Despite the title, there is nothing gentle about Sly & The Family Drone. A mysterious band with a shifting lineup centered around its leader (Sly), this group has been around for a decade or so and explores the spaces around noise and free improv. The closest comparison that I can come up with is Wolf Eyes, though I imagine that a trio involving Mats Gustafsson, Merzbow, and Tony Oxley might not be sonically far off.
This latest effort, due out April 26 on Love Love Records, is described to “vomit forth a smooth serving of curious and clattering noise not devoid of fun.” To that point, wailing sax combines with structured synth noise and electronic effects as well as pounding drums. Regardless of a handful of discernable themes and rhythms, the entire album appears to be composed on the spot. The sax and drumming, in particular, would be right at home on a late-era Coltrane influenced free jazz recording. The third element, the processed sounds that make up everything not attributable to those two instruments, place Gentle Persuaders in a category of its own. From fuzzy walls and feedback to the occasional whooshing, these elements add an unpredictable and dark atmosphere to the four tracks thereof. But Sly and friends are not averse to taking in down a notch or two, with spacious and deliberate (but still harsh) meanderings to break up the general breakneck approach.
While this might not be everyone’s cup of tea, Sly & The Family Drone is worth a listen or two if you do the noise thing. And Gentle Persuaders is a good place to begin an exploration of this singular group’s extensive discography. Strong recommendation.