Appalachian Excitation is the sound of four people in a room. It’s the sound of expat composer Arnold Dreyblatt — in the States from Berlin, where he’s lived and worked since 1984 — and the members of experimental folk outfit Megafaun, Phillip and Brad Cook, and Joseph Westerlund, specifically, at Pinebox Recording studio in Graham, North Carolina. Following successful collaborations at the Wire Festival in Chicago, Hopscotch Music Festival in Raleigh, and the Ecstatic Music Festival in New York, Appalachian Excitation finds the 60-year-old playing his “excited string bass” live with Megafaun live in the studio, in close proximity, with no click track.
The resulting recordings find Dreyblatt employing long stretches of his bowed prepared bass in lockstep with Westerlund’s twitching southern rhythms, as the Cooks add color with banjo, guitars, electric bass, mandolin, and a magical Moog lap steel. The trio’s flashes of sideways Americana blend perfectly with Dreyblatt’s compositional stew, and the record is at times dizzying, at times patiently meditative. In the liners, Jim O’Rourke describes trying to “pinpoint what is going on” in Dreyblatt’s music like “looking for a wizard behind the curtain while all along there is a fantastic giant thing there in front of you the whole time.” In Megafaun, the giant thing/wizard has found a set of able and confident collaborators. There’s more than enough going on to sustain repeated listens, but as Appalachian Excitation’s last track, the surging “Radiator” ends, you have to hope there’s more where this came from. words/ j woodbury