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Lonely beats

The freewheeling minimalism of Little Angry

Oakland-based Little Angry excels at eclectic minimalism and brings show to Olympia. Photo credit: Facebook

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Almost six years ago, I wrote in these very pages about a group called Twig Palace. They were a duo, consisting of Evan Hashi and Colleen Johnson, and their music possessed a certain ramshackle charm. Twig Palace embraced a lo-fi aesthetic that put the duo's charm and eclectic tastes into sharp relief. I wrote, at the time, that their music made me nostalgic for 2004, even though that time wasn't so long ago; something about Twig Palace made me miss the days of discovery when I was just getting into indie rock and the brazen sense of exploration that bands in the underground possessed, melding folk and weird pop into a swirling stew of adventurousness.

It was fitting that Twig Palace had a connection to Olympia, having recorded their debut LP in that weirdest of South Sound cities. Hashi and Johnson, though, both currently live in Oakland, that other weird city in Northern California. Recently, Hashi released his latest album under his solo moniker, Little Angry. This new album, Place & Care, has a different sound than Twig Palace, but it possesses the same spirit that defined Twig Palace: eclectic, minimalist experimentation. There's no predicting, from song to song, just which side of Hashi you're going to get.

Place & Care was written and performed entirely by Hashi, resulting in a freewheeling album of risk-taking, beholden to no outside input. The folk parts of Twig Palace are largely absent, and in their place is a more uncompromising vision, defined by liberal doses of electronica, jagged guitars, droning chants, and even dipping into more ‘70s AM pop territory, like on standout number "The Importance of Being See-Thru." Other songs, like "Beat 2," evoke the twitchiness of latter-day Radiohead, while opening track "14 Times" resembles the Talking Heads' spindly take on funk and world music, but with a less formal structure.

Even on the more meditative songs, Little Angry has a vibrant sense of urgency. "Bendy Flickering Boy" is a chiming, repetitive song that is more ominous than you'd expect from its opening chords. Meanwhile, "Photograph" finds Hashi in singer-songwriter mode, accompanied only by a bass riff (and later a droning, elevating synth), in the kind of spare, stately song that Robert Pollard might have recorded in the early days of Guided By Voices. It's a rare moment of emotional vulnerability, a grace note on an album of unpredictable twists and turns.

Little Angry's music can frequently feel quite lonely - it's not until "Beat 1," the penultimate track, that Hashi's voice is joined by another person, Sara Blumenthal; but even that track is as far from warm as Little Angry gets, with its jittery beats and jarring, looped vocals. "Beat 1" almost sounds like Tune-Yard's early recording experiments, with complex rhythms and off-kilter samples coming fast and hard at the listener.

If it's possible for an artist to sound both anonymous and inimitable, Hashi has cracked that code. While there's most definitely a sure hand at work in the making of Place & Care, it becomes increasingly hard to understand just who that sure hand is (with the notable exception being the gorgeous, naked "Photograph"). Little Angry doesn't inspire as much warm feelings as Twig Palace did, but the minimalist experimentation makes it perhaps the more exciting project. What's for certain is that Hashi's intent on following a vision that may be clearer to him than for us, which is as noble a mission as can be found in music. It's imperative to take notice when an entity as strange and beguiling as Little Angry comes along, which you'll have a chance to do when Hashi returns to Olympia.

LITTLE ANGRY, w/ Skrill Meadow, Dance Magic, Friday, May 6, 5 p.m., $5, Courtyard Antiques Olympia, 705 4th Ave. E., Olympia, 360.352.3864

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