As recently as five years ago, polyrhythms in indie rock were about as common as Qs in Scrabble, and less valuable. IDM promised glitchy abstraction, and the occasional lap-pop record offered computer- assisted syncopation, but anything more advanced than a two-and-four backbeat from a sentient drummer? Besides the dude in the Locust? Fat chance.
With vaguely African appropriations now seemingly everywhere, it may be hard to picture this erstwhile state of affairs. But I’d almost envy a circa-2K2 hipster who suddenly awoke in the here-and-now with no memory of the intervening years, especially if the first audible sounds upon waking came courtesy of Abe Vigoda. The sort of group that gets labeled “party music” just ’cause they can groove, the Chino, California, foursome mash restless Latin-derived beats and trancey Chatham/Branca-style dissonance. While Skeletons is too idiosyncratic to be considered exemplary of current indie beat-tripping, the colliding rhythms of euphoric summer jam “Dead City/Waste Wilderness”—wherein a head-spinning carnival-punk gallop meets charging hooliganistic triplets—would’ve been unimaginable before the second Bush’s second term.
The exotic is erotic, and imported rhythms like the amped-up merengue of “Endless Sleeper” simulate an enticing miscegenation of multiple histories and cultures, raising the kind of questions about authenticity and ownership that have tended to dog rock music the most in transitional moments: late ’60s, early ’80s, 2008. But before we bring Abe Vigoda up on infringement charges, let’s take a moment to appreciate the fact that there’s a band people are calling “tropical punk” whose music actually isn’t appalling.
Abe Vigoda play the Yard July 12, and appear with No Age at South Street Seaport July 11 and Mercury Lounge July 13
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