve come to know it steps in. It’s messy in the best possible way. A party, and your whole local DIY scene is invited.
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