There may be a chicken-egg debate about whether Battlehooch the identity (lifestyle? performance art project?) preceded Battlehooch the band, but I know that the former was definitely what I saw first, as the band's members grabbed the attention of members of the local music community by attending local shows in packs, dressed in headbands ("Battlerags") emblazoned with the group's name. With home-engineered generators, the sextet has developed a reputation as play-anywhere street performers, but I first saw the band live at Bottom of the Hill, where they'll be celebrating the release of their new album on June 24th. It was there that their reputation became truly musical for me, as the group delivered a blast of frenzied compositional art-rock that could have been either one song or one hundred, with few breaks and overwhelming enthusiasm throughout.
After a limited run debut EP titled Oof Owf, Battlehooch are self-releasing Piecechow this month, a full length debut that finds the band applying a kitchen sink approach to create a batch of highly enjoyable and fully-formed songs out of layers of guitars, horns, woodwinds, and electronic instruments. Time and again, the sextet tempts chaos on the album, as they avoid repetitive verse-chorus-verse songwriting and seem unafraid to tackle any instrument. Is it a surprise that they're former music majors who all live together in a Sunset District house where they've written and recorded both releases? Or is it more surprising that they've found a way to create something that's as brazenly funky as it is proggy? It's difficult not to be reminded by the band's sax lines of James Chance, the late '70s No Wave artist who composed nervy R&B as tense as it was soulful. Battlehooch carry that torch forward on Piecechow, adding layer upon layer to create engaging, melodic mini-epics that further blossom in the live setting.
The headliner of Battlehooch's Piecechow release party, Deastro (home-recording savant Randolph Chabot) released three albums of anthemic synth-rock before Keepers, a collection of his self-described "space symphonies," brought significant acclaim outside of his native Detroit. Moondagger, is the 22-year-old's first recording with a full band, and the new approach adds an organic depth that should pay dividends in the live setting. Like the 'hooch, Deastro's surging, ebullient tracks have a certain theatricality to them, like the one titled "Daniel Johnston Was Stabbed In The Heart With The Moondagger By The King Of Darkness And His Ghost Is Writing This Song As A Warning To All Of Us."
Opening the June 24th show, locals Tempo No Tempo were once steeped in a danceable uptempo sound, but they've begun evolving into something simultaneously more dissonant and disco. Boldly abandoning the aesthetic that informed their first EP, and to a lesser degree their second, the SF/Oakland trio is now working on capturing their new approach on record.