Every so often an album comes along that is so strangely charming and forthright in its lack of convention that one cannot help but enjoy it. Party Pack ICE, led by bassist Adam Hopkins (from Ideal Bread, Kate Gentile’s Mannequins, The Christopher Hoffman Trio, and Quartet Offensive among many others) is the debut from the group of the same name. Also featuring dual tenor sax, guitar, and drums, it was recorded at Brooklyn’s iBeam two and a half years ago.
The album keeps the listener guessing, interspersing medium-length tracks of three to nine minutes between shorter pieces. The composed offerings are reminiscent of many artists on Cuneiform Records (think Rattlemouth, Gutbucket, or a heavier and weirder version of Curlew). The group lays down an angular rhythm which they take in various directions while soloing and providing accentuations thereupon. But the majority of this recording is less focused on structure and more on texture, with heavy guitar riffing and contrapuntal sax wailing. Hopkins alternates between plucked and bowed playing, the latter providing droning walls that add another dimension to the free-form guitar / sax assault.
And just when it gets going, Party Pack ICE is over. Lasting only 25 minutes, the album is perhaps best thought of as an EP. It certainly does not overstay its welcome, though one hopes that this is just the first of many from Hopkins and company.