Wednesday, April 14, 2010

American Gong

Posted By on Wed, Apr 14, 2010 at 12:00 AM

Quasi has always been a most appropriate name for the keyboards-guitar-drums project of Sam Coomes and Janet Weiss. Both participants were involved with other, higher profile outfits near its mid-'90s inception — Heatmiser and Sleater-Kinney, respectively — so Quasi was originally relegated to "side project" status. The intervening decade has seen both of those bands' dissolutions, though, and now, with the introduction of bassist Joanna Bolme into the fold, Quasi sounds and feels like a first-string project. 

Strangely enough, adding bass to the mix finally enabled the band to make a guitar rock record — and it is a burner. American Gong draws from '60s pop touchstones — check out the Beatles' "Blue Jay Way" homage on the intro to "Everything and Nothing at All." But litanies of other influences are here as well. "Now What" sounds like a cousin of the Pixies' "Gigantic." "The Jig is Up" could actually be mistaken as a Jeff Tweedy solo number. And "Repulsion" could have been delivered by any number of Detroit's garage rock revivalists. 

There's even some serious psychedelic shredding on "Rockabilly Party" and "Black Dogs and Bubbles" that's as visceral as music gets. In a lot of ways, American Gong harks back to the great '90s indie amalgamators Guided By Voices ... only in much higher fidelity. There's a lot of indie music these days that's a little light on the rock and too heavy on the pop. But Quasi's latest is the very embodiment of what a quality power trio with a good distortion pedal is capable of delivering — truly energetic music with solid sonic heft.

Quasi plays Saturday, April 17, at the Magic Stick, 4120 Woodward Ave., Detroit; 313-833-7665. With Let's Wrestle.

Aaron Shaul writes about music for Metro Times. Send comments to


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