By Peter Margasak
On most recordings I’ve heard by Philadephia guitarist Nick Millevoi his playing is unapologetically aggressive and noisy, unleashing jaggedly lacerating outbursts that fit neatly within the general brutal prog milieu (see: his long-running trio Many Arms). Millevoi’s playing is no less furious with free-jazz quartet Haitian Rail or when he teams up with improvisers like Toshimaru Nakamura or Dead Neanderthals. So I was pretty shocked the first time I heard the new Desertion (Shhpuma), an often melodic quartet album that showcases a reserved, atmospheric side of his music. Deftly supported by keyboardist Jamie Saft, drummer Ches Smith, and Many Arms bassist Johnny DeBlase, Millevoi carves out enough space to turn American music into one sprawling cosmic jam, balancing country with a kind of denatured funk. It’s not all chill, as opening cut “Desertion and the Arsonist’s Match” draws upon classic prog gestures, with massive organ swells from Saft, overdriven beats by Smith, and needling, upper-register leads from the guitarist—all before segueing into one of many passages that evoke post-Morriccone renderings of the American southwest. “Just for a Moment, I Stood There in Silence” most surprised me: the tender, twangy waltz features lyric violin fills by guest June Bender and eventually veers into straight Crazy Horse territory with a luxuriantly stomping groove. On “Where They Do Their Capers,” Millevoi hovers within clouds of reverb and texture, waiting for a resolution that never arrives. His touring lineup includes DeBlase and drummer Kevin Shea of Haitian Rail and Mostly Other People Do the Killing.