Morrow vs. Hajduch: Seven That Spells’ Future Retro Spasm

Scott Morrow is ALARM’s music editor. Patrick Hajduch is a very important lawyer. Each week they debate the merits of a different album.

Seven That Spells: Future Retro Spasm

Seven That Spells: Future Retro Spasm (Beta-Lactam Ring, 5/20/10)

Seven That Spells: “Olympos”
[audio:|titles=Seven That Spells: “Olympos”]

Morrow: Based in Zagreb, Croatia, Seven That Spells plays a powerhouse fusion of psychedelic rock, math and jazz influences, and full-tilt drumming assaults.  The group, originally a power trio, is led by guitarist/keyboardist Niko Potočnjak but has undergone radical changes in its lineup over its relatively brief tenure, and its last album, Cosmoerotic Dialogue with Lucifer, was a noisy, progressive, multi-drummer attack on the senses.

Future Retro Spasm features the return of saxophonist Lovro Zlopaša (who appeared on Black Om Rising in 2008), but this time around, he steals the spotlight.  His sax lines, often interwoven with each other, are the album’s driving melodic force, and their interplay with Potočnjak’s acid-soaked riffs is spectacular.  With that deft relationship and the brawn of the rhythm section, 12-minute jams seem to pass in half the time.

Hajduch: One cool thing about this album is that it has a few sweet galloping parts with a one-note bass line.  As the bass keeps a sturdy anchor, the drums shuffle at double time but with a consistent snare on the 2 and 4.  The result is “jazzy” and “flashy” but feels heavy, because there is still a groove to hold onto.

When the bass gets “complicated” (three notes at one point during the song “G”), the guitar situates itself as a new rhythmic center — a single octave, repeated on every quarter note.  The octave eventually gives way to a six-note scale that is mutated and mirrored and eventually is buried in the interplay with the saxophone.  At the exact moment that the streams get crossed, the tempo and riff are abruptly transplanted to parts unknown.  The effect is not disorienting or wanky but seems declarative: this is the moment that we exhausted this idea, and now we are exploring a different one.

Elsewhere, as on the 14-minute “The Abandoned World of Automata,” this type of math/tech logic takes a backseat to slow-burn psychedelia, to fantastic results.  The interplay between the sax and the guitar is really something, especially as the song hits its final crescendo around the 13-minute mark.  It is a totally captivating track, showcasing a band of members adept at jumping from lead to rhythm and back again, with a jazz-combo ear for when and how to do so.

Morrow: Absolutely, and Seven That Spells has that common thread with a few of my favorite bands — mixing heaviness and horns to perfection, like Zu and Jerseyband.  But compared to those groups, this is much more in the progressive camp, with swirling guitar leads and horn harmonies over thumping, tom-heavy beats.  It’s much closer to Omar Rodriguez Lopez than Meshuggah, although the drumming often crosses into metal with occasional double-bass blasts.

Oh, and there’s one other unifying element on Seven That Spells albums: lots of naked chicks.

Hajduch: I was previously unfamiliar with the band, and I just have a single-disc promo (no artwork), so I was unable to see these “lots of naked chicks.”  If anybody out there on the Internet has any idea how to use the World Wide Web to fix that problem, please let me know in the comments.  I’m dying here.

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