At some point the term “supergroup” got abused. As a result of too many groups who fell short of actually being super using the term or simply through overuse, it’s become cliche. But there’s no denying the glimmer of hope one gets upon hearing some of your favorites have gotten together for a brand new thing. If you can’t call it a supergroup, how about a “grand collaboration?” Or maybe this is the time to introduce the phrase “talent scrum?” Whatever you call it, it’s fun to see new configurations. The latest “musical menagerie” is the Boston-based band E, who has released its self-titled album (Thrill Jockey Records).
E is the coming together of Thalia Zedek (Thalia Zedek Band) on guitar and vocals, Jason Sidney Sanford (Neptune) on guitar, vocals, and “devices,” and Gavin McCarthy (Karate) on drums, percussion, and vocals. It would be tempting to call this a Thalia Zedek side project as her band just released its sixth record earlier this fall, however, that’s not the case. It’s a true collaboration between friends. The album’s press notes state that the name E was chosen because it’s “a trio of lines, each equal in length, each sticking out from a base.” Basically, there’s no apparent leader in E. While that could result in a rudderless record, instead it’s the product of three sets of hands rowing in the same direction.
E has been gestating since 2013, first as a duo before adding McCarthy to the mix and releasing a 7-inch in 2014. It’s an interesting mashing of people that’s more a salad than a melting pop. The individual parts work together as a whole, but you can still make out the three very different playing styles. McCarthy’s drumming is machine tight, but fluid enough to allow Zedek and Sanford to follow their particular flights of fancy. They are at turns, angular noisy, playful, experimental, and rocking, and it’s impressive that they never get in each other’s way.
The vocals on E are just as strong as the instrumental performances, though you’d be hard pressed to find more distinctly different styles than Zedek and Sanford. While Zedek pushes and stretches as hard as the band plays, Sanford takes a more deadpan, relaxed approach. However, the shocker is McCarthy’s lead vocal turn on the timely “Candidate.” He attacks the mic as if it owes him a sizeable amount of money. On a record that doesn’t lack in ferocity, “Candidate” pushes it into the red. It’s fitting that the variety in instrumental voices is complimented by the variety in vocals. It’s like the thesis of the album being supported on every track, three equals coming together to form a greater whole. E is an essential part of all three’s catalogs.