One morning last week, I made the mistake of turning on Little Women’s Throat during a walk to work without checking the volume on my iPod, which was cranked up to the zenith. The horns rammed immediately into my eardrum, pounding my brain to oblivion with unrestrained sonic catharsis, instantly grabbing me by the anterior part of my neck so hard it bruised my vertebral column. My entire body tensed up from shock and I reached for the volume dial in such a panic that I almost collapsed on the sidewalk. Throat is an album that forcefully writes itself on the body, entering unexpectedly like the street-squawks of a midnight madman, invading and disrupting any established stasis and depositing pulverizing joy that spins around the bloodstream and hyper-animates locked-up bones.
The fury whipped up by Travis Laplante (tenor sax), Darius Jones (alto sax), Andrew Smiley (guitar), and Jazon Nazary (drums) is inspired by the insane blowing of Euro-free jazz as much as it is the mathematics of Lightning Bolt and the hardest North American bop you can imagine. Little Women brilliantly transition between the most gut-wrenching improvised violence, wide open space, and hyper-speed precision like no other group on the scene. On “Throat II,” you can almost hear the reeds splintering as the dueling phrases mellow out into uptight friction after the mayhem of the opening track, gradually drifting into a celebratory Aylerian scale ascension. The notes dance, ricocheting and enhancing each other, surely creating problems for any spectrogram data crunchers.
The interplay between Laplante and Jones is most spectacular. At times, their horns coil around each other like a squad of snakes suffocating their prey, but they frequently leave a space open that allows the tones to produce chimeras of lingering sound. It’s as if Smiley’s guitar work, which is reminiscent of a more jacked-up and deranged Andy Gill, is the glue that holds everything together. Despite the white noise residue and jangling static left on the edge of the grooves, the blinding fret moves are extraordinarily intricate. Nazary’s accuracy is remarkable, as he manages to return from the dangerous depths of aleatoric frenzy to hit each rapid time shift flawlessly.
“Throat IV,” the almost 12-minute centerpiece of the album, shows that Little Women are up for more than just whirlwind, heat, and flash. There are some tranquil moments here that allow the listener to readjust and brace him or herself for the next skronk-dose. The first few minutes of horn play are deeply spiritual but, just as it seems like the group is settling into a Love Cry-kinda groove, they slip into an epic and unexpected post-rock mode. Though, thank Zeus, they don’t stay with it too long; right as the horns start to sound off-key and drenched in NyQuil, Smiley’s guitar goes blurry and signals the coming of the spectacular chaos that was lurking under the calming cloak all the while.
The kundalini power or demons Little Women are attempting to expel from their collective body with Throat are, if not fully cast out into the world, undeniably real. The last track on the album features the group putting their social instruments aside and producing guttural grunts and growls with only their human instruments, reminiscent of “Immm” from The Art Ensemble of Chicago’s Bap-Tizum. The mood is potent and terrifying as their throats produce what squares and/or colonists would likely tag uncivilized, cannibalistic sounds. If the human voice and the body as a whole are as untamable and powerful as the sounds Little Women have captured, then we can easily destroy the discourses and structures that establish our historical limits. Throat is a timely battle cry for both the unstoppable force of experimental musics and the fact that no mode of domination can ever fully conquer the wild energy and potentiality that blooms inside the body, waiting to explode out into the world and shatter that which must be shattered.