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Review: Human Adult Band 'Castle Armadillo' (Vesto Review)

"In January, 2013 I rode my bike from my home in South Philly to a house in West Philly to jam with Trevor and Kyler of the Human Adult Band. I had very little guitar technique, limited to power chords and Sonic Youth-ish squelching. However, I was excited for the racket we’d make.

At this time in my life I was pretty stressed out. A month prior, I started working at a behavioral stabilization unit for individuals with disabilities. On my days off I was anxious about going back to work. I had plenty of nerves to unleash and unload, and this jam session was my opportunity.

The guys seemed keen to let me solo, providing steady rhythms for the songy stuff and walls of fuzz and cymbals for the drones. My guitar was out of tune and I was out of my head, in the moment, having fun. Ten years later, excerpts from two of these jams appeared on the group’s cassette release Castle Armadillo.

Castle Armadillo is exceptionally raw, recorded straight to tape with no edits or overdubs. The album is a collage of jams, some riding a riff of an old song and others completely improvised. Each segment features different combinations of players of varying skill. The music is urgent: hungry, primal, crude. Burning with excitement and shivering with dread. The band sounds like they’re sentenced to jam by some demonic tormentor, lashing them with fire whips if they pause.

My big moment comes at the end of Side A. Trevor is laying down a fat, fuzzy slab of subterranean bass, Kyler is going apeshit on the kit, and I’m skronking up and down the fretboard. I remember doing this, ecstatically, for a while — but the tape abruptly cuts to silence after a few minutes. The jam hangs in the air like it’s still playing, as an amputee might feel a phantom limb.

The final piece on Side B cuts through the gunk with a steady, funky bass riff. Though they foray plenty into noisy experimentation, HAB are a rock band with a prominent groove. As today’s music is lured closer to the “perfection” offered through artificial-intelligence augmentation, Castle Armadillo represents the antidote — primordial passion, dark and dirty.

Human Adult Band formed in 2002 in South Brunswick, NJ in a small highway house off Route 1. Trevor Pennsylvania, founder and frontman/bassist, describes their ethos:

“We take the John Cage stance on music. We include people of all skill levels because it makes for more curve balls/more interesting music. The more rules you know about music, the harder it is to break the rules. So for interesting music it is important to include beginners.”

Around thirty people have passed through the band. Some, like myself, played in a basement once or twice. Trevor, drummer King Darves and guitarist JP are the dedicated veterans.

Their live show is powerfully loud, visceral and a bit frightening, as when during “Flukes and Flames” the instruments quiet down and the band members chant in unison “are we hallucinating are we are we hallucinating are weeeee” before an explosive surge in volume.

Through approximately thirty-five releases on cassette, cd, LP and 7-inch, HAB has a few sonic consistencies: murky, muddy, moaning. Raucous, shambling, droning. Ghostly, cacophonous, cathartic. For reference, and not to be reductive — imagine the progeny of New Zealand’s long-running noise-rock-improv act The Dead C and legendary San Francisco slow punks Flipper. There’s an unknowable, hypnotic quality to the music, puzzling and shadowy.

- Ben Holt, Full article at Vesto Review


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