Just wow. The new self-titled LP from Reno’s Rob Ford Explorer, out earlier this month, is a potent gem, a heady amalgamation of jazz fluidity and math-rock specificity, and a roar-from-the-rooftops collection on par with some of the best you’d hear from similar outfits like Hella or American Don-era Don Caballero. This pair is the most imaginative duo, by far, you’ll hear this year.
How to describe Cameron Sax’s inimitable guitar sound on this too-short seven-track? Rubbery like jelly and fixated on confounding every time signature it meets. Borrowing a page from a bassist like Les Claypool or guitar-composers like Mylets – though those comparisons somehow feel oddly reductive – Sax finds musicality in the bent spaces between notes. (This was evident on the 2016 digital single “Fucky.” It is more evident now.) At times, you feel like he’s just sliding bridges and refrains up and down the neck of the guitar without strumming, it’s that smooth. And drummer Greg Lewis? On a track like the impeccable “Wait … Is Aphex Twin My Daddy?” he adds a slitheryiness to the proceedings that gets right underneath your skin. When the duo is joined, as it is on the closing “Things I Used To Believe,” by a bass player, some of the movements echo PAK’s genre-defying work and, when they catch fire, sound like Tortoise on cocaine.
The fact that Rob Ford Explorer packs this much punch (and that punch is made of Nevada moonshine, for the record) into about 15 minutes is simply mind-blowing. Monk, for God’s sake, would be proud of a song like the opener, “Ode to Shinju.” And that’s 32 seconds long. When the band expands its inhalations – look at the throttling passages and glassy lows of “Bad Boy Nissan Boy” or the similarly textured “Everything In The Desert Wants To Kill You” – that’s when things really get cooking. And when they cook, watch out. Five out of five goddamn stars.