Dance of the Flatlander (self-released)

Holstein 

Dance of the Flatlander (self-released)

Holstein is best defined in terms of what it's not. The Lawrence-based quartet definitely isn't alt-rock, nor is it metal or hip-hop, grunge or gritty punk. But Holstein is just about everything else, a sonic soup overflowing with random ingredients and exotic spices. The group's debut, 1999's quirkfest Menagerie, combined prog-rock, jazz fusion and what can only be classified as country funk. The just-released Dance of the Flatlander has a slightly more serious feel, but "mature" or not, the band's R. Crumb-ish humor hasn't gone away. Lyrical subjects cartwheel from basketball to Jesus Christ to crystal meth -- practically in the same sentence.

Musically, the band's improvement as a unit is apparent from the get-go. "Exodus" finds the group locking into a cool cappuccino groove that recalls Steely Dan in its heyday, the dueling guitars of Ezra Sykes and Jeff Jackson cementing the image and then quickly destroying it. Drummer Alex Logan and bassist David Brodie provide a dexterous rhythmic platform for the Sykes-Jackson workouts, adding a few flourishes of their own on occasion. The title track offers a textbook example of Holstein's ability to follow its muse wherever it might go, jumping all over a groove before quickly galloping off to entirely new terrain.

Holstein's focus has always been on exploratory instrumentation, and listeners seeking three-minute pop gems would be advised to look elsewhere. Those willing to take the trip will find themselves on a freewheeling musical adventure, with plenty of roadside attractions and fun stops along the way.

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