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Sunday, December 28, 2014 |  Madison, WI: 20.0° F  Fair
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Instrumental acts are busting out all over Madison this spring
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In March, El Valiente released its new album <i>White Comanche</i>.
In March, El Valiente released its new album White Comanche.

If you just don't have the words to say it, you're in good company. At least when it comes to Madison music lately. For whatever reason, it's gotten incredibly easy around here to fill up one's time with solo electronic projects and sprawling jazz adventures.

More precisely, it's been almost too fun to fill up local music coverage with such things. And soon, you can read my story about the debut of yet another solid local instrumental project Echo Island (you're welcome!). So, in the interest of giving proper credit without completely overdoing it, here's an attempt to round up a few more wordless highlights of local music. And this probably isn't even all of it.

El Valiente celebrated the release of its third album, White Comanche, with a March 31 show at Mickey's Tavern. Guitarist Eric Caldera is still writing twangy, mournful guitar parts, and drummer Joe Bernstein, impressively playing glockenspiel with a free hand, helps him build those out into intricate instrumentals. It's the band's first recording with a new bass player, Kris Hansen. As always, the trio knows how to craft a good hook but otherwise tries to establish its own little language, abruptly moving from slow and spooky to swinging rockabilly on the title track. Caldera, who studies ants (and named the band's second album, Daceton, after a genus of same) will be discussing their merits at the April 11 Nerd Nite event at the High Noon Saloon, with a speech entitled "Anything You Can Do, Ants Can Do Better: Why Ants Rule And Humans Drool."

A short new EP from Black Sloth features Ben Brooks, a recent Madison transplant. While his drums and vocals lend a hardcore edge to Wausau-founded band Poney's burly metal songs, Black Sloth finds Brooks, Chelsea Mayton and Tyler Spatz approaching math-rock in a rather gentle way. Brooks says a second Black Sloth EP is already in the works. Brooks also drums in the stoner-metal trio Romero, which plays at the Project Lodge on Saturday, April 14.

Speaking of instrumental rockers who've been around here for a while, the head-spinning math-metal trio Czarbles will start playing local stages again in June, possibly during the Frequency's fourth-anniversary festivities, and have written a batch of songs to eventually follow up 2007's self-titled album.

Meanwhile, the members of Cougar have long since spread about the country, but drummer Dave Skogen still lives in Madison, and the band has been collaborating online to gradually piece together new songs for a third album.

Not that it's all about post-rock. Jazz folks have been doing their part as well. The Madison Music Collective reported a good turnout for pianist Laurence Hobgood's March 25 show at the Brink Lounge, and its series continues there on April 15 with free-jazz pianist Marilyn Crispell, who will be playing with local sax player JoAnne Pow!ers, Chicago bassist Harrison Bankhead, and percussionist Avreeayl Ra. The collective will be hosting jazz jams at Liliana's on April 22 and at the East Side Club on April 29, both from 4 to 7 p.m. During the jams, local players can sit in with the following: on April 22, Michael BB, Nick Moran and Rick Flowers; and on April 29, Paul Muench, John Mesoloras and Rodrigo Villanueva.

Meantime, a few young and avant-leaning jazz folks are running the Glacial Wednesdays free-jazz nights at the Dragonfly Lounge and hosting out-of-town experimental artists at the Audio For The Arts recording studio as part of the Surrounded By Reality series. Guests at Glacial Wednesdays recently have included a tabla player and local throat-singer DB Pedersen.

The experimental and often mystically inclined Brave Mysteries label has been busy this year, mostly putting out cassettes. At its online store you can pick up its most recent vinyl release, Yesodic Helices, from local duo Rain Drinkers. It comprises two long tracks, in which Joe Taylor and the insanely productive Troy Schafer summon up low drones and gradual, eerie melodies. Sure, the "cloaked in mystery"-type presentation will ward some people off, but there's enough craft here to make these pieces easy, even pleasant, to sink into.

And here's one more two-piece sporting a mouthful of strange adjectives and shapes. The Brothers Grimm, comprising brothers Brian and A.J. Grimm, have completed Redolent Spires. The full-length combines A.J.'s flamenco guitar with Brian's cello and guqin, one of many Chinese stringed instruments with which he's familiar. The compositions are both classical and experimental, both disciplined and exploratory.

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