The Eternals
Sun May 30
Roseland - 8 NW 6th

On "Bewareness," one of the best tracks from The Eternals' newest album, vocalist Damon Locks wonders, "Disorder... how do you respond to that?" You get the feeling he's unwrapping rhetoric, because the rest of the song--with its Portuguese field sample, Congalese-sounding rhythm pattern, and chopped-up pedal effect cutting the air like the blades of a Black Hawk--answers his question.

This Chicago underground trio responds to disorder by picking the prettiest cherries from the rubble of cultural collision, and threading them together with a smoldering ember of a beat. (Both in theory and in practice--later this month, they're opening for dancehall legend Sugar Minott in Puerto Rico.) The album, Rawar Style, on Portland label Aesthetics, sweats hot and dubby, sweltering from its limber rhythm section: Wayne Montana on bass, Dan Fliegel's on drums. "How do you shine when cities are burning flames?" Locks continues. "Make a sign and carry the burden of shame." He asks questions, he invokes answers. It's as though the citified alienation Locks sang about on the linear, bell-rining dub of "Billions of People" (from The Eternals' 1999 DeSoto release) has been replaced. There are bigger fish to fry.

The album's flaws are transfixing imperfections that tumble the whole package even more askew--the vocal bursts fall a hair flat, a raw guitar note makes abrasions on the kick drum. Often, there are no linear melodies. It took me about five listens to process it--at first, I was at the "glad it was made, but..." stage; when it clicked, I was blown away. Even at the lyricism's most esoteric--"Where do you come from, son? You better get in here. What do you run from? Darkness is all I fear"-- the music is full of curiosity and response, question and answer. I could go on all day about the imagery on Rawar Style--ocarina whistles and hiphop beats and Spanish-sounding guitars; baritone vocals, mega dub-style delay on melodica, the jerky Galaga buzz of "Space Dancehall." Counter-tonal bells and horns sprout up at moments and never come back. They compose like Varese, ahead of their time and interpreting the rhythm of life, right now--the outbursts, the tragedy, the collision, the beauty, the dissolution of boundaries and erection of new ones. Are you ready for this jelly?