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Bang Bangz: Tax the Wolf Offshoot Sets A Pretty High Bar

Houstonians are more than likely familiar with Mario Rodriguez for his work with Tax the Wolf. The experimental powerhouse has been winning awards and critical acclaim for his experimental and cutting edge music for some time. Now, he's teamed with Elizabeth Salazar and Vik Montemayor on a new endeavor. It's called Bang Bangz, and we'll allow the band a little slack on the cardinal sin of using a "z" where an "s" belongs because they are so very nice to listen to.

Tax the Wolf fans can take comfort in the fact that Rodriguez's rather distinctive guitar sound and style have been maintained with Bang Bangs on their debut self-titled EP. The opening track "Wrong" could almost be mistaken for a cut from Hold the Sun at the beginning. However, differences become apparent immediately. The music is much more ethereal, with soft keyboard lines and drums from Montemayor that are masterworks of ambiguity. If we didn't know better we would swear a drum machine was responsible for much of the album (We mean this as a compliment), so connected to the matrix is Montemayor, but he often lashes out with peaks of rhythmic humanity that keep the tunes cyberorganic and fresh.


Salazar's vocals constitute a great deal of the album's appeal. Her throat must be a portal made of ginger and honey, and every note that she hits sounds like a subtle invitation. She features more on the microphone than Rodriguez, but he appears on many tracks as well, and the ensuing duet is part dance, and part duel. Nowhere is this better heard than in the crowning jewel of the album, "Night Souls." It's been too long since we'd heard a new song that made us want to use it as a soundtrack for a round of bedtime games, but the fire, tease, the tension, and the smoke of the almost-trip track has us getting ready to cue it up on the nightstand.

When Trent Reznor switched up from NIN to his work with How to Destroy Angels it was a breath of fresh air and a chance for a totally different aspect of his genius to get some air time. By our account, something very similar has happened here in Houston with Bang Bangz. Rodriguez, Salazar, and Montemayor have scraped together whatever free moments they could in some very busy lives to birth something new and powerful.

At times, the work is droning, maybe a little repetitious, but all in all the eight tracks that comprise Bang Bangz are solid works of alternative music in the original sense of the term. We felt the same way tuning in and turning off to the music that we did the first time we heard the Pixies, or Gorillaz, or Poe. It's a breath of steamy, scented air as intoxicating as any drink.

We talked with Rodriguze via email about the record. Click on over to page 2 for the interview.

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Jef Rouner (not cis, he/him) is a contributing writer who covers politics, pop culture, social justice, video games, and online behavior. He is often a professional annoyance to the ignorant and hurtful.
Contact: Jef Rouner