Les Rhinocéros brings its proggy, polystylistic hybrids to Township on Monday | Bleader

Les Rhinocéros brings its proggy, polystylistic hybrids to Township on Monday



Les Rhinocéros
  • Wilson Kemp
  • Les Rhinocéros
Bassist Michael Coltun started his band Les Rhinocéros when he was a high school student in Washington, D.C. Its debut album, recorded in 2009, proved that he possessed a wealth of ideas and technical skill. As I wrote last year about that 2011 release, "Les Rhinocéros mix prog rock with various strains of international music—jacked-up klezmer, West African trance—and emphasizes his concise writing rather than the hollow excess that's unfortunately typical of prog bands, especially when they're young." Coltun has gone through several lineups since recording the debut, and some new conspirators turn up on the trio's forthcoming second album, Les Rhinocéros II (due from John Zorn's Tzadik Records on May 21), and accompany the leader on Monday night at Township.

The band recorded the album at bassist Bill Laswell's Orange Studio, and the group often references his expansive dub-wise sound, but the album never gets too comfy with any single approach. The album opener, "Echidna," is a beatless meditation in which a couple of guest horn players (tenor saxophonist Martin Seiler and trumpeter Joe Herrera) blow hydroplaning, mesmerizing long tones that suggest Norwegian horn man Arve Henriksen jamming in a Moroccan medina. The second track, "Bea Spiders"—which you can check out below—bursts the calm with mathy, jackhammer-style hardcore before suddenly veering into Middle Eastern scales draped over a heavy reggae groove. The trio—which also includes guitarist Amit Peled and drummer Jonathan Burrier—has clearly absorbed ideas from Zorn's old band Naked City, colliding styles and approaches in whiplash shifts, but I like Les Rhinocéros for the cumulative vibe of exploration rather than the occasionally breathless genre hopping. As the album progresses, the band juggles bits of surf rock, klezmer, dub, prog rock, ambient, free jazz, and even West African music (Coltun plays kamele n'goni on "Part Too"). But miraculously, it never sounds show-offy. It's a nice progression from the debut, with less effort spent on showing all its tricks at once. In fact, despite the stylistically peripatetic tendencies, most of the decisions feel like they're based on sound musical choices.