Moth Cock, “If Beggars Were Horses Wishes Would Ride”

Ohio’s Moth Cock mixes up some free-klezmer skronking and chilled-out chaos to remind us why they’re the kings of Midwestern atonal music. “Seriously, these guys are so fried you’d swear they’d just scraped them off the oil tub at Sheetz…

But first, a mea culpa, reader: amid family obligations, career duties, and volunteer commitments, I’ve let you down and deprived your eyes and ears for too long. But more importantly, I owe a huge debt to the venerable Hausu Mountain label, which keeps generously doling out the weirdest and wildest sounds this side of the equator. And what a serving they’ve heaped on us lately! So rest assured, this is the first of many, and doing a bit of catch-up to start.

The stilting swagger of a Moth Cock album pairs the Brooks Brothers professionalism of a tight, smoke-filled Charlie Mingus jam with the slacker abandon of a Deadhead drug binge.

Nothing quite prepares you for the skull-crushing, metallic heaviness that gushes out of Pat Modugno’s sampler, but the whimsical flourishes at the opening of If Beggars Were Horses Wishes Would Ride does less than prepare you. The listener is lured into a veritable sonic trap, first lulled into submission and later assaulted with an unforgiving saxophone chainsaw massacre.

Albeit tempered with a cheesy 80’s veneer, Modugno’s drum pads paint on a sonic canvas ripped straight out of Windows 95, while Doug Gent wails erratically like an outcast from some aborted outtakes from Miles Davis’ On the Corner sessions. The album opens with a glitched-up computer thanking us for playing the album, and for the most part “If Watches Were Turnips” keeps us lulled as well, twinkling with a circus-like glockenspiel charm. Some frenetic but tempered funk follows, with pounding drums hinting at sinister motives ahead.

Gent and Modugno really hit their stride just as “I’d Wear One By My Side” winds down, with a trumpet/clarinet duo wailing over a dense jungle of synthesizer improve wizardry. But that doesn’t even prepare you for the fuckery that’s about to hit you on the B-side. Once again, you’ve been tricked, bamboozled into letting your guard down—you’ve been warned.

What follows is a Warp Records homage deconstructed with fluttering ragtime and Dixieland collage, a mad macaw parroting love songs from a dead computer. Aphex Twin dropped too many tabs and wandered into the Montreux Jazz Festival circa 1975 to catch Cecil Taylor’s set and never came back alive.

I’m tempted to go on, and I certainly could, but I fear I may have given away too much. Truly, Moth Cock is criminally overlooked and just waiting to pounce on you with a Pandora’s box of pure nonsense. Go for it.