Echolocation is the debut album from Mendoza * Hoff * Revels, the potent and electric new quartet led by singular guitarist-composer American Ava Mendoza (the leader of the experimental rock band Unnatural Ways and member of Bill Orcutt’s Guitar Quartet) and bassist-composer Devin Hoff (who has played with Sharon Van Etten, Julia Holter, Sean Lennon, Nels Cline, Yoko Ono, Joshua Redman, Cibo Matto, Mike Watt, and many others) with tenor sax hero James Brandon Lewis and drummer Ches Smith. This quartet offers eight powerful pieces of cosmic multi-hued rocky blues, perfect for space and time travel.
The impetus of this super-group was Mendoza’s, based on her and Hoff’s love of aggressive and polyglot electric avant-garde ensembles that revolutionized the way both had heard music. «Certain animals use sound to find their way through space and time by decoding sonic refractions. This seems like a fitting metaphor for how music helps humans collectively decode our own experiences of our world and our lives, through the alchemy of transfigured sound», say Mendoza and Hoff. They found in Brandon Lewis and Smith the perfect partners for this collective quartet. The album was recorded at Park West Studios, Brooklyn (as was William Parker’s Mayan Space Station with Mendoza and drummer Gerald Cleaver, Aum Fidelity, 2021).
Mendoza wrote four pieces and Hoff wrote another four pieces. These thunderous, spiritual-fusionist pieces flirt with free jazz, metal, post-rock and post-punk. These pieces found inspiration in carnival folk dance performed in Bolivia within which a complex devil deity fights arc-angel Michael («Diablada»), writer Samuel T. Delany’s sci-fi novel Babel-17 (1966) which addresses the consciousness-altering powers of language, both beneficial and dangerous («Babel 17»). These pieces also teach how to stop the numbers from dancing in your head by just letting them go and letting them dance («Dyscalculia»), and to welcome, mourn, celebrate, remember, and otherwise honor ghosts and newborns («New Gohosts»), as well as all the recreation lounge to be found on deck 10 of a Galaxy-class starship, otherwise known as Ten Forward («Ten Forward»).
You may get the feeling that Mendoza and Hoff evoke the stormy, muscular and uncompromising spirit of Sonny Sharrock with the total egalitarian ethos of Mike Watt’s Minutemen and the seductive funky grooves of Red Hot Chilly Peppers. The fierce power chords of Mendoza and Hoff, together with Brandon Lewis’ freak-out sax blows and Smith’s polyrhythmic patterns, cook some hot and spicy soulful music. This quartet only begins to explore its great potential.
Ava Mendoza (electric guitar), James Brandon Lewis (tenor saxophone), Devin Hoff (bass), Ches Smith (drums)