Subtle Lip Can

Reflective Drime
Drip Audio DAD 1030

By Ken Waxman

Featuring music as off-centre as its name, Subtle Lip Can has created a fascinating CD of heavy metal, as if instead of head-banging, that term described subtly abrasive instrumental techniques expanded by electronics. Consisting of violinist Josh Zubot, guitarist Bernard Falaise and drummer Isaiah Ceccarelli, the members of the Montreal-based trio add jazz-like improv and suspended minimalism to 10 tracks which otherwise are rife with industrial clamors and the blaring drones found in rock music.

Improvisers above all, the trio members’ skillfully abrasive textures are unique and frequently unattributable. Ceccarelli’s beats relate as often to tuned gamelan orchestra resonations or intermittent percussion pulses as unyielding steady time-keeping. Meanwhile the preparation and processes appended by the string players mask their instruments’ immediate identity as well as appending reed-like vibratos and electronic oscillations to the program.

To get an idea of the trio’s range compare “Shuffle Stomp” and “Fliver Shame” which follow one another on the disc. With a sound midway between a gas explosion and a run-away train, the first soars as it cunningly utilizes guitar reverb and flanges to animate the drummers’ named shuffle beat. The latter tune builds its microtonal narrative from wetted-finger slides across drum tops meeting spiccato plinks and scrubs from the strings. Spacey sideband delays presage a movie-soundtrack-like theme on a track like “Toss Filler Here”, climaxing with a pleasant melody that eventually erupts from of sluicing fiddle jumps, popping vibes-like reverberations and clacking percussion accents. As machine-processed abrasions and acoustic calmness echo through Reflective Drime, the trio reaches a gripping conclusion with the final “Too Pins Over”. Consisting of Lyricon-like peeps and processed tremolo lines, no particular instrument predominates so that the opaque spellbinding drone appears unyielding and infinite until without warning it halts.

Overall, the improvisers who make up Subtle Lip Can create music that’s as inimitable as the band’s name.

—For The Whole Note April 2015