Quite possibly the most challenging release on the Rune Grammofon label this year, For The Middle Class is the debut release from multi-instrumentalist trio Huntsville. Although they do at some points go with the guitar-bass-drums setup, the three incorporate not only different playing techniques on their instruments (bowing, tapping, prepared, etc), but realtime processing and other randomness as well as banjo and other instruments. The result is an album of music that's hard to pin down. It dabbles in drone, post rock, free folk, and a definite influence of Indian ragas seep through on the more trance-inducing longer pieces.
The fifteen-minute long "The Appearance Of A Wise Child" opens the release and after a long, high-frequency drone, some rhythmic, almost tabla-sounding percussive loops start racing over one another as the group layers heavy bowed bass, crackling electrical noises, and wheezy drones over the top. Towards the end, an acoustic guitar and bass enter the mix and give it even more solid footing before the pieces fall away again at the end.
The two shorter tracks on the album both find the group stripping things back quite a bit. "Serious Like A Pope" wraps lazy slide guitar around more walking bass as an electronic organ drone slowly overtakes things while "Melon" closes the disc with some acoustic guitar scribbling, quiet electronics, and quiet kitchen sink percussion elements. The former calls to mind the subtle, hazy work of Tape, and the quiet track is a nocturnal charmer.
Like the opening track, the twenty-two minute album centerpiece of "Add A Key Of Humanity" pushes forward with much more of a focus on rhythm as another looped percussive phrase provides a fertile bed for some early bass and guitar wanderings. The piece really picks up about halfway though, though, with the addition of some repetitive banjo phrases that meditate the track through to its noisy ending. While it's probably not as challenging as I make it out to be in my above statement, it's obviously a release that moves towards the more improvisational side of Rune Grammofon releases. Great in places, so-so in others, For The Middle Class is a debut with enough glimpses of promise to definitely make me want to keep an ear out for Huntsville.