Degenerate Art Ensemble
It’s enough of a rarity when an album’s title is evocative of a band’s sound; it’s nearly unheard of for a band’s name to do the same. Degenerate Art Ensemble’s The Bastress hits it on both fronts. Pulling bits and pieces from nearly every major musical genre, from punk to traditional Japanese music to swing and jazz, the resulting mishmash of styles and aesthetics is a fairly dizzying experience. Add to the mixture one constant, that of militant grrl Japanese rager Haruko Nishimura, and we’re left with a bizarro Deerhoof or Melt Banana as a jazz band playing circus-styled math rock. If that equation makes your head hurt, the realization of it will surely do the same. This statement is, of course, meant in a good way. Few other groups out there could tread the line between orchestral and spazz (is there a line there? not a canyon?) and remain so nonchalant about it. They have a conductor for God’s sake, which means that someone planned this madness! Heady stuff, but highly rewarding if you’ve got the countenance for it.