Originally the brainchild of Jim Marlowe (Tropical Trash, Teal Grapefruit, etc), Equipment Pointed Ankh has been churning out material since 2016, with a handful of tape releases, a previous LP, “Live” (Sophomore Lounge, 2019) and a dozen or so digital releases.
Since forming, EPA has focused on a sort of long-form blown out raga, noise, drone vibe with a rotating cast of players joining Marlowe at varying intervals. Within the past 2 years, we’ve seen this core group of five come together as a unit – Marlowe with Chris Bush (Flanger Magazine, Caboladies, Flower Man), Ryan Davis (State Champion, Tropical Trash), Shutaro Noguchi (Feeding Tube artiste) and Dan Davis (Tropical Trash).
Sometimes it can be a bit cliche to harp on “their new album is a game changer, new direction, etc.” I’ll admit, I’m guilty of this. But seriously, “Without Human Permission” is an absolute game changer and new direction for Equipment Pointed Ankh. Go listen to as many of their earlier albums as you’d like (it’s worthwhile). You still will not be prepared for the record at hand.
“Without Human Permission” was recorded in Pawtucket, Rhode Island at Machines with Magnets with engineer extraordinaire Seth Manchester in August 2020, fresh off a 16-hour van ride from Louisville. EPA locked themselves in a studio for an entire week – no riffs were written ahead of time, not even a single conversation was had regarding who would play which instruments or what they would record.
Marlowe describes the experience:
”The biggest challenge off the bat was that Dan couldn’t make it up there with us on a more-or-less last minute change of course. We did manage some live jamming with him through Zoom/Pro Tools until his internet went out in West Virginia. We would send him works in progress and he’d send overdubs. Conversely, he would then email us tracks blind and we’d sort through them each morning and pick out what we’d work on or just go off in our own direction. Chris had to unexpectedly leave early too so the second half of the record got Ouija-boarded into place by myself, Shu, Ryan and Seth. Russ Waterhouse of Blues Control showed up one day but was too hungover to jam on anything so we just drank some beers. We pretty much ran around hitting bongos and shit for the next three days, laughing and letting the music run downhill. We recorded until about 6 pm on the last day and Seth mixed it all in about three hours. Insane. Ben and Laura from Load Records had us over for a lobster boil the next day and then we drove home.
Fin. Just like how the Beatles did it.”
Without Human Permission” is what I envision whenever I see the “New Weird America” phrase (and no it doesn’t sound like that). Synths, woodwinds, drum machines, pianos, bongos and more vying for space in these uncharacteristically sparse and patient tracks. Largely eschewing the “wall of sound” of some previous EPA releases, melodies abound, from the synth in “Rainforest Cotillion” to the piano lines of “Olympics III.” But just wait until you flip the record. Side B’s opener “Pioneer Chairs” jumps out with its “Absolutely Free” era Zappa meets the midwestern art-rock lens of MX-80 Sound. From there, it just spirals out in so many weird and wonderful ways – think ZNR meeting Pram at the skatepark to roast one with Gastr Del Sol. One of the more exhilarating & exciting sides of a record I’ve heard in ages, unadulterated sounds created by five brilliant Midwestern weirdos using the studio itself as an instrument, pieced together masterfully by friend and capturer of spirits Seth Manchester.