The quintessential example of an album that can’t be assessed on hearing just one track, the self-titled debut from The Unsemble blurs the lines between soundtrack noir, new wave, musique concrète, chamber drone, experimental jazz, and rock with deceptive ease. Though Tomahawk / ex-The Jesus Lizard guitarist Duane Denison, Einstürzende Neubauten bassist Alexander Hacke, and ex-Silver Jews drummer Brian Kotzur set out to break new ground, they easily could have done so while evoking their native bands. Here they essentially throw whatever we know about their past work out the window.
Nearly everything about this album subverts expectations and evades description, and the trio brings a high — yet almost shockingly discreet — measure of invention to every style it touches. With all that said, Denison, Hacke, and Kotzur approach the music with a kind of stealth tunefulness as well. Even at its most challenging, this album remains approachable and melodic in the most surprising of places.
On the subtly mournful “Waves,” one of the more assertive moments in an otherwise quiet all-instrumental track sequence, Denison’s winding guitar lines contain distant traces of Robert Fripp, while Hacke and Kotzur kinda-sorta (but not really) channel their inner Cure.