THINGS FALL APART: Summerduck's music makes a perfect accompaniment to a meditation on entropy.
O'Brien's Pub is great. The little Allston bar tends to be a blank slate for music where, in lieu of a full-on PA system, a band are left to their own devices. It can sound harsh and abrasive, muddy and unintelligible, and every kind of sketchy in between. A few weeks ago, Summerduck — a new band led by Farhad Ebrahimi (bassist for the sadly defunct Night Rally) — walked in and turned the place into a cathedral.
The four-piece — drums, bass, two guitars — take bits and pieces of sludge metal and allow it to crystallize in front of you, sliding from one chord to the next with extra-deliberate force and weight. Watching them at O'Brien's — where you could still hear a girl ordering whiskey sours from the other end of the room during quiet parts — was like finding an aircraft carrier floating in your bathtub.
A few days later, I meet Ebrahimi and bassist Greg Moss for afternoon coffee in Central Square (the line-up is rounded out by guitarist Nate McDermott of Paper Thin Stages and Michael Hutcherson, recently of Tiny Amps). Our talk swiftly turns to Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey. "If you're going to have a movie that's that slow, where very little happens, and there's that little dialogue, it's got to be shot very well," says Ebrahimi. "I think a lot of bands are more like a James Cameron movie or, worse yet, Jerry Bruckheimer."
What does that have to do with Summerduck? It's the focus on details: the breaths of feedback between hammering chords, the delicately entwined harmonies climbing in and out of measures together, the long sequences of calibrated guitar whispers, and the Zen-like volume of their big, sustained climaxes. Ebrahimi: "The musical equivalent is that there's not a wasted note." The band are a study in slow-motion storytelling.
I'm tempted to insert some pop psychology here about how our civilization's ratcheting movement toward the oblivion of globalization is a thematic anchor for Summerduck. Maybe it is — Ebrahimi spends a lot time buried in the Economist, and he questions the ethics of touring around the country in a van selling CDs (which he doesn't do). But the real seed of Summerduck is a bit more specific, more formalist: the '90s work of monolithic metal group Harvey Milk.
"I got into Harvey Milk around when I was starting to think about this music," Ebrahimi explains. "It just grabbed me — the combination of really interesting, almost orchestral arrangements and a sense of vulnerability in the vocals. It wasn't heavy music with aggressive, tough, scary vocals. There are these huge cathartic releases, and the singing is just this sad guy roaring about stuff he's upset about."
With Harvey Milk as a model, he set to work on slow-moving patterns and stretching out chords like threads across a loom. "In Night Rally, we also had that sense of being envelopingly pretty with the music. But it was mostly a happy accident. It was three friends saying we wanted to play together and see what happens. I wanted to try to be an architect."