AMN Reviews: Ahleuchatistas – Expansion (2022; Riverworm Records)

On its 20th anniversary, guitarist Shane Parish has resurrected math/prog rock band Ahleuchatistas as a trio for a new recording. Previously a guitar / drum duo between Parish and Ryan Oslance, the new lineup features Trevor Dunn on bass and Danny Piechocki on drums (as an aside, the group was initially a trio and remained so until around 2010).

Their modus operandi is deceptively simple – each track consists of a sequence of melodies, motifs, or riffs, that are repeated with or without variation some number of times until the next member in the sequence begins. This results in rapid tempo changes and a certain disjointedness ala John Zorn. To that point, most of these building blocks are angularly structured, dense, and move along at quite a clip.

Parish’s guitar is spikey, either with clean tones or minimal distortion. He employs multiple tracks here and there, with one focusing on a main riff and the other exploring the edges thereof. But do not expect stereotypical guitar-hero type soloing. Parish’s contributions are more subtle and rhythmic in nature. Dunn follows Parish’s leads or heads off in his own direction. This is no more apparent than on the 9-minute self-titled closer, with Dunn generating bowed textures on the acoustic bass. Piechocki more than keeps up with his two bandmates, producing interlocked structures with one, the other, or both. Alternatively, he adds his own accentuations and personal touches to these pieces, hinting at free improv.

Expansion is a wild ride, with breakneck pacing and enough complexity to thoroughly engage the cerebral cortex, while remaining a pleasurable and compelling listen. Just when you are getting into it, the album is over, making it a candidate for playing on endless repeat.