Rangda – Formerly Extinct

January 01, 1970

(Drag City)




The last Rangda record, 2010’s False
, was recorded just a couple of days after the band’s three principals
had their first practice session, a day max after the first time they played on
stage. It was a rough, improvisational triumph, somehow melding the Richard
Bishop’s Eastern-tinged pyrotechnics with Ben Chasny’s molten psychedelia,
Chris Corsano’s explosive energy with the two twining, exploring guitars. This
second entry in the Rangda catalogue is altogether more premeditated, though
still writhing with untamped power. It came after a month of East Coast shows,
a day or two at Corsano’s home to rough out songs and a full week of studio
time at Jason Meagher’s Black Dirt facility.


The songs are, consequently, more fleshed out and complicated,  containing, in several cases, multiple
movements and moods. “The Vault,” for instance, starts in a blur-paced barrage
of percussive picking, a batter and clash of chaotic drums, a bee swarm of
noise and musical ideas that crowds sonic space right to the edges, everybody
hammering at once. And then there’s a break, and a slow, stately 1960s psych
melody breaks out, two guitars moving in ritual accord, one frayed to breaking
with dirt and distortion, the other ringing clear and luminous over it.


Rangda is, as before, grounded in multi-ethnic folk, jazz and
psychedelia, though this time, its three members make interesting forays in
other directions. Both “Plugged Nickel” and “Night Porter” have the splintery,
off-center complexity of prog-rock fusion, a la Bill Brovold or Curlew.
“Manjun” weaves and lunges and drones like Bishop’s Arabian experiments, while
“Goodbye Mr. Gentry” has the shimmer of acid country on it. In all cases, the
three members of Rangda take a remarkably egalitarian approach to sharing
front-of-mix space. 


“Idol’s Eye” begins in a twisty, complicated Middle-Eastern flavored
riff (that’s Bishop), with Corsano holding down complicated, interlocking
rhythms. Later, Chasny makes his mark in a wailing, psych-rock interlude at the
bridge. The three elements of Rangda’s sound come together at irregular angles,
in measures that don’t always seem to exactly match up, and here’s where
Corsano comes in handy. Not only does he keep the rhythmic structure intact so
that you can follow the song without tripping over it, he also colors and
embellishes on this basic structure. This is a three-person band where every
member is equally critical.


False Flag had its “Plain of
Jars” and Formerly Extinct has its
own long, hallucinatorily beautiful cut in “Silver Nile.”  Yet where “Plain of Jars” devastated through
gorgeous repetition, “Silver Nile” grows and changes and shifts, making its own
way through serene intervals of picking, slow-swaying, desert marches and a
banged-up, burst-out explosion of enthusiasm at the end. Rangda has always been
three great musicians working a groove, but with Formerly Extinct, they have
had time to plot out more complicated explorations of tone, melody and
rhythm.  False Flag was a raging, hairy monster of an album; Formerly Extinct is its subtler, more
intricate, better groomed (but no less wild) cousin. 


“Silver Nile,” “Idol’s Eye” JENNIFER KELLY

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