Equipment Pointed Ankh “Without Human Permission”

Louisville has got to be, still, one of the most underappreciated hotspots for experimental music in the country. Equipment Pointed Ankh has been concocting a whole planet of sonic weirdness for a while now, but none of that prepared me for the kaleidoscopic acid carnival of Without Human Permission. This record is such an amazing trip.

With Astral Spirits’ sister label, Astral Editions, there’s no real template and it’s near-impossible to predict what’s coming down the pike. Even with that, not much about Without Human Permission makes sense, but it all feels so damn good. This quintet of Jim Marlowe, Chris Bush, Shutaro Noguchi, Dan Davis, and Ryan Davis get weird from the get-go. Opener “French Holland” starts innocuous enough before morphing into a wholesome fanfare blitz of guitar skronk and melodica. Right away, everything’s morphed into run-down Midwestern neon.

Lights go out and the drums drop on “Rainforest Cotillion,” an obtuse-angled pop earworm with a slow boogie synth lead that’s been stuck in my head for days. Electronic texture from Bush’s modular and a percussive ratchet. These grooves return, but filtered through a spaced-out Zappa lens on standout “Pioneer Chairs.” Acoustic guitars dance in strange patterns while Marlowe pounds out a massive copacetic rhythm and a clarinet effortlessly sings the lead. It’s dense and whimsical.

Equipment Pointed Ankh finds boundaries and limitations boring and is hellbent to explore every damn zone they can. Noise-infested drones crawl through the mud on “An Almost Completely Clear Hat” while tunes like “Gary’s Room” and “Chrome Rum” (have I mentioned how great the song titles are on Without Human Permission because damn) bounce like rubberband balls through padded rooms filled with bongos, banjos, and mini figurines. When nothing really makes sense and continues that way into the midnight sun, it becomes a peculiar ethos where we can just sit wide-eyed and grinning like fools as this endless cascade of disjointed reverie washes over us.

Recorded over a week in 2020 with nothing written or prepared beforehand, this jaunt through imagined psychedelic midways and rural electronic jamborees is a gift. Equipment Pointed Ankh has been great for a long while, but Without Human Permission is a bomb that reminds me of another great, out-of-nowhere Louisville classic, Valley of Ashes’ Cave Hunters’ Attrition; albums where it was clear these musicians had a vision they were building, but suddenly lightning strikes and it’s this towering sonic monument. I’ve been listening to this almost every day since it turned up and, simultaneously, I feel it in my bones and can’t get my head around it at all. That’s usually the best kind of art and Without Human Permission certainly fits the bill. Chalk up another Louisville weirdo classic.

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