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Finch Platte
02-02-2011, 12:09 PM
From the local rags review:

Deconstruction ahead: Prog rockers shun rules

In "math rock," two plus two doesn't necessarily equal four. Which is a critical part of this experimental, way-outside-the-box musical equation.

"It's a product of us just really exploring a lot of different things," said Paurl Walsh, who plays guitar and sings-shouts in Seattle-based X-Ray Press, a try-almost-anything progressive rock quartet. "We incorporate that into a wide range of influences and very different things.

"In traditional African music, two plus two doesn't equal four, either. For very different reasons than European rock or heavy metal. Aesthetically, we're absolutely into a lot of different things."

"A" doesn't always lead to "B," either, on "UVB-76," the four-man band's first full-length album. It's like a Rubik's Cube of angular, agitating, nonlinear rhythms, tempos, intensity, dissonance, bizarre detours and overall deconstruction. Also similar to solving that addictive "Angry Birds" iPhone game. It just takes awhile to figure it out. If you ever do.

"The time signatures are different," said Michael Pasuit, bassist and singer in X-Ray Press, which tests its 18-track CD's unconventional musical formulations Monday at Stockton's Plea for Peace Center. "There's more of a reliance on the technical aspects of musicianship rather than just the melody."

Or, as the folks at Terrorbird, the group's Brooklyn, N.Y., publicity agency, phrase it: "Math rock meets art rock meets experimental malarkey." Controlled chaos, too.

Walsh and Pasuit got a kick out of that.

"It's almost like progressive rock," said Middagh Goodwin, who manages Stockton's Plea for Peace Center and plays similarly discordant "free-form jazz-noise" music in his own group (Novacain). "Weird time signatures, key changes, etc."

To an earlier generation, such a cutting-edge combination might equal the sonic zaniness of Southern California's Captain Beefheart (Don Van Vliet) and Frank Zappa. Also, the more austere John Cage or Brian Eno and Stephen Reich, an American minimalist composer. Then there was the prog-rock of England's King Crimson and the stadium-size thunder of Canada's Rush in the 1970s.

For Walsh and Pasuit, it began more directly in the mid-1990s, with England's Gomez, San Pedro's Minutemen and Don Caballero from Pittsburgh.

"Beefheart and Zappa are influences, definitely," Walsh said. "Not necessarily because we actively listened to that stuff or were directly influenced by it. It's just because they're so formidable."

X-Ray Press' themes can be just as disorienting as its sonic shape-shifting. A suite-like, 38-minute "abstract narrative," the CD addresses "alienation, confusion, mental instability and ultimate purpose."

"Everyone is right/Everyone is wrong" establishes the sentiment on "UVB-76's" opening number: "Thought."

The common denominator for X-Ray Press is Seattle's Cornish College of the Arts, where Walsh, 30, and Pasuit, 31 - who were trained in classical music and jazz - met while living across the hall from each other.

"It was through musical friends," Walsh said. "Music was sort of a focal point for us. There were all sorts of classical and jazz music nerds. We were really interested in more modern music."

"Modern experimental chamber electronic stuff," Pasuit added.

Their connection seems almost as incongruous as their unconventional music: Walsh was born in Colfax (Placer County). Pasuit is from Paramus, N.J.

"It's an interesting little place," Walsh said of Grass Valley and Nevada City, where he grew up. "It was strange. Kind of in the middle of nowhere. A bunch of hicks and old, burned-out hippie parents whose offspring were so creative. There was a lot of art happening."

Though he's been playing music "for most of my life," Walsh initially wanted to be an actor. He didn't get serious about music until he was 18 and "just got burned out on theater."

He didn't graduate from Colfax High but caught up at Sierra College in Rocklin, obtaining a humanities degree before heading to Seattle in 2002.

"Music was kind of a better fit for me," Walsh said. "I didn't feel good at anything else."

He'd visited Seattle as a child. So Cornish was a good fit.

Meanwhile, in Paramus, Pasuit was inspired by musical parents: Mom taught piano and Dad played trumpet in big bands.

"I tried as many instruments as I could," Pasuit said, "hoping to get good on something." He "sort of survived" on bass, piano and baritone horn.

In 2004, he was "failing in the New York area and wanted to try someplace new," he said. That was Cornish, where, "unfortunately, I was a business major."

That's one area where all the numbers must add up, though. So, his college-acquired business acumen helps: "It's just from the whole back end to being in a band making it only on artistic drive and talent. Unfortunately, there's that other 50 percent you've gotta go through." Despite some alignment changes, the band now includes Seattle drummer Adam Kozie and keyboard player Mike Sparks, who is from Sacramento.

There is a precise - yet still improvisational - formula to the group's musical geometry.

"One of our goals is to be as close to 100 percent democratic as possible," Walsh said. "We're really holistic. It's very much, 'Let's get together, start playing, start shredding and see what happens.'

"The way we sound, everybody's personality infuses the music. There's little bit of everybody in the songs we write."

Fittingly, there's also a sci-fi numerological factor in X-Ray Press' album title: "UVB-76."

It's a mysterious, intermittent buzzing sound - "The Buzzer" - emanating for decades from an unknown Russian short-wave radio transmitter.

Maybe it's some kind of Russian "math rock."

Contact reporter Tony Sauro at (209) 546-8267 or tsauro@recordnet.com. Visit his blog at recordnet.com/lensblog."