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When a metal-jazz-metal lineup makes perfect sense

Saturday, February 8, BarleyPop Live, 9 p.m. Info

Photos: From left to right, Cowboy Amazing, Brennan Connors And Stray Passage, and Corridoré. Corridoré photo by Bronson Karaff.

Madison has always needed more shows that mix different genres. We shouldn’t be whipping up unlikely music pairings for the sake of being off-the-wall or contrarian, but for the sake of helping the different pockets of our music community appreciate each other. Often the local music we go out to see has as much to do with our social circles as it does with our actual tastes in music. Shaking up the approach increases the chances that at least a few people in the room will be pleasantly surprised. 

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There’s also plenty of common ground between genres that seem different on the surface, and that’s certainly true for metal and jazz. This show finds free-jazz trio Brennan Connors And Stray Passage lined up between the epic post-metal of Corridoré and the math-metal spazz-outs of Cowboy Amazing. No two of these Madison bands sound much like each other, but they’re all mixing technical complexity with visceral impact. 

Stray Passage does play some actual composed material but the real joy of this band is watching saxophonist Connors, bassist/cellist Brian Grimm, and percussionist Geoff Brady improvise their way from quiet meditations to wild, sustained outbursts. The band’s one album so far, 2017’s Emergence, was recorded with a live audience in the actual studio. A lot of the Stray Passage sets I’ve seen have at times been fiery and dissonant enough to scratch some of the same itches that metal does. More importantly, this band practices a deeply committed form of improvisation, one that unites spontaneity with harmonic depth and a mutual attentiveness among all three members.

“There’s a noisy and aggressive aspect to our music that I think we’ll feel more free than usual to explore,” Connors says. “Bearing that in mind, it could also be fun to throw out some more minimal sounds as a point of contrast. Still, we’re going to be sharing the stage with two metal bands. We’ll deliver, but we won’t know what until we get there.”

Corridoré (not pronounced “corridor”) has begun writing new songs to follow up the self-titled debut album it released in 2019. The band creates long, meandering song structures and layers on guitar tracks with shades of both doomy distortion and luxurious reverb. Bassist/vocalist Eric Andraska’s desperate howls offer both complement and counterpoint to the band’s lofty atmospherics, especially on album closer “This Swallowing Sea.” Cowboy Amazing, meanwhile, comes from an entirely more frantic school of heavy music. On a self-titled EP from 2018, the five-piece drew on the dizzyingly fragmented rhythms and punishing attack of bands like The Dillinger Escape Plan, with the occasional swerve into more straightforward, burly riffs. (Guitarist Loren Sommer writes for Tone Madison.) The band recently reunited with founding vocalist Jon Ferris and plans to record another EP this spring.

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