Trawler Bycatch

Schlep'm

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In the ‘70s and ‘80s, the underground seemed to be crawling with scrappy, Beefheart-influenced bands that mixed art rock expansiveness with a welcome dose of weirdness. From the Hampton Grease Band to Men & Volts and the misleadingly named Polkaholics, these sonic adventurers proved that you could be progressive without being ponderous, or sacrificing an ounce of viscerality. From the ‘90s on, that subsection of the indie rock fringe seemed to dwindle, and even in the post-Animal Collective era of experimentalists like Deerhunter, Dirty Projectors, et al., alt-leaning art rock rejects edginess for relative refinement. Swimming against that tide, however, are Trawler Bycatch, a stubborn trio of iconoclasts from Portland, OR. The band is fronted by singer/guitarist Zach Dellorto Blackwell, who also plays bass for proggy hard rockers Danava, and he's not the only one switching axes -- bassist Russ Archer is the former guitarist for space rockers SubArachnoid Space. With Zach Nelson on drums -- yes, two Zachs in one band -- Trawler Bycatch turn out a twirling tornado of angular riffs, contorted grooves, and quirky tunes on their debut album. On tracks like "Singing Grass," the proceedings overtly evoke vintage Captain Beefheart, with raw-throated vocals, barbed-wire guitar lines, and willfully spastic rhythms. But while the Beefheart flavor is a key element throughout the album, it's hardly the only one. "Initial Melody," for instance, finds Trawler Bycatch -- incidentally, the name is a fishing term -- evoking Akron/Family channeling Sun Ra, with unison vocal chants riding atop carefully crafted cacophony, and the fiendish fuzztones of Red-era King Crimson rise up at numerous points, particularly on "Heaving Through the Seasons." Schlep'm might not fit the knee-jerk definition of prog rock, but it's undeniably progressive, in the literal sense.

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