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Artist: Many Arms

Album: Many Arms

Label: Tzadik

Review date: Jun. 13, 2012

The demonstrative iconoclast Lydia Lunch once tore ax-slingers new a-holes when she pronounced "The only thing worse than a guitar is a guitarist!" Punk rock and no wave shat out Teenage Jesus and the Jerks’ goddess front-woman, and, ironically, the skronking guitarist trailblazer is no slouch herself in the shred department, along with peers like DNA’s Arto Lindsay. But yes, Lunch has a point: some guitarists have been inclined to suck on their own egomaniacal strings via futile noise bursts and avant-noodlage or classically-influenced fret-hopping metallic pretense.

Then there are the ax masters who don’t fall into Lunch’s repugnant annals of guitarorrism but do, in fact, own exceptional chops. Philadelphia guitarist Nick Millevoi, who, as one-third of the all-instrumental experi-metal jazz-mongering trio Many Arms, is one of those cats, and even New York City avant-garde jazz legend John Zorn took note, releasing their self-titled, third record via his Tzadik imprint.

Flocked by the perfect foil in the stupendously meticulous and fiery free-form rhythm section of Johnny DeBlase (electric bass) and Ricardo Lagomasino (drums), Millevoi is freed up to unleash both devastatingly complex and repetitious prog-inspired, punk-jazz riffs and soloage loaded with dizzying time-signature fits (as evidenced by the 15-minute opening salvo “Beyond Territories”) that only jazz disciples would be able to hold down (as a stand-up bassist, DeBlase leads his own post-bop quartet). The relative calm of “In Dealing with the Laws of Physics on Planet Earth,” a Don Caballero-ish loud/soft, slow build space-jazz trip sets up for closer “Rising Artifacts in a Five-point Field,” an epic exercise in sonic synergy that demonstrates Many Arms’ virtuoso technique in melding the instrumental freak-outs of Black Flag’s In the Process of Weeding Out and the second half of Family Man with Nels Cline Singers’ avant-jazz archetype.

Like Flag guitarist Greg Ginn and Wilco’s Cline, Millevoi opts on intertwining a hybrid of cacophonous spurts and discernible licks rather than veering into all-out noise terrain. But while Millevoi hauls a canon of guitar heroics, Many Arms is a staunchly collective effort, each member conveying a wealth of methodical craft on their respective instruments.

By Brad Cohan

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