Ill Considered’s Sublime Echolocation

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  • My first taste of David Lynch was Lost Highway on video cassette in the late 90’s. Of course the soundtrack hooked me initially, with the crushed house drums of Nine Inch Nails “The Perfect Drug,” spectral technomancer Bowie, and a Rammstein so guttural I thought they were chanting infernal. It was before Billy Corgan went full libertarian, strip-mined of any rational thought and empathy, and it was my first active engagement with any form of jazz.

    This came through longtime Lynch collaborator Angelo Badalamenti, who composed “Red Bats with Teeth,” the freakout stomp that explicates Bill Pullman’s character in the film. He is also communing with darkness, channeling an epileptic seizure through brass, a kind of fit thrown after a steady jazz noir buildup. An uphill climb through locked in bass and drums shifts through that low-end Morphine blow until the catharsis bursts forth into a fully articulated catharsis.

    I watched Lost Highway alone at midnight, on a sweltering Northern California summer evening, and when it was finally over I only really retained two thoughts: it was impossible that the sun had not yet risen, and that jazz scene was a transformative meltdown that spoke to me personally.

    It’s fair to say that “Red Bats with Teeth” imprinted itself on me. This track layers noise and scuffed melodies from all the other bands on the soundtrack that I was already so drawn to, but I was a jazz baby, too timid to approach such a hallowed genre. In most ways I still am, though I’ve come to love the standards, approached them on my own terms and found Coltrane and Davis and Ellington to match them and soar beyond, as is expected.

    Yet the root of all the jazz I love ties back to “Red Bats with Teeth.” I crave a foundation of driving rhythms, something I can hang my hat on, a heaving locomotive that hauls a heap of honks continually tangles itself. Not too much instrumentation, with plenty of melodic work done by the percussion. Which is exactly what I get, and so much more, from London’s Ill Considered.

    This quartet has been burning with pure propane since September 2017 at least, but as far as I can tell they’ve shared a hive mind as long as they’ve been walking. Jazz is molded from improvisation as we all know, which Ill Considered flaunts with aplomb, but they whittle down into many splendid compositions as well, building on established habits while constantly game to splay the set raw and wide open.

    Each song is a ride, not the kind stuffed with a million stops but careening over iron tracks over which the band wiggles and writhes. They know when to float along with a mournful reverbed sax and went to freak the fuck out. The rhythms hit hard, pulling electronic squeezes into an impossibly effortless analog performance, and the bass often dangles the hypnotist’s watch between your ears until you are cosmically prepared to crack open.

    I’m surfing a few cliches pretty hard here, as I struggle to convey how intensely this band parallels my internal instruments for measuring the world. As “Red Bats with Teeth” is Pullman’s combustion engine, a cheek-popping blast that hammers gas pedal down all-consuming midnight drive, the first time I heard Ill Considered was the first time I heard the soundtrack in my head made manifest, played back to me in real time.

    It’s jazz that communes with the world, with the grids that gird generations of music, rather than echoing in on itself until disintegration. They know when to wrap it up, and when to dash headlong through the night on leathery wings, unrepentantly alive.

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