Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Release the Hounds

Lean Hounds
The Parlor Hyde Park, 3/17

Haunting Oboe Music were one of the first Austin bands we embraced as locals -- I was a friend of theirs on MySpace before we even came down out of the mountains, and their simple red-on-white button was one of the first to go on the strap of Anna C.'s handbag in Texas. The group had a number of rare traits that made them fascinating to listen to, and to write about. They used modern music technology in a creative and intelligent way. They wrote songs that had ambitious and unpredictable structures aplenty, but also had giant chewy choruses and stay-in-your-head harmonies. They challenged themselves to write and record at a furious pace, forcing themselves to be inventive and keeping their listeners beguiled.

In a selfish way, I'm glad that the Haunting Oboes have passed, because they will always be a band that other writers got to before me. I can now claim to have been on the scent of the Lean Hounds from the beginning; as I attended their first show this afternoon. It was even close enough to where I live that I was able to walk home afterwards, squinting in the sunlight and thinking of all the new interesting things I will be able to write about this new band now and in the future.

As their name suggests, the Lean Hounds are pointedly sparer than HOM, which all three Hounds participated in before their recent divorce. They use a baseline of electronic beats as the impetus for some rock instrument performances that have unusual rhythmic feel, like their predecessors (and another band playing the same venue later this evening, Joan of Arc). Lean Hounds distinguished themselves even their first show as a separate entity. Their music was more controlled, as a rule, and at times even peaceful. Their best song centered around a peak where Ian Hunt picked out a slow, pretty guitar line with only the barest of accompaniment from bass and drums.

At this point they sharply lack the kind of big rock moments Haunting Oboe Music never backed away from, with vocals that are largely decorative and too many intervals where all three musicians are staring down at equipment beneath them while a recording plays at the audience. It's their prerogative to be a different kind of a band, so long as they keep things interesting. I wasn't bored at all for their first show. I love their drumming in general and the way the stripped-down lineup makes the entry of each guitar and bass part important. The Oboes could be hard to process -- I'm only now realizing how terrific their recorded output is, now that they're gone -- but the Lean Hounds have the potential to present the same sort of moods with an economy and collective purpose unique to a trio. Isn't cool that there can still be guitar-bass-drums power trios where you can still be surprised by the live instruments' role in the music?

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