by Andrew Hertzberg (@and_hertz)
Freedom. A nearly universal human craving. Except for when it comes to music. Structure, repetition, familiarity are the basis of much of music. Pop songs are created with the same chord progressions over and over. Choruses are expected and revered, regardless of genre. And those songs have their place. But when people are introduced to music that is free of those constraints, it is jarring, it is off-putting, confusing, blasphemous. Which is why I hesitate to describe what ADT do on their new album Insecurities as free-jazz. That phrase can turn off some people. But I also can’t say that Insecurities is accessible (especially for those experiencing it without context) as it is an album far from bland and boneless.
ADT is a Chicago underground supergroup of sorts. Jake Acosta who helms the labels Teen River and Lake Paradise is on guitar, Carlos Chavarria plays sax, Kyle Drouin (BANAL ANML) handles electronics, Adam Tramposh of American Landscape Painting plays keys, Ben Baker Billington of Quicksails, ONO, and Tiger Hatchery is behind the kit. With a diverse group of people and backgrounds, a record like this runs the risk of becoming too muddled or carried away. But for all of the improvisation, exploration, and experimentation, this is never the case.
Insecurities was recorded in the Spring of 2016 with Cooper Crain (CAVE, Bitchin Bajas) and it has finally been released on Hausu Mountain. The album came after a recording session at Crain’s studio that lasted a few hours. The band pared down the session to what would become Insecurities with Acosta producing the A Side and Tramposh producing the B side. In a recent interview with the Comp Magazine, Billington described the process behind ADT. “There are no rules, other than to just have some fun. We achieve that goal pretty easily since we all just like hanging out regardless of the music we create that evening/day.”
The quintet have built on the framework laid out during the 90s post-rock explosion by Tortoise, the Sea and Cake, and many others on the Thrill Jockey crew and have added the sounds of basements and lofts across the city to make this all even weirder. But there are also the influences of Kraut-rock and psychedelic and whatever the hell Icy Demons were known for and blending it all into one freaky soup. And they aren’t too out of step with contemporaries like Nick Mazzarella or Jamie Branch.
‘Unlimited Self Service’ is a structureless work that sounds simultaneously improvised and cohesive, full of ups and downs, and shifting focus between all five members. The jazzy keyboards and repetitive guitar riffs provide a welcoming introduction to ADT but also keeps the listener on their toes: it’s an unpredictable work that wanders while still sounding on track. Chavarria’s erratic saxophone takes front and center on ‘Commotional Rescue,’ before fading away to focus on Drouin’s electronics, the track disintegrating into almost nothingness.
‘Retroactive Continuity’ is quiet chaos, sounding restrained, detained, like holding your breath underwater while swimming toward a surface that continues to get further and further away. ‘Ersatz Bridge’ is an ominous build toward ‘New Body,’ a rainy day ending of an album, more on the groove side compared to some of the earlier freak-outs and improves. As the track slowly fades away to the end, I realize the only major drawback of the album is its brevity.
Freedom of form and improvisation does not mean working without restraint and, particularly towards the end of the album, that composure and focus to not indulge the most impulsive whims is evident. Despite a wide range of emotions and moods, Insecurities manages the feeling of a complete work. It is an album about movement and transitioning focus and shape-shifting and complexity. It’s hard to find a singular leader of the band, they all give and take as the pieces command. Although we’re only a few months into 2018, Insecurities may turn out to be one of the best all year.