I’ve made attempts in the past to describe the scope that Melbourne, Australia, instrumental duo Hotel Wrecking City Traders cover, but to be perfectly honest with you, I think I’ve fallen a little flat in doing so to date. When I first got a copy of their 2008 Black Yolk full-length debut, it seemed to me that the brotherly two-piece of guitarist Toby Matthews and drummer Ben Matthews were embroiled in a kind of post-punker noise rock. Their edges were sharp, the material angular, almost mathy. The subsequent 2010 Somer/Wantok 7″ single (review here) preceded a 2011 collaborative 12″ with Gary Arce of Yawning Man (review here), and both the pairing itself and the output showed shifting influences, the Wreckers taking on a more progressive, groove-based mindset, smoothing out. In 2012, they again partnered with Arce, this time taking part in a three-way split between his WaterWays project and UK instrumental proggers Sons of Alpha Centauri (review here) that once again expanded the Hotel Wrecking City Traders palette. Now, more than half a decade since their last long-player, the Matthewses return with Ikiryo on their own Bro Fidelity Records and seek to confound those who’d try to simplify their approach by sticking it in one category or another.
Ben and Toby — who also issued the solo album Sounds of Jura in 2013 under the moniker Toby Wrecker — offered a look at some of their present breadth late in 2013 with the one-song, largely-improvised 46-minute live video “Ode to Chunn” (discussed here). It was probably the best extended-form single of last year that never actually got a release, and Ikiryo continues to trace the development of Hotel Wrecking City Traders as a unit of multiple sonic affiliations. Over its vinyl-ready five-track, 36-minute sprawl, Ikiryo touches on Pelican pastoralia (see “Riley”), doomly minimalism (the midsection of opener “Breath”), post-desert joybringing (“Dance the Hempen Jig”), extended builds (the closing title-track), and on “Tetryl,” they seem to fuse the patient atmospherics of who they are now with the crunching riffs they offered in their beginnings while also experimenting either with vocals or something that sounds enough like them to serve that purpose. Likewise, there also seems to be some conversation happening way, way down in the mix of “Breath,” unless that’s just my brain receiving alien transmissions again. It’s vague. Could go either way. The point is, Hotel Wrecking City Traders are pushing themselves, experimenting, refusing to settle into any comfort zone, and for arriving six years after their first album, Ikiryo shows they haven’t wasted their time.
There’s at least six years’ worth of growth evident between the initial rush of “Breath” and the moodier, contemplative launch of “Ikiryo” — though the title cut rounds out with a viciously heavy payoff of its own — and along the way, they hit numerous peaks and valleys, striding out in the centerpiece “Dance the Hempen Jig” for a fuzz highlight memorable enough to be an anchor for anyone who finds themselves rudderless in stretches of linearity without traditional verses or choruses to ground them, Toby‘s guitar metering out airy lead lines over Ben‘s smoothed-out drum pattern. Even here they’re not without purpose or dynamic, and as much as they come to rest in a given part anywhere on Ikiryo, their use of repetition never goes from hypnotic to redundant.
Even now I find that none of this is really doing justice to Hotel Wrecking City Traders‘ heavy and increasingly expansive take. Fortunately, the duo have granted me permission to host a full stream of the album, so that instead of spinning my adjectival wheels to look for alternate uses of “deeply creative,” I can simply direct your attention to the player below and you can hear it for yourself. Score one for the nifty future in which we reside.
Ikiryo is out on CD April 16 as Hotel Wrecking City Traders begin a European tour (info an dates below). Enjoy:
Here is the Music Player. You need to installl flash player to show this cool thing!
Hotel Wrecking City Traders’ (HWCT) first full length LP since 2008’s ‘Black Yolk’. After a series of successful collaborations & splits with Desert Rock forefathers Gary Arce, Mario Lalli (Yawning Man/Fatso Jetson) and a steady bout of touring Australia and Japan, the urge to record as a duo again was something that was important. So was emphasizing the song and the melody and crafting the riff. ‘Ikiryo’ is a more harnessed beast and comprises 5 songs that were written over the course of a 3 month period at the end of 2013. They were recorded in a mere 2 days, in January, 2014. This time working with engineer Jason Fuller at his Goatsound Studios in Melbourne. Jason’s background is well known as being in the heavier more metal realm (Brutal Truth, Blood Duster). The band were sought out by Jason and invited to record, ironically entering the studio with some of the most melodic and concise songs of their existence. The result is a vivid sonic journey over the course of 40 minutes that sees HWCT’s new approach spread across 5 measured sonic explorations. Improvisational aspects are still present but so is a confident and measured velocity. This is evident in the album’s title, suggesting a spirit leaving the body and moving around freely. The album is heavy, mind altering and noisy and still undeniably HWCT.
Ikiryo European Tour April/May 2014
Fri April 18th The Anvil, Bournemouth
Sat April 19th The Hole in the Wall, Colchester
Thu April 24th Clwb Ifor Bach, Cardiff
Fri April 25th Church of St Thomas the Martyr, Bristol w/The Body, Arabrot, Hey Colossus
Sat April 26th The Desertfest, London
Tue 29th April RockSound, Barcelona
Wed 30th April IncivicZone, Sant Feliu de Codines
Thu 1st May Lion Cafe, Benicarlo
Fri 2nd May La Residencia, Valencia
Sat 3rd May Métrica, Málaga
Sun 4th May Mondongo Bar, Puerto Santa María — Cádiz
Mon 5th May Cruce de Caminos, La Zubia — Granada
Tue 6th May Wurlitzer Ballroom, Madrid
Wed 7th May El Reino, Cabezón de La Sal
Thu 8th May Sentinel Rock Club, Erandio + MEIDO
Fri 9th May Mogambo, Donostia + ERROMA + MEIDO
Sat 10th May AVV Arrebato, Zaragoza