Calling Ed Schrader’s Music Beat “confident,” as the Load Records website does, is probably an understatement. Its two members–Baltimore native Ed Schrader and Devlin Rice, on drum/vocals and bass respectively–seem so comfortable in their weirdness that describing them as a “duo slinging snot at your windshield in a most original manner” is fair commentary.
We first heard “When I’m In a Car,” the lead single off Jazz Mind, at the end of February. There are few songs on the 10-track album that resemble it–“Rats” being one of the more similar–and that isn’t a bad thing. Schrader and Rice, it turns out, are more than just capable, screaming minimalists. In fact, through only 20 minutes of music, Jazz puts itself out there for a broad range of listeners.
For instance, both “Sermon” and “Gas Station Attendant” might appeal to fans of Government Issue. As the album’s opener and closer, each track is a minute-long hardcore punk blast where Schrader’s monotone vocals are given a nasally edge as he shouts variations of the song titles on repeat. Not far from these tracks, though, is “Gem Asylum,” whose slow, driving bass, shiny keys and actual singing are sure to register with Bowie and Bauhaus fans alike.
There are a couple tracks that recall Nick Cave’s recently disbanded Grinderman outfit, though ESMB is too primitive in composition to make such explicit draws from the blues. Here, the music upholds a distinct-yet-shadhowy sense of youth. And while it’s impressive to hear Schrader and Rice seemingly channel the attitudes of any of the aformentiond artists, it’s doubly so upon hearing totally unique music.
The standout is “Air Show/Can’t Stop Eating Sugar,” which by time standards (4:39) makes it the epic of the album. The first half is basically a hymn with Schrader singing solo, and “Sugar” appears to be a confession that offers the advice: “When you can’t stop doing something/ Brother you must stop yourself.” Your guess is as good as mine whether that means suicide or self-restraint. Before you can begin weighing out the perils of addiction, and before you realize “there’s a boxing match across the ocean,” you’re already getting whiplash from the abrasive swirl of “Gas Station.”
Jazz Mind is an openly cyclical record, both in structure and energy. It has a known start and finish, with a middle that’s tied together cleanly enough. Exemplified by “Right” and “Do the Maneuver,” the whole album operates as some quirky and beguiling blend of lo-fi garage punk and noir-era masculinity. Which is an accomplishment for an album that is so out there.