Heather Trost has spent much of her professional musical life as part of A Hawk and a Hacksaw. After a 2014 single and a Terry Riley-influenced cassette issued the following year, Trost offers up a new solo effort informed by exotica from the ‘60s and ‘70s as well as Broadcast, Stereolab and Harry Nilsson. At times, you can imagine the music serving as the backdrop to a film caught in the wee hours of the morning between jolts of infomercials and ads for products that won’t as much revolutionize your life as clutter your junk drawer. The music here, though, as it often is in those films, is far better than that.

The compositions develop in unexpected ways, veering into noisy, percussion-laden outros that walk a line between celebratory and haunting or hover in the air, Trost’s hazy vocals commanding our attention while retreating deeper into a shroud of mystery. Her partner in A Hawk and a Hacksaw, Jeremy Barnes, turns up with some typically subtle but profoundly smart playing that is as intriguing as it is unobtrusive. Like all the instrumentation here, the percussion serves as much as rhythmic element as a melodic one, to the point that those lines are sometimes indistinguishable.

The best moments are often those in which the ensemble, including Deerhoof guitarist John Dieterich and Drake Hardin and Rosie Hutchinson (Mammal Eggs) stretch out, sounding if not entirely improvisatory then at the very least exploratory, finding the muse within the music and bending and bleeding lines such that the listener is freed from the bonds of genre and allowed to experience the music solely as it is. A piece such as “Plastic Flowers” gives us this sensibility, as does “Real Me Real You,” arguably the most attitude-driven and jazzlike numbers here.

The songs are clearly drawn (you never get the sense that these are amorphous shapes flitting this way and that), a point accentuated by Trost’s cover of Nilsson’s “Me and My Arrow.” It stands in strong relief to the rest of the material as there’s a clear and present narrative lyric at work and a melody that bounces and strides with an effortlessness that was signature to the late singer’s work. It also highlights the shades and contours of the original material, how the shift of a melodic element here or there transforms a simple song into something artier and sometimes more esoteric.

Whereas the sometimes droning, hypnotic elements might read to some as monochromatic, here they become deeper layers of nuance and draw us into a fuller understanding and appreciation for the meditative tendencies of Trost’s work. Of note is the closing “Three Feathers,” a few scant minutes of quiet, pulsing music inspired by peak era minimalism and the pop music that arrived in its wake. This piece is different than the others, a more simplified take on what’s been set up before, maybe even the sound of Trost and band drifting into a dream, but it also seems to indicate a direction that most would be willing to follow her down and one in which she could likely create some significant works.

In the meantime, we have Agistri, a work that’s unpretentious but ambitious, smart and emotionally riveting. It is a record that gives up its secrets slowly, and then all at once.

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