Hartley C. White, “Let the Music Rock”

Jayson Greene

By Jayson Greene

on 11.20.14 in Listen to This

Hartley C. White’s gnarled, unrecognizable music doesn’t feel good to listen to, exactly. He didn’t design it that way. It does, however, demand to be listened to, in the same way you feel a burning need to dig an at itch beneath a cast. From 1984-2009, White recorded a gnarled bundle of music that feels like it has a malfunctioning central nervous system, and he invented a term for it: “whopazootic.” He was inspired, he said, by the intentionally broken rhythms of Bruce Lee’s fighting style, which used disorientation as an offensive strategy.

And spending fifteen or so minutes with his demurely titled This Is Not What You Expect LP, release this week on OSR Recordings, you might very well feel like you’ve been tagged multiple times in the nose by an unpredictable opponent. Fuzzed-out, righteous boogie-rock guitar riffs flail in open space, with no clear sense of timing. The drums rat-a-tat at all offbeats, and the spoken and whispered vocals land in a series of halting thuds.

It sounds, at first, like a dismaying mess. But there is a strange pull here. You can’t dance to it, but this is body music: It will mess with your breathing patterns, it will alter your posture. Try “Let The Music Rock” and treasure the sense of something inexplicable nagging at you.