Anthropocosmic Nest finds new ways to blend a hard rock rhythm with more outre approaches to jazz guitar.
From the late ’80s into the early ’00s, Fugazi expanded the sensibilities of punk, not only with their DIY approach to the music industry, but in a sound that integrated various styles into a distinctive form of post-hardcore. Since then, the members have gone their separate ways, involving themselves in a variety of projects. Last year drummer Brendan Canty and bassist Joe Lally came back together as two-thirds of the Messthetics, still committed to an exploratory approach to music. They were joined by D.C.-based guitarist Anthony Pirog, whose own muse drives him through strange and jazzy territory. The trio, from 2018’s self-titled disc through new Anthropocosmic Nest, finds new ways to blend a hard rock rhythm with more outre approaches to jazz guitar.
The disc pays off with tracks like “Pay Dust.” Canty and Lally lock in on a dark beat and Pirog comes in with a clean tone. Had Wes Montgomery fronted Fugazi, something like this track might have developed. At least for a bit. As the track gets going, Canty complicates his part and Lally puts more motion into his. At the same time, Pirog adds a little tremolo and introduces quicker runs. The group manages to sound both brooding and playful. The track relies on its form, but the improvised structures give it the necessary character.
That sort of fusion (without being actual fusion) takes a while to develop. The album opens with “Better Wings,” a cut more steeped in ’00s indie rock than anything else, as Pirog sounds much less like Julian Lage and much more like part of Broken Social Scene. He quickly goes interesting places; his energy never flags. “Drop Flag” follows as something weirder and punkier, but then turns into a shred fest. Pirog never settles into one set of influences, and Canty and Lally, while often willing to hold a beat, sound happy to help create his strange environs.
Over the course of 11 tracks, the Messthetics’ carefree approach to demanding music helps it maintain exuberance. “Section 9” crosses the Atlantic, but “Scrawler” barely makes it into the D.C. suburbs. The band doesn’t worry about coherence nearly as much as it does challenge and energy. Even when “Because the Mountain Says So” returns to jazzier sounds and an increased interest in tone, the group doesn’t rest as much as it takes a breath. Even then, the group transitions from jazz to classic rock before turning back to an amped up version of its initial thoughts.
The disc runs just a touch too long. “Insect Conference,” while fortunately brief, adds little, and “La Lontra” recovers some ground. Pirog can play, but more Canty and Lally could have drawn additional nuance out of the latter, which sticks in familiar territory. The disc closes with “Touch Earth Touch Sky,” a patient piece that utilizes the group’s compositional skills. It’s a long trip into darkness to end it, a strange finish after its two predecessors, but a fitting way to round off the album, the last note speaking a finality to a jumpy album. With Anthropocosmic Nest, the group solidifies who they are. While each members’ past remains a considerable part of the trio’s context, the Messthetics are becoming an entity distinctly their own.