The Anatomy of Sharks (Quarterstick)
June of 44

By Bob Bahr

Release and channeled anger have never seemed so healthful and artful as they are on a June of 44 record, and this three-song EP is no exception. The chaos is deceptive; the imposed order is ragged. The vocals, when not discoursing in a fevered whisper, are full-throated yells of not so much rage but unrestrained emotion. Yes, things maybe are not as they seem. In the guitar parts, the tones are distorted and raw, but the lines are interconnected and executed in a far-from-sloppy fashion. Punk dissolves into ambient. What is clipped and simple suddenly takes on organic curves and mildly funky beats.

The rhythm section are what make the shifts in songs work. Bassist Sean Meadows and drummer Doug Scharin enable the rapid musical turns (from hardcore to dreaminess and back again, for example) to seem as natural as the ambush of a summer squall. Guitarists Jeff Mueller and Fred Erskine render indistinguishable the line between improvisation and planned execution.

Some have called this brand of music "mathrock" in recognition of its intricate, calculated mayhem. But then, Mueller has said in conversation that he doesn't quite agree with the moniker, and anyway, he was never good at math in school. So be it. This is the shape of rock to come. That's categorization enough.

The first song, an eleven-minute trip titled "Sharks and Sailors," displays June of 44's best characteristics. Guitars wrangle and range, Mueller screams the title, the listener is compelled. Halfway through the song, after two minutes of slashing chords, pummeling drums and screaming vocals, the tune turns hypnotic and even a bit hippie, with guitar noises wandering and exploring freely over a trance-like groove. It's correct preparation for the next song ("Boom"), an ambient tune of percussion and faint trumpet. Nice, but at five minutes, a rather boring hog of the disc's precious 22 minutes.

The third and final cut features Erskine on rather free-form vocals over a relatively steady-tempoed rock song. For fans of June of 44, and I certainly count myself among them, this EP is a lil' bonus gift between LPs, one that holds up well beside Tropics and Meridians and Engine Takes to Water.