♫♪  Grex - Monster Music

One would think that, for as long as free music has been part of the world’s musical landscape, it would insinuate itself more readily into the popular consciousness, if not a variety of musical structures. And when free music (or “free jazz”) does become part of a rock band’s aesthetic, rarely does it blend itself seamlessly into the proceedings. But then there are bands like the Bay Area trio Grex, made up of guitarist-vocalist Karl Alfonso Evangelista, keyboardist-vocalist M. Rei Scampavia, and drummer Robert Lopez. Initially a duo, Grex has recorded four proper albums since 2010, of which Monster Music is the latest.

All three members of Grex are Mills College graduates, yet their work is anything but academic in its approach. Drawing from indie pop, Satie, Hendrix, South African jazz and 1960s Afro-American free music, Grex presents biting, squirrelly RIO and unsettling, proggy folk that often spirals into controlled chaos. Of the eleven tunes on Monster Music, nine are originals by Scampavia and Evangelista, abetted by covers of multi-instrumentalist Don Cherry’s “Guinea” and saxophonist Albert Ayler’s rocking “Holy Family.” The likelihood of a band with peers like Deerhoof and the Weird Weeds (albeit weaned on a healthy dose of blues rock) pulling off an honest take of “Holy Family” and making their reverence and competence clear is pretty slim, but Grex do just that in impressively closing the disc.

Of the original tunes here, “Christmas Song” taps into Canterbury progressions with a wet, attractive slink, Scampavia’s presence nodding in twee directions while maintaining the overarching ensemble gravity. “Love Song” is a creaky hymn that inhabits some of the disc’s darker corners, while “Up Popped the Snake” is an earlier piece that has become more methodical and more unabashedly open-ended in its two-year existence. Perhaps like the Spontaneous Music Ensemble’s “Click Piece” and “Sustain Piece,” it will enter the literature as a tool for understanding Grex’s unique sound-world.


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Chocolate Grinder

CHOCOLATE GRINDER is our audio/visual section, with an emphasis on the lesser heard and lesser known. We aim to dig deep, but we’ll post any song or video we find interesting, big or small.

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