On the surface, A Vacant Lot by The Inhabitants looks like a bizarre, eff-you DIY punk project–that was my reaction, at least, when opening the album to put the CD into my car stereo. The black-and-white album cover features a weird wolf-crow spiderman thing, no liner notes and a font that might have come from the credits to a zombie movie. I expected an assault of distortion and angularity, no holds barred.
What actually transpired, though, was quite different. The quartet–which features JP Carter on trumpet, Skye Brooks on drums, Pete Schmitt on bass and Dave Sikula on guitar–creates a stunningly unpredictable ambiance that ebbs and flows in a way that moves the ear easily along with it. The assault does come occasionally, such as in the beginning of “Let Youth Be Saved,” but is only a small part of the group’s musical palette.
To call this music jazz might be a bit of a stretch–the group does utilize a recognizably rockish aesthetic. But it fits, swaying from pounding drums and distorted guitars to rubato, ambient ruminations. The loose articulation and patient transitions between sections create beautiful musical tension that is usually resolved by blending subtly into new material. And clearly, the spontaneity and melodic contours of some of the songs owe themselves to a jazz-inspired tradition.
A Vacant Lot conveys bold, raw and forthright creativity. This group is still on their way up, for sure–once they incorporate ways of better dealing with some of the more repetitive aspects of the songs to keep things interesting, I can their concept really taking off. Keep your eye out for these guys–we might be looking at the next group of Vancouver imports to the New York scene, now that BC jazz pioneers like Ingrid Jensen and Darcy James Argue seem to be making themselves comfortable here …