You know how it is. Sometimes, you hear a band and you just can’t bear to keep it a secret. (Yes, hipsters, I know this doesn’t exactly apply to you.) The Happy Maladies are one of those bands. I shot a couple videos of them at a house show last night and only managed to make it about 14 hours before posting them on YouTube (and it would have been closer to 12 hours had my piddly internet connection not choked on the Homeric scope of their closing number).
Sorry to say, I could have had a chance to bring you The Happy Maladies about two months ago (the last time they played here), but I was busy hosting this. And I realise that two months lag isn’t a huge deal in the grand scheme of things (and certainly not my worst by any stretch of the imagination) but the fact of the matter is that avant garde chamber folk waits for no man. And music like this deserves to be heard, so, here they are.
The Happy Maladies are, like so many bands I love, nearly impossible to categorise. I guess it would be easiest to just call them chamber pop, but there’s a whole lot more to it than that. The instrumentation would, I suppose, most closely resemble a bluegrass ensemble, but musically, it’s about as bluegrass as the Punch Brothers. In fact, Punch Brothers are probably a good launching point for any discussion of The Happy Maladies. Throughout their set last night, the same thought kept popping into my head: ‘Why hasn’t Chris Thile snapped these guys up and whisked them off on an extended world tour?’.
Listen, and I think you’ll see what I mean. The folk elements are there, certainly, but distilled through a aleatoric filter of free jazz, late 50s classical modernism. And, if you ask me, I’d say I can hear bits of Penderecki popping up here and there as well. This certainly isn’t music for passive listening. I’d say, the shortest song from last night’s show was something like seven minutes long with the three-part closing epic clocking in somewhat closer to a quarter of an hour. But if you can manage it (and you should manage it), the journey is supremely rewarding. And, whatever you do, be sure to see The Happy Maladies in person.