It’s a cross-continental collision of sounds, and aside from being into both the Aussie noisemaking brotherly duo Hotel Wrecking City Traders and the work of landmark desert guitarist Gary Arce of Yawning Man, what most drew me in to the idea of their collaborative studio project was how different the two sides are. Hotel Wrecking City Traders, who’ve been releasing music on drummer Ben Matthews’ Bro Fidelity Records since 2007, are a fittingly tight unit. The sounds on their Black Yolk full-length and follow-up Somer/Wantok 12” were rife with intensity and an impatient mathematical feel. By contrast, Gary Arce is considered one of the founding figures of desert rock. His laid back, airy tone and improvisatory will have been a key inspiration for bands literally all over the world, and when it comes to jams, there are few guitarists out there who can add as much personality to a piece of music as he can. It’s not like one’s playing polka and the other death metal (although I hear those go together nowadays too), but it’s a short list of commonalities between Arce and Hotel Wrecking City Traders. Apart from working instrumentally, they seem to be driven by completely different musical ideals.
And maybe that’s what makes their joint Hotel Wrecking City Traders and Gary Arce 12” (released on limited 180gram vinyl via Bro Fidelity and Cobraside Distribution, who also put out Yawning Man’s 2010 album, Nomadic Pursuits) so damned interesting. The two-song, 20-minute release combines the disparate elements at work in the total three players involved for a double-guitar brew that’s based as much on improvisational noodling as it is on noisy crunch. It works, too, which is the miracle of the thing. The first track, “Coventina’s Cascade” (10:19) is content to wander in its midsection, Ben providing pulsing bassdrum kicks while his brother Toby Matthews adds to the build on guitar and Arce spaces out for what’s probably the busiest payoff on the release. Hotel Wrecking City Traders showed off some atmospheric tendencies on Somer/Wantok, but Arce takes it to do a different level entirely. One can hear during a break about seven minutes in how the duo constructed the track before sending it to Arce to add his guitar lines, but that’s not at all to discount the flow of what the collective trio come out with as a result. As he does in Hotel Wrecking City Traders proper, Matthews proves capable of holding down a rhythm section, and Toby wisely leaves room to allow for interplay with Arce – who also contributes bass to both cuts, adding further dimensionality to both sides A and B.
“Traverse of the Oxen” (10:22) takes much of the same route, offsetting the ambience with heaviness and the heaviness with ambience, and so forth. More even than “Coventina’s Cascade,” “Traverse of the Oxen” demonstrates just how easily Hotel Wrecking City Traders and Gary Arce could have expanded these ideas into a full-length release. The song starts out with Arce’s guitar expanding notes under a Matthews rhythm track before the drum kicks in, and the sound is peaceful but still somehow oceanic. The build, as on “Coventina’s Cascade” is gradual but noticeable, and Arce’s bass does a lot of the work filling out the sound. An almost constant distorted rumble continues from him and Toby as the piece progresses, almost to the point of losing the spacier guitar in the mix when Ben kicks the drums into a faster section before once more slowing down and trading off again in an effectively flowing back and forth, finally culminating in a kind of sonic calamity of a big rock finish before Arce’s bass and guitar close the last three minutes in a wash of soothing ambience.
It’s an encompassing sound, made all the more hypnotic by Arce’s work, but Hotel Wrecking City Traders manage to do here what they did on Black Yolk and Somer/Wantok as well, and that’s demand your attention. You can put the Hotel Wrecking City Traders and Gary Arce 12” on and zone out to it, or you can put your ear to the speaker and try to get a direct line into what the trio is doing, and either way, come out of it with a satisfying listen. I don’t know if this is to be an ongoing collaborative project – i.e., if they’ll make an album – but if they decided to keep it going, both sides bring enough to the table here that they have plenty to work from in further development. Fans of Arce will be interested to hear his resonance offset by the Matthews brothers, and those who noticed the hints of pastoral influence on Somer/Wantok will be glad to discover Hotel Wrecking City Traders pushing themselves deeper into new territory. It might be a sleeper in terms of the exposure it gets when it’s released in May, but those who find the 12” and have some sense of what they’re getting are going to be much pleased to hear just how well these two parties mesh. Recommended without reservation.
Tags: Australia, Bro Fidelity, California, Cobraside, Gary Arce, Hotel Wrecking City Traders, Palm Desert