E, the trio of Jason Sidney Sanford, Thalia Zedek and Gavin McCarthy make angular, energized, and idiosyncratic rock music. These accomplished and inventive musicians could not be more different in the way they express themselves but their egoless dedication to ensemble playing and writing shapes E’s distinct sound. Negative Work is the product of three individuals whose dedication to the collaborative process may very well be the source of compelling tension underlying their songs.
Recorded and mixed in 4 days at Machines With Magnets (Battles, Lightning Bolt), the album captures the energy of E’s gripping live shows. There is lots of room in this recording, each voice distinct and clear. The album title, Negative Work, is a nod to an essential part of their creative process. “Writing a good song is frequently not so much about how much you can put into it, but also about how much you can take back out,” says Sanford. It is also undoubtedly a process that does not work if there are competing egos.
McCarthy’s excellent playing gives the songs their drive, while Zedek’s lines dance concordantly with Sanford’s highly modified and unexpected tones. Using a variety of manipulations - alligator clips, and Sanford’s own pedals: the Low A Oscillator, Bass E Stomper and Bass G Thumper - he manipulates the intended microtonal abnormalities of his homemade instrument. The taut and lean compositions give room for these voices to act and react to each other. The resulting tension makes for a compelling listen. It is with their lyrics that E gives space for the individual to shine. The writer of the lyrics is most often the leading singer giving voice to their own words. While the topics are as varied as their creators, from a dissection of the words of Alberto Giacometti, to defiant sexual liberation, the band finds cohesion in shared emotions and a sense of defiance.
E has been touring and writing together steadily since their debut, at an age when many musicians are loath to abandon what they are known for and jump back into the grind of establishing a new band. E’s egoless dedication, love of playing, and relentless inventiveness are irresistible qualities making Negative Work an entirely singular and highly compelling rock record.