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On Repeat Tapes ORR3 Rench's Rifles S/t

Rench's Rifles - S/t CASS Limited Stock: 13 Available
Rench’s Rifles emerged from a tightly woven web of artists who orbited and operated in the Washington DC punk scene near the turn of the millennium. Mick Barr, Rafael Cohen and Raquel Vogl were all crucial players in a cultural moment that was thrilling to live through, and was often met with confusion and even occasional derision by outsiders. Their overlapping projects, which included El Guapo, Orthrelm, Chrom-Tech, The Cranium, RaRaFre+Am, Quix*o*tic and Meltdown, covered ground from soft electronic lullabies to technically blinding avant-metal, but there’s a common flavor that’s impossible to miss: a sly sense of subversive play, a wink that gives the coiled, jerky guitar lines a bounce. As an avid fan of all their work at the time, it felt as though punk - searing, earnest, anti-so much of life - was suddenly reconfigured as a space of teeming mystery, mossy, crooked strangeness and joyful ambiguity.

Of the groups mentioned above, Rench’s was perhaps the loosest. They played only a handful of shows; Cohen and Vogl were fresh off a stint in RaRaFre+Am; the virtuosic Barr put down his guitar and manned the drums instead; the recordings run ragged. Yet what a joy to drop in on them in the practice space. There’s an infectiousness and a cohesion that is impossible to miss. The slightly-stiff, rolling drum fills bring a melodic flair beneath (or at times on top of) the intertwined guitars. These are less beats than embellished marches and contrapuntal phrases. The influence of the then-emergent Ethiopiques CD compilations is unmissable, though Rifles’ winding leads always carry a trademark touch of wonky dissonance. The trio’s short pieces, at times miniatures or fragments, shirk traditional hallmarks of rock and are structured according to an internal logic which is completely legible but difficult to categorize. It feels like punk by default, carrying enough traces of jazz, no wave, chamber music and, if you squint, a new form of “world music” to defy any pat classification. And thank God for that. These recordings - fleeting snapshots - point back to a larger moment of exceptional creativity and innovation that was widely ignored but, to a handful of friends and fans, was some of the most exciting music in the world.