“Screaming harpies, preying mantises, and a needle drilling through the Earth’s core?”
One does struggle when trying to elucidate upon the sound of Jake Vossler & Aaron McLendon’s album, Versus. It is for precisely that reason that I have chosen to share with you a track, “The Harpy”, from that aforementioned album.
At first listen, the untrained ear may mistake “The Harpy” as metal, or even noise rock, and of course they do pull from those influences, that is undeniable. On closer listen, however, it is pretty damn clear that what they have done is taken avant-garde jazz and subverted the genre—they have subverted avant-garde jazz! I find that just so deeply interesting, avant-garde jazz being considered the highest form of defiance of traditional jazz—and jazz itself being a form of musical rebellion—and they have flipped it on its head by transforming it into this visceral expression of disorder and instability.
Through the chaos you can hear the countless hours of meticulous crafting, the hours upon those countless hours in rehearsal—and you would not be remiss for making that assumption. You would be completely wrong though, completely and entirely wrong. Vossler and McLendon simply took inspiration “from mythology, YouTube videos of insect fights, and pure concept and imagination,” and simply gave that to their instinctual selves, improvising the entire album.
It’s a true testament to the connection between the two men as they, almost psychically, explore an intensely brutal side of jazz together. It’s vicious and heavy, but its underpinnings are undoubtedly rooted deep in jazz. So what do we call it? Post-Jazz? Or is it pre-something? Perhaps it is reifying the soul of jazz by absolutely annihilating it—destroy to create.
Define it as you will, “The Harpy” is raw and violent and, I just get a charge out of it! I absolutely recommend a listen.