Eggnogg, Louis EP: A Quick Beverage for the Pilot

To hold a place between 2011’s Moments in Vacuum full-length and the forthcoming You’re all Invited long-player due out this fall, Brooklyn heavy psych trio Eggnogg release the four-song Louis EP through Palaver Records and continue to refine their approach to funky rhythms and heavy riffs. In the time since Moments in Vacuum was issued, bassist/vocalist Bill O’Sullivan also released his first solo album — Phillip’s Head, also on Palaver – and based around two shorter tracks and two longer ones, Louis makes a strong follow-up to Moments in Vacuum, continuing Eggnogg’s penchant for quirk and making deceptively complex stylistic turns sound both natural and smooth. As was the album, the subsequent EP is roughly produced, playing up Justin Karol’s cassette-ready grunge guitar into an aesthetic choice to go alongside the surprisingly prevalent bass of O’Sullivan and the still lo-fi drumming of Ryan Quinn. When O’Sullivan comes in particularly as EP opener “Baras Mogg,” the effect of the band’s dynamic sound is startling, and by that I mean that the quiet parts are so quiet they trick you into turning the volume up and then the rumble kicks in and Eggnogg bludgeon you with thickened tonality and massive lumbering riffage. The first time it happens, there’s hardly a hint given that it’s coming, such is the trance the far-back drums, guitar, bass and O’Sullivan’s crooning puts you into while listening. Wah persists through bluesy guitar and it’s just before two minutes into the song’s total 8:31 that the chorus lands its first weighted blow. They trade off again into quiet, but especially after a few listens, that chorus proves infectious on almost a primal level, O’Sullivan switching to more of a shout and playing off contradictions in the lyrics, “Sing on high, I think I’ll sing it low,” etc., while Quinn slams hard on his low-mixed, compressed-sounding cymbals and Karol holds notes so long you can hear the waves in their sustain for each line.

Instead of a third cycle, they break into a quiet solo section that leads to an onslaught of undulating riffing, topped by more echoey shouts and an irresistible bounce. Already “Baras Mogg” is six minutes in and it seems to still be establishing its course, which, almost naturally, Eggnogg promptly abandons. That post-solo pounding is basically the apex, but then the trio just rumbles into oblivion over the course of the next couple minutes, checking in here and there on a riff (see 7:19), but never committing fully to one direction or another. If it wasn’t so clearly on purpose, or so the beat wasn’t so well sustained by Quinn, it might fall flat, but the last minute seems almost to be headed toward driving home an ending riff, and then, gleefully, they chug out a measure and end “Baras Mogg” cold, giving Louis a start that’s delightfully unpredictable despite telegraphing most of the moves it’s making. Karol, O’Sullivan and Quinn continue to expand their scope on the brief but maddeningly funky “Vermicious Knidds,” which sounds as much like Seas of Cheese-era Primus as its title might suggest and its opening Twin Peaks sample might contradict. Thickened guitar squibbles, tom rolls and what sounds an awful lot like slap-bass ensues for a quick 2:23, but though the song is short, its effect on the overall atmosphere of Louis is much more lasting, bringing a lighthearted, fun feel to the heaviness that “Baras Mogg” proffered. It too ends abruptly, but works well feeling into the nine-minute “The Squid/The Fandangler,” which continues the Primus-vibing as O’Sullivan starts the song off on bass before Karol’s guitar and Quinn’s drums kick in. A verse is quickly established that sets up the EP’s most driving chorus – the opening line, “Here’s the way it goes,” seeming very much to be indicate of Eggnogg’s commanding directionality – and as with “Baras Mogg,” verse and chorus are cycled through twice (a solo between acts as bridge) before a longer break is embarked on. In this case, it’s a plotted kind of jam that sounds pieced together from improvised parts to have a build.

The reason I say that is there’s a natural linearity to the progression of the song, but then a sample of old computer noise comes overtop to dominate momentarily before the central riff of the break returns. If I had to pick a breaking point between the part of the song that’s “The Squid” and the one that’s “The Fandangler,” it would be – fittingly enough – at the 4:20 mark, where Karol introduces a fuzzy lead that opens the song to a janglier progression made hypnotic by the groove Eggnogg put to it. By 5:30, it’s not out of place that the guitar line reminds me of Prince or that O’Sullivan’s mostly-spoken delivery of the verse is more reminiscent of George Clinton than Black Sabbath – though not entirely divorced from Sabbath either – or that Quinn’s bass-drum stomp earns the tag “danceable.” They move deftly into a guitar solo section and then repeated descending riff, O’Sullivan coming to the fore for a few measures with Quinn behind until, with less than a minute to go, they revive the central figure of “The Fandangler” and finish fuzzed-out and classy, reminding that just because they don’t always end a track clean (as on “Baras Mogg”) it doesn’t mean they can’t. It’s precisely this kind of subtlety that, when paired with the thickness of tone that periodically shows its face and the quirk in their approach, gives Louis its substance. Eggnogg have been around for three years at this point and they have a couple releases to their name, mostly digital, but there’s a sense in listening to Louis that their songwriting process – impressive as it already is in terms of results – is still just beginning to take shape. They end the EP with the darker, crunchier riffing of “The Once-ler” (5:35), a song that hints at some of the way Snail have been able to capture early ‘90s sensibility in a context nonetheless thoroughly modern. O’Sullivan’s vocals follow the riff on a long up and down verse before breaking after two minutes in to let the bass hold the line between the verse and the more open second half of the song.

You could call it a chorus if you had to, but it’s really just a reshaping of the idea “The Once-ler” began with, a hint of melodic drama (as opposed to melodrama) coming around 3:40 as the guitar reinforces the progression between lyrical blocks. Rightly, they ride that groove to the song’s conclusion, having varied the structure on each of Louis’ four tracks effectively without losing sight of either their songcraft or atmospheric sensibilities. In the last minute of “The Once-ler,” the music fades and Karol is left to carry the release out quietly, O’Sullivan topping the guitar and giving the EP a contemplative finish that harkens back to the quiet in “Baras Mogg” without directly replicating it. Going into their next, third, full-length, Eggnogg have produced their most cohesive, individualized material yet with Louis, and the band continues to develop organic-sounding ideas that give only the faintest hint of the complexity underlying. Their potential, likewise, continues to mount, and I look forward to hearing what form the payoff might take when You’re all Invited drops in the next few months. Recommended.

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