Pushing the very limits of the CD format, NYC-based four-piece Endless Boogie jam out hyperbole-ready classic heavy psych that’s as hypnotic as it is ranging. Songs are songs on their third album for No Quarter Records, dubbed Long Island – depending on whom you ask, it’s their third or fifth or seventh overall; I like to imagine a string of prime numbers, something like, “Legends say Endless Boogie have 53 albums and if you weren’t cool enough to get them at the time, they’re gone forever” – but songs are also showcases for jams, which are formidable in length and potency. This ethic plays out across the eight tracks of Long Island, wandering past 79 minutes with largely improvisational compositions turned into songs after the fact. Or, you know, not. It’s the kind of heavy-edged musing one expects more out of Europe these days, in acts like Insider or Electric Moon, but Endless Boogie seem to owe musical allegiance not so much to a modern scene foreign or domestic, but instead to the psychedelic meanderings of ‘70s yore. Really, it’s the context of their being from New York that makes this a novelty at all (there seems to be a lot of attention paid to the band members’ ages as well, but frankly I don’t give a shit how old they are), since in a city with over eight million people there are maybe 13 who’d be interested enough in music like this to participate in making it, maybe six of whom who could actually play. But guitarists Jesper “The Governor” Eklow and Paul “Top Dollar” Major (the latter also vocals), bassist Marc Razo and drummer Harry Druzd have aligned like so many celestial bodies and following behind 2008’s Focus Level and 2010’s Full House Head, Long Island strikes a tone of individuality right from the beginning strains of the 13:32 opener “The Savagist,” and contrary to my usual position on the matter, I find I’m only more engrossed in listening to Long Island for its maximalist runtime. Such is the strength of Endless Boogie’s jams – solid enough in their purpose to live up to the band’s moniker, though who knows which came first – which seem to defy their own hypnotic aspect and remain memorable if not entirely, then at very least in parts, the mellow-you-the-fuck-out grooves not at all running contradictory to the brash heavy riffing of “Taking out the Trash,” a song about, what else?, drinking after you should’ve stopped drinking.
A big part of what allows Endless Boogie to strike that balance between sonic nonchalance and heaviness is the production of Long Island, itself an anomaly for sounding vintage without sounding retro. The album was put to tape at Dunham Studios by Wayne Gordon with further recording handled by Chris Ribando and Davey Kewell, and Eklow and Matt Sweeney are also credited with producing, but even with so many hands in the pot at one point or another – Chris Ribando also mixed – Long Island not only sounds cohesive, but almost entirely unpostured. Whether it’s Major’s throaty lines on “The Savagist” or more traditional motoring riff-work on “Taking out the Trash,” or any of the mostly-instrumental explorations that follow across “The Artemus Ward,” “Imprecations” and “Occult Banker” (all three tracks clocking in at 9:18), Endless Boogie are neither too classic nor too modern, too loud or soft, too solidified or overly fluid. By the time they’re at the softer, low-end raininess of “The Artemus Ward” – presumably side B of the first record in the 2LP – the vibe is cool enough to warrant whatever gritty cityscape narrative you could want to put to Major’s echoing spoken delivery. Whatever blues they’re referencing, they’re at home in it, and though I’m reminded of some of Brant Bjork’s farthest-out jams, Endless Boogie are never of anywhere musically that isn’t their place. That seems to be enough. It’s easy to imagine Major coming back later to add his lines over the bed of the instrumental jam, and if they were working with traditional structures, it might not work, but by the time “The Artemus Ward” gets around to wrapping up/coming apart, the expectation is way off from pop songwriting. It doesn’t matter. Give me more of that jam. “Imprecations” starts immediately more active with some slight twang in the interplay of Eklow and Major, but it’s Razo and Druzd in the rhythm section who ultimately hold the piece together. There are words for a while, far back behind a wah rhythm line and lead noodling, though the consistent element is more the warm bass than the trippy guitars, which, to their credit, seem to appreciate the opportunity to branch out as they will in preparation for dropping the pretense even further with the instrumental “Occult Banker,” rife with buzzsaw leads and some of Long Island’s most lysergic grooves.
“Occult Banker” bleeds right into “On Cryology” such that I imagine it would be difficult to tell on vinyl where one stopped and the other started, but even on CD, it’s more about the effect of the whole than the nuances of the parts. Actually – and I’ll freely admit this is a case I’ll make plenty of times – Long Island seems to me a stronger candidate for CD than for LP precisely because when taken as a whole it’s so satisfying to get lost in it, whereas if one had to deal with the interruption every 20 minutes to flip or change a record, it might not be as easy to tilt your head back and let the jams carry your mind away with them. Vinyl loyalists will stay vinyl loyalists, though, and I’m not about to fault them for it. “On Cryology” calms as it approaches its midsection, with just a hint of tension remaining, but picks up into an effective linear build throughout the second half, taking its time of course, but keeping the motion palpable even as one peak brings a stretch of plateau that carries the song out, each of the two guitars soulfully dwelling in their own leads. To a certain extent, closing duo “General Admission” and “The Montgomery Manuscript” mirror the opening duo of “The Savagist” and “Taking out the Trash,” reversing the order and running the album’s shortest track (“General Admission,” 6:13) into its closer and longest track (“The Montgomery Manuscript,” 14:04) where “The Savagist” opened long and went into “Taking out the Trash,” which was shorter. The classic ‘70s biker riff of “General Admission” and the guest vocal spot from Max Peebles add to that idea rather than detract from it, since although the results are undoubtedly different, they’re still coming from a similar place. “The Montgomery Manuscript” and “The Savagist” ultimately have little in common, however, as the finale departs from “General Admission”’s howling solos back to a quieter, low-end movement, Major’s vocals returning for the first time in what seems like and perhaps genuinely has been a really long time for sporadic spoken jabs. These occur over shuffling drum work from Druzd, who rocks hard without rocking loud, and spacey guitars once more held in check by Razo’s bass. After making itself comfortable for the first seven minutes or so, “The Montgomery Manuscript” pushes forward into a mini-build that doesn’t stretch itself to hit some momentous apex but still serves to wrap up Long Island in a fitting manner – i.e. by jamming. Jamming. Jamming.
They jam until the jamming’s done, and even then, sound like they’ve cut themselves short. If you told me “The Montgomery Manuscript” kept going but the tape ran out, I’d probably believe it, but it’s solid an ending for Long Island as one could ask after having come so far. Usually when it comes to NYC’s “best kept secrets,” my response is immediate and well-justified skepticism, and after hearing so much hype around Endless Boogie’s organic journeying, I’ll gladly admit my initial approach to Long Island was with a pre-positioned jaded frown. Endless Boogie made quick work of that and a number of my other musical prejudices (toward things like shorter albums and traditional song structures), and Long Island has fast become a regular go-to for late nights and other times when the distractions have abated and I can fully commit to being absorbed by the pull of its jams.
Tags: Endless Boogie, Endless Boogie Long Island, Long Island, New York, New York City, No Quarter Records