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SmallBox Presents EP IN A WEEKEND #4: Meta Monk (Devon Ashley, Dave Adamson, Jon Rogers)
Posted March 07, 2013 by Rob Peoni
WRITTEN BY
Rob Peoni
ON
March 07, 2013
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SmallBoxand Musical Family Tree Present:

EP 4 :: Meta Monk - Eons of Time

(Listen while you read!)

For EP in a Weekend #4, MFT founder Jeb Banner selected drummer Devon Ashley. Ashley then asked MFT's own Jon Rogers to contribute, much to his surprise. Rogers tapped multi-instrumentalist Dave Adamson to round out the group. Together, they are Meta Monk. Eons of Time is a release best heard through headphones, so strap 'em on and let's settle in for a while.

I could write several thousand words expounding upon why I believe the three musicians who played on Musical Family Tree's fourth installment of EP in a Weekend are important, critical members of Indiana's music scene. I could talk at length about why Jon Rogers' discography withEverything, Now! and Dave "Moose" Adamson's with Jookabox serve as some of my favorite music, local or otherwise, of the last decade. I could tell you about why Devon Ashley's career as a session and touring drummer with bands like The Pieces, The Lemonheads, and countless others makes him a veritable legend. But I won't bother, except to tell you that all of those projects are worth your attention. To waste any more time delving deeper would detract from the work that these three men recently laid down over a short weekend at The Arkbarn.

MFT'sEP in a Weekend is an exercise that, at its most basic level, tests how quickly three musicians can coalesce into a single entity. The artists that create an enduring set of songs with this experiment will be those that move quickly from "I could try this" to "What if we made it sound like that?" Eons of Time kicks off with "Meta Monk," the track that inspired the name of the band. It's a murky, tranquil, slow roll filled with a pervasive apprehension. Adamson's vocals hover around the bass, more instrument than lyric, like the incoherent mumbles of a ghost down a long hallway.

Musicians often talk of atmosphere in their work. For me, that boils down to building an environment or soundscape in which the core elements of a song can reside. Adamson is a master at crafting these sonic spaces, but he wasn't alone in the effort. Ashley contributed by layering restrained polyrhythms that utilize both live drums and a machine on most tracks. Rogers employed this magical box that a gear head named Gary Cooper had built and gifted during his time in Muncie. The simple synth looks like the illegitimate offspring of a tea tin and a guitar pedal. Somehow, it creates noises depending on how much light hits the top of the box. On "Meta Monk," it sounds something like two dolphins babbling in the distance.


The follow-up track, "Paranoia," may be my favorite of the bunch and offers the most even-handed representation of the three musicians. Rogers handles lead vocal duties, but holds back on the confident front man persona that has defined projects like Everything, Now! and Beer. He sounds a bit tentative before settling into a jaunty exchange between the handclaps and the chopped and sampled chirp of the magic box. The hesitation in the vocals isn't a problem, it fits the song's anxiety-ridden atmosphere perfectly. Adamson fills out the sound with some spacey work on synth and a bouncy, muted rhythm on guitar.

"Negative Sandman" serves as the centerpiece of Eons of Time. It's a loose, jangly rocker driven by the guitar and drums that works in contrast to the sinister, synth heavy material that dominates the rest of the release. It was the first track that the trio laid down, and you can almost hear any pre-recording jitters melt away as they feel each other out. Adamson closes out the track with what sounds like improvisational vocals, riffing off of the rhythm of the drums. I'm happy the group decided to sequence the EP with "Negative Sandman" acting as a welcome tangent of levity before the band dives back down the spooky rabbit hole of "Lost Summer."

The EP closes with "Dave's Dream." The track features Adamson's stream-of-consciousness attempt to detail the events of a bizarre revery. Moose has always tended toward the abstract with his vocals, and that trait has only grown more pronounced since the dissolution of Jookabox. Ashley's work on rhythms really shines here. He paints these beautiful, broad brushstrokes on drums that sound like galloping hooves one moment and the resounding clap of thunder the next. It's probably the closest that Meta Monk comes to aDMA track on the EP, with Adamson reaching for those elusive strands of thought that prove just beyond our grasp as we awake.

The strength of Eons of Time is a testament to the artists' willingness to venture outside their comfort zones, and producer Ryan Koch's ability to adapt and edit on the fly. Meta Monk's silent fourth member helped to shape a release that proves astonishingly coherent, given the constraints of the EP in a Weekend format. His home base, The Arkbarn, seems to have provided the ideal environment for three weird dudes to create one of the more satisfying and unexpected releases of the spring.

Photographs by Mayowa Tomori

Meta Monk MFT Page

EP in a Weekend

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