I’ve been always thinking that improvisation (in music, of course) is a process of conducting various sounds into an entity and in that way the musicians involved in such experimentation should know each other very well. It’s like the human psyche is made of smoke, overlapping all over again and again in the process where your fingers are twisting under your brain’s supervision.
Hotel Wrecking City Traders works as a duo, comprised of brothers Ben and Toby Matthews, currenlty residing in Melbourne, Australia. So we come to the point which I introduced in the opening paragraph of this review. With (or without) knowing their familiar connection, they provide to each other a great deal of support during their extended jam sessions.
The title of this 12“ release tells you everything you need to know about it informationally. The brotherly duo joined by Yawning Man’s guitarist Gary Arce got themselves into an adventure of studio exploration within the psychedelia, stoner rock, noise and post-rock, which actually comes as a shift in the band’s development, considering their previous works. In that way both Black Yolk and Somer / Wantok 7“ are more straight-in-the-face and raw records, while Hotel Wrecking City Traders & Gary Arce is considerably calmer, but still filled with some tense parts in the moments which require that intensity.
Gary Arce leaves a strong and recognizable seal on these two tracks the release is comprised of and he is the key factor of HCTW’s “slowing down“ after the fuzziness of Black Yolk and the noisy Somer / Wantok. Gary provides what he knows best – a laid back, easy variant of desert rock, the subgenre Yawning Man is one of the definers of.
Thinking of how different HWCT and Gary Arce actually are, this release is a remarkable example of how two worlds collide into one, forming that a unique sound without any bouncing between them. The intensity the brothers create recalls the heavy-duo rockers Om, but it’s not where their sound ends, as they (tend to) transcend beyond any genre limitations. Thus, names such Neu!, Russian Circles, Yawning Man, Che, Sonic Youth aren’t unknown for the Aussies. On the other side, Arce’s craftsmanship for the atmospheric sounding is brought to perfection, due to his guitar’s wide floating picking both ambient and post-rock soundscapes.
While Ben and Toby keep their sound tight in the opening Coventina’s Cascade, Arce has got the full freedom to reach his “desert“, creating atmospherics which are mostly wrapped up by the already mentioned brotherly intensity. Indeed, the deal here is to have the brothers backing up Arce, while he does experimenting with the sound drawn from Big Muff or whatever.
Traverse of the Oxen keeps the same way mostly, with few exceptions here and there. It makes you look for where the desert tock ends and where post-rock begins. Ben is tallying by crushing the cymbals and hitting the toms sharp and strong; Toby is holding onto power ambience, keeping his tone low and raw. Gary is in a separate world, spaced out, in charge to make a difference and he totally does it.
In a summation, I’d only add that this collaborative project of two parties certainly brings an interesting chunk for the fans of the mentioned sounds. As for that, consider this album as highly recommendable and try it out!
01. Coventina’s Cascade
02. Traverse of the Oxen
* Ben Matthews – drums
* Toby Matthews – guitar
* Gary Arce – guitar, bass