Hawk Jones’ early recordings paired the unlikely combination of driving punk rock drumming and weird, finger-tapping guitar work, making them a difficult group to classify. Experimental-punk seemed like the best description. But with their new EP, Que Rico, the San Jose band headlining at the Caravan on Saturday shakes things up a bit.
The punk rock edge is toned way down, making it just experimental. It’s not that the drummer has slowed down, but the playing is so much more complicated, “punk rock” no longer seems an apt description. It’s much more in the vein of King Crimson and early Tera Melos.
The guitar work too is as weird as ever. They implement a lot more strange techniques than just finger-tapping. The guitars are balanced out with a lot more synthesizers than the earlier recordings. It’s a multi-layered, math-rock, musical journey.
The songs on the first half of the EP have about ten sections apiece, not including the weird stops and starts and abrupt breakdowns in-between sections. On the opening track, “Cold Hands,” drummer Joshua Fairfield shows off his spastic chops and approaches his kit from just about every angle except the standard 4/4 rock beat. Every couple measures, guitarist Brandon Foss pulls out a new part, whether it’s power chords, finger tapping or just atmospheric noises. And René Francis Jr, who doubles up on bass and synthesizers fills out the songs with psychedelic washes and math riff rocking. Nobody in the band stops to take a breath.
Things mellow out a bit on the second half. “Out of Place” is a slow burner. They stick to one basic riff and work off of that, giving it plenty of minor alterations and nuances. They build through repetition and play with dynamics gradually. That doesn’t mean there aren’t a few abrupt stops, like halfway through the song when Fairfield changes his drum beat and everyone drops out for a couple lines. The synthesizer and guitar re-enter the song gently, creating a dissonant, slow build to the finish.
Vocals are few and far between. “Pop Grass,” probably the most accessible song on the record, follows a more standard structure, with actual repeating vocal parts and a guitar riff and synth part that would almost fit an Interpol song. Of course with the weird instrumentation between vocals and a twenty second drum outro, it probably won’t be getting on the radio anytime soon, not that Hawk Jones crafted one second of this EP with that in mind.
Hawk Jones performs at the Caravan in San Jose on Saturday, June 2, 10pm; free.