Man, I have been needing to take some time to reflect on one of the absolute greatest bands going today. The duo of Jesse DeRosa and Josh Millrod have been blowing craters in the earth's crust for some time now with their apocalyptic trumpet/electronics rippage. Two trumpets, two pairs of hands and one highly evolved super-brain--Grasshopper lays waste to just about every other band currently making music. I know I wouldn't want to follow them on a bill.
Every release they dropped last year was top notch but I have picked three of the most interesting, their vinyl debut, their most "classical" cassette yet and their stellar collabo with Wether. Time to dive in.
Calling All Creeps (yes! title rules,) also, the debut release of an enterprising young label Prison Tatt. Built on a synth-y, swelling two-note loop, the piece is overcome by electric cricket chirping and velvety blankets of noise as Millrod and DeRosa start shoveling in the dirt to your early grave. Through the mountainous peaks of sound, a beautiful unadorned trumpet solo barely peeks out. It is an intense moment. Heavy, oppressive throbs of electronics try to get squelch out the trumpet, but someone's lungs keep providing air before inevitably collapsing. It feels like the electronics have won, the track pulses harder, the sound spectrum grows ever nastier and then, shit, the trumpet is back. Maybe a little wounded, but the fucker ain't giving up which is all that counts. Through all the lurch and crunch, the regal horn seems to gain the upper hand, fending of massive electric squalls. The two forces lock horns, grinding each other to a pulp. After the carnage, both sides are obliterated but the lone trumpet staggers forth with a prayer for its fallen comrades. But does the ambiguous mechanical exhalation just before the runoff groove signal the death of the machines or an inevitable rise to power once again? These guys always end with a cliffhanger.
Better move your ass Hollywood, snap up the rights to Calling All Creeps: Story of an Underdog while you still can; it's a surefire winner!
I'm probably being too reductive trying to fit this record into a post-apocalyptic narrative but I can't really help it. This record rips so hard that it really makes me want to go out and battle some motherfuckers.
The only bad thing I have to say about Calling All Creeps is that it's one-sided. Though I hear that the Hoppers are prepping a proper two-sider for release this year. Hallelujah!
To be honest, I wasn't exactly sure what to expect from this Wether/Grasshopper collaboration. Both artists rule on on their own but sometimes collabs can be less than the sum of their parts. Holy shit were my reservations stupid. Delaware Dreamin on De Rosa's Baked Tapes imprint is some of the best work either party has done. Period. Mike Haley plugs right into DeRosa's and Millrod's super-brain and the trio delivers twenty minutes of utterly gorgeous trumpet and electronics damage. This doesn't sound like a one-off "collaboration," watching one person's style interact with another person's; they sound like they've been playing with each other for years. The first side is a beautiful whirlwind at sunset. Sure, it might be ravaging everything in its path but it looks elegant from afar. The trio creates a vast canvas of grainy fuzz drenched sounds but with unmistakable beauty flourishing underneath, particularly at the end of the side. Maybe the dynamic that has emerged is that Haley holds down the electronics angle and the trumpeters therefore are allowed a little more freedom to develop lovely, vaguely intertwining melodies such as these. That's the just first side.
The second side opens with a bulldozer of an electronic rumble, bristling with rattle and squelch. Stormy wether for sure. Gradually glistening waves of brass spread across the arrangement making for an unbelievably gorgeous composition. The piece soldiers on with Haley delivering some heavy duty noise destruction against the alluring trumpet tones. By far the most elegant bout of noise I've experienced in some time. The relationship between the various elements of the track is purely organic, the harshness and the smoothness both properties of one fabric. Completely stunning work.
Classic Jazz Moods on Sam Goldberg's Pizza Night label is only a semi-tongue-in-cheek title; this is the cleanest sounding Grasshopper recording yet. There's a minimum of distortion and electronics, and what happens when you strip all that away? Grasshopper is probably even more impressive. "Looming Clouds Rain Gold and Frankincense" begins with Patton-esque heavily delayed trumpet calls. More interesting is a somber undercurrent unfurling just audibly underneath the cool, bright bleats. This trumpet grows and grows, moving from background looming to front and center with a heart-wrenchingly mournful elegy. All the while a subtle pulse of electronics takes shape with a deep, sub-bass undertow. This really is some high-minded composition. The cassette goes beyond noise or psych or drone; Millrod's and DeRosa's classical training shines bright but heavily imbued with the glorious ambiguities cultivated in the finest psych, drone and noise recordings. Their trenchant compositional style comes to complete fruition on this piece. I don't know if I've ever heard anything this eloquent on a small-run cassette before. A spiritual partner to "Looming Clouds," "A Gift Committed to Flesh" fills out the rest of the side. Brass gently wavers in the wind as this piece expands fully to cinematic scope. More hopeful, and eventually more cacophonous, than "Looming Clouds," "Gift" is just as masterful and articulate.
"Strength and Sanity (A Mournful Apparition Shrouded in Blood Mist)" takes the entirety of the second side. Gently quivering electronic tones seem to dominate at first but the trumpets bide their time before making their play. They set the trap, stalking slowly before completely swallowing up the piece. Thick melodic swells overlap and, just... at some point you realize for the past few minutes you've been slowly drowning in heavenly beauty. I know that sounds hyperbolic but I guarantee you it is not.
Everyone of these releases is utterly essential. If you can't get all three, get two. If you can't get two, get one. If can't get one, well, you have none of my pity because you just aren't trying hard enough.
I'll close how I began, Josh Millrod and Jesse DeRosa are one of the absolute greatest bands going today. All hail Grasshopper.