20th Century Dog/Mister Ott

Venue 505, July 25 

20th resCameron Undy’s music loves to subvert expectations. Grooves are ripped and shredded until only a jagged edge remains. Melodies arrive in spasms rather than cadenced lines, in jutting angles rather than curves. Yet, just when those angles are becoming so acute that they threaten to impale the listener, Undy relents, and leads us, instead, into a world of singular eeriness.

One-o-Five epitomised this, its slower, gentler groove made to lurch and stagger by renegade drumming, against which Matt Keegan’s keening tenor saxophone was a cry as lonely as a gull’s, after which the sextet collectively painted a desolate, pre-dawn soundscape.

Otherwise riff-based material predominated, with Undy’s electric bass the driving force, often joined in unison or intersecting lines by the guitar (Ben Hauptmann) or keyboards (Greg Coffin). The drums, meanwhile, engaged in a form of guerrilla warfare with the rhythms. Having Simon Barker and Jamie Cameron behind two kits certainly added heft to the music when required, but more often their role was to avoid the obvious and to sabotage assumptions. They churned up the music with superimposed rhythms, detonated unexpected accents and only occasionally converged on the same beat with a mighty crunch.

A particular highlight was Ben Hauptmann’s screeching guitar solo in the final piece. But, for all the brilliance of ideas from Undy and his cohorts, the music may have benefited from more sonic clarity and less clutter.

Call and response motifs underpinned Matthew Ottignon’s Mister Ott, a lively sextet taking its cue from the distinctive jazz of Ethiopia. At the band’s heart lie the boiling sound of Ottignon’s tenor saxophone and the relentless groove of his brother Eden’s bass lines. Danceable beats and strong solos were laced with a bright thread of psychedelia, notably from Ben Panucci’s guitar. This is a very likeable band that could truly electrify a room were all members playing with the leader’s confidence and abandon, while still leaving a sense of power held in reserve.