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A-Z Consolidated

The heavy, asymmetrical sound that characterized early '90s Louisville indie rock bands like Slint, Rodan, and June of 44 provides an exceptional mooring for the Chicago quartet A-Z Consolidated. Brothers Rob and Dan Sullivan anchor this band with unpredictable, wandering, sometimes jazzy bass lines and dissonant, angular guitars.

But these are the same fellows who moonlight in a straight bluegrass band called Skeeter Pete and the Sullivan Mountain Boys. So perhaps not surprisingly, the sweet, lonesome sounds of Appalachian folk music sneak into A-Z Consolidated's songs through Dan's guitar work and through the gorgeous violin playing of Suzanne Roberts. Roberts also exhibits her copious talents as a vocalist on a few songs, complementing the twin tenors of the Sullivan brothers, which, depending on the mood, can sound nasal and resigned or achingly melodic or dissonant and helpless. Drummer Bill Murphy's lost-at-sea rhythms round out the band's sound.

But that still doesn't finish describing A-Z Consolidated. Careful listening will also reveal some free jazz references, just a little metal, and perhaps even a nod to late-'70s Krautrock. So what you have then, is layer upon glorious, complex textures. The music is the aural equivalent of a swampy marsh: thick heavy waters coated with mossy branches and other natural detritus, with graceful, light-colored marsh birds circling above and occasionally alighting on the water's surface. It's a pretty and unique musical landscape.

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