The name Euphone has a pleasant connotation. While not technically a word, at least by dictionary standards, it’s closely linked to the word "euphony." For the "differently literate" among you, "euphony" means a sound or collection of sounds crafted to please the ear. It implies pure, unfettered joy through music, an uncommon melodic experience that rises above many others. Euphone, then, would appear to resemble an instrument or mechanism responsible for creating this type of euphony. That being said, Euphone still don’t quite live up to their namesake, but they’re getting closer.
Chicago’s Ryan Rapsys and Nick Macri are both multi-instrumentalists, but at their hearts, they’re simply drums and bass, both part of the former Heroic Doses rhythm section, and masterful at their craft. Unfortunately, 1999′s The Calendar of Unlucky Days was a fairly drab record with minimal instrumentation and little jazz-inflected post-rock variety. Luckily, with the 13 new tracks on Hashin’ It Out, Rapsys and Macri attempt to bring more diversity to their sound, as well as more guest musicians than ever to flesh it out. And it works; why, without the brilliant, all-star conga work by Dan Bitney of Isotope 217 and Tortoise on "Do You Up," the record would have surely failed!
Okay, I’ll cut the sarcasm. In reality, the new formula does work to Euphone’s advantage. Hashin’ It Out isn’t a terribly cohesive record, and it does drop in quality near the end, but its pleasures are substantial, common, and fun enough to be commendable. When acting alone, there are more hits than misses this time out, such as the laid-back opener, "Gyrations," featuring electronically manipulated vocals and dreamy, effect-laden guitar and bass. Despite their multi-instrumental capabilities, though, Euphone had the good taste to give their guests some creative input, and it works strongly in the album’s favor.
The record’s finest tracks were created with the help of Jeremy Jacobsen, a member of 5ive Style and otherwise known as the Lonesome Organist. On "Press On" and "Bad Ascending," easily two of the record’s highlights, Rapsys and Macri act as the skilled rhythm section, adding occasional keyboard accompaniment while Jacobsen contributes complex guitar parts. It all comes off effortlessly, and stands as the closest thing to euphony these guys have created yet. The other two songs featuring Jacobsen don’t quite match the others, but they do succeed. "Where’s the B?" is just over two minutes of pure funk with Jacobsen’s occasional angular guitar.
Without Jacobsen, Euphone seem to meander a bit more. The record’s oddball is "Newscast," a minute-long foray into the world of composing theme music for your local TV news program. But tracks like "Nick is Ryan" seem to create the result of effective spontaneity that many of the others on Hashin’ It Out strive for. And while the rest achieve varying degrees of success– excepting "Confirmation of Suspicions," the aimlessly rambling five-minute closer– there’s rarely another memorable melody or structure to be found.
Euphone have finally discovered that collaboration is the key to their success, and Hashin’ It Out is the proof. That’s not to say that they aren’t talented on their own, but if Jeremy Jacobsen joined Euphone to create a full-time trio, perhaps we could expect more cohesive results on their next effort. Far be it from me to offer a band career advice, of course, but it never hurts to mention it, right?