Jorge Arana Trio: Craftsmen of Controlled Chaos
The experience of music is deeply personal to every one of us, whether it’s through a kinship in the words being spoken, an air of nostalgia or an emotional response to the sounds being made. It’s in that compelling piano run that makes you weep, or that dance-pop anthem that gives you the boost you need to take on the day.
But then, there are songs — the ones with jarring, dissonant grooves, monstrous riffs and bone-chilling modulations — that evoke a different type of emotion. When executed properly, they make us feel like we’re losing control.
With the release of its third album, “Mammoth,” Jorge Arana Trio pushes us right to that edge, to the thin line between lucidity and lunacy. A menacing amalgamation of art rock, jazz fusion, punk and electronic music, the nine-track collection makes us uncomfortable in all the right ways.
“We write stories, but we’re more of an inspiration to people's imagination,” said drummer Josh Enyart. “It is to the ear of the beholder how they interpret the visualizations in their head.”
Arana enlisted Enyart and bassist Jason Nash to explore his convergence of moody, intricate instrumental sounds in 2011. The trio has since become a sought-after act in Kansas City and beyond, pairing exceptional musicianship with wild bursts of sonic hysteria. Released on Haymaker Records, “Mammoth” marks the trio’s second full-length album, following debut LP “Mapache” in 2012 and the “Oso” EP in 2014.
“I definitely try to explore different moods and mental states,” Arana said. “Mammoth” is the trio’s most furious effort yet, due in large part to the songwriter’s ability to emulate a tremulous, dystopian state of mind. “The nice thing about instrumental music is that you can explore thoughts and feelings that can't be expressed in words.”
But it is Nash’s and Enyart’s contributions that make sense of Arana’s deranged musical expeditions. “Josh and I add our own flair, but it’s Jorge’s structure, or lack thereof,” Nash said. “‘Oso’ and ‘Mammoth’ are Jorge’s crazy schematics; then Josh and I bring the beef.”
For instance, in “Speak, Beast,” Arana weaves in ominous swelling synthesizers that give way to a cutting guitar assault, keeping the listener intrigued and anticipating his next move. Nash and Enyart push the songs forward, creating their own jagged melodies but maintaining a thunderous, sinister groove.
The album clearly shows that Arana, Nash and Enyart know how to bring out the best musical qualities in one another, and it’s hard to picture any other combination of people creating such intensity. But at the end of October, Enyart will be departing the band, moving on to a career in the wind energy field.
“There are a lot of people that would have no problem taking over on drums, in the pure technicality of it,” Enyart said, “but this isn’t about being a drummer. This is about becoming the third member of a trio, and all of the love, passion and devotion for what happens in this group.”
Arana and Nash note that this will inevitably alter the band’s course. “There’s a plethora of great things Josh has done for the trio, behind the drum set or not,” Nash said. “This will definitely put us in a position to change things up.”
But for now, Jorge Arana Trio has another album it can be proud of — an impressive expression of controlled chaos at its most thrilling moment.
“I feel like it's an end of our first phase, like it's a culmination of what we've been doing since we started,” Arana said.
“Mammoth” will be released worldwide on Sept. 23, but copies will be available at the recordBar show Friday, which will include special guests 34 and Riala. On Sept. 9, the trio will appear in Lawrence at Jackpot Music Hall, with Bent Knee and Hyperbor.
— Michelle Bacon is a musician and writer dedicated to the Kansas City music community. She advocates for and helps spotlight music in the area, writes web content for 90.9 The Bridge, and plays with The Philistines and Chris Meck & the Guilty Birds. Her grandma will always be the coolest person she knows.
Feature photo: courtesy of the artist