Manic rock for manic times
Recently, the less imaginative among us have declared rock music to be dead. Rock music has certainly fallen from its commercial pinnacle, and may now just be another genre in a sea of genres, but guitar-driven music still has gas left in the tank. Look no further than Witch Egg’s self-titled record for evidence. It explores the boundaries of both rock and jazz with such frenzied delight that it will whizz by all but the most open-minded of listeners.
Witch Egg doesn’t waste any time getting down to business. The opening track, “Green Pools,” slaps into people’s ears like a slice of ham to the face. The record boldly declines to ease listeners into its jazzier inclinations. “Green Pools” uses the saxophone as much as the guitar, and the resulting mix is a perfectly ‘70s concoction that would be a smash hit at all the strangest dinner parties. The following track, “City Maggot,” continues to utilize saxophone as a key element, but introduces a wider range of electronic elements, pulling in a “Miami Vice” lounge vibe. But it doesn’t take long before a jazzy cacophony consumes the track’s more soothing edges.
The bubbling jazz continues into “Your Hatless Friend” and “Witch Egg.” Both tracks lean hard into the improvisational elements of jazz instrumentation. The guitars and drums become equals with the knotted saxophone sections, giving them greater agency to thrill the listener. Not to be outdone, the saxophone answers with a whirling solo on “Your Hatless Friend.” It’s the type of solo the inexperienced think they could play and that the professionals know they couldn’t. The reprieve of smooth, slow rhythm that “Witch Egg” brings along is more than welcome, and keeps the album from stumbling into uncomfortable relentlessness.
Despite the length, “Sekhu” is one of the more relaxing tracks, but it leads into some of the most thrilling moments of the album. Both “Arse” and the closing track “On Your Own Now” tilt back into the madness of free improv, but it’s always so well considered that even the most critical of listeners would have trouble finding fault. The former is a bouncy tune whose consistent rhythms quickly catch the ear, while constant interruptions keep the listener on their toes. By the time people have caught the groove, “On Your Own Now” has already begun. Few closing tracks work better than this one. The cool groove and occasional electronic outburst make it both the most compelling track on the record and the most commercially viable. You can hardly picture a person who wouldn’t enjoy the slow drumbeat and relaxed saxophone. It’s a master class in jazz writing and one of the most compelling tracks of the year.
Witch Egg may not necessarily pull the whole of rock and jazz into a more modern space for everyone, but Witch Egg is positive proof that both musical styles are far from dead. Hopefully, people get more from Witch Egg that explores this fertile ground. If not, at least people have this, as do the musical innovators of tomorrow.