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Sunday, August 21, 2011

Album Review: Totimoshi - Avenger

Totimoshi - Avenger
2011 At a Loss Recordings
Ray Van Horn, Jr.



Chances are you've probably seen Totimoshi open a gig and you were blown away yet you forgot to follow up learning their name once the rest of the bill played. It happens. If you're that person, make sure you hit Totimoshi's merch table the next time they're playing your town. Better yet, get acquainted with them right here on their fifth album, Avenger and start making your way back through their impressive catalog.

Totimoshi houses one of the most inventive mini casas of sludge artisans you're going to find in today's underground. So much they've lured the likes of Mastodon's Brent Hinds, the Melvins' Dale Crover and Neurosis' Scott Kelly to their grinding, fuzz-bracketed playground that is Avenger.

What has once evolved from an expressionistic Melvins homage (i.e. Monoli and Mysterioso) to a crunky interpretation of Zeppelin (2008's Milagrosa) has now become an investigative plow through '60s psychedelia, '70s trash punk and desert moon hysteria. If you're listening carefully, you'll also grab some smartly-tapped funk out of the mix. As usual, Totimoshi hardly rings predictable on Avenger and the audile experience, while decidedly stepped back from 2006's forceful Ladron and far more abrasive than Milagrosa, leaves a buzzing, hankering hangover inside the listener's ear.

The title track is best described as the tone-heavy serve-up to Avenger which is spiked across the way by "The Fool" and slammed deep into the sand on "Mainline." The latter song is a gritty face-rub of jacked guitar squeals from Antonio Aguilar, chunky bass lines by Meg Castellanos and shifty beat hydraulics from Chris Fugitt, the latest in a slew of drummers for this trio.

The instrumental "Calling All Curs" is just as tasty as its title, beginning with Meg Castellanos' low end heavy panting on the intro and scraped out by Antonio Aguilar, who tugs, flails and slides his fret neck with agitation in many bars, tempered caresses in others. By the time "Calling All Curs" stops on a dime, it's just enough pause to allow one to catch the opening groove of "Rose," a number that summons up a melodic street jive and then changes moods altogether. Picture Frank Zappa meets Curtis Mayfield meets the Vibrators.

Keep that visual in mind on the sonic showdown that is "Opus," an urban-fused teeth rattler that could score the scene of a gang war as much as it could strangely entertain a crackerjack lowbrow western. Aguilar and Fugitt go positively nuts together on "Opus," busting up the customary rhythm section empowerment for a few measures where Meg Castellanos lets them get lost in a quick freefall. The stray is brief as Meg summons them back into the collective with a demanding bass plunge orchestrating the song's punishing though disciplined finish.

Totimoshi has always been a band playing for their own kicks, let those who wish to get on board do so accordingly. Cool that Brent Hinds and Scott Kelly get on board with the stylishly trippy closer "Waning Divide," a structured collaboration bent more towards the Neurosis side than Mastodon. Yet this is Totimoshi's puppy that each guest feels obligated to texture instead of showboat. Subdued for the opening segments, "Waning Divide" sculpts towards a near-opulent draft of slowly-realized power. As if concocted in front of a 'lude traced bonfire at the end of a dashed trail of happy pills (a sweltering vibe lofted over from the bleeding peyote trip of "Snag"), "Waning Divide" carries at times a wanton inebriation that still climbs into a demonstrative display of powermad crush. Hints of Saint Vitus dot "Waning Divide," and that's to everyone's credit for keeping things real instead of going for the knotty novelty.

Avenger is one further notch of excellence in the brilliant careers of Totimoshi, a band that more likely than not kicked their headlining hosts' asses, if not gave them a frightening run for the money. Next time you see them on the bill, make sure you're there early.

Rating: ****1/2

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