Of all the jazzy emo-hardcore albums that I have heard, Clikatat Ikatowi's River of Souls is the jazziest. Eight songs of riveting, experimental hardcore, replete with shifting rhythms and softly textured vocals, as well as that particular intensity of emotion which says, yes, this is a Gravity record.
Compared with their earlier album, Orchestrated and Conducted..., I would have to side with this record. The previous effort is just as worthy, and shares the same style, but River of Souls feels more crafted, more like the apex of an unsurprisingly short-lived band. Orchestrated has more, but shorter, songs while the River of Souls EP (as I have seen it described) restricts itself to seven fairly considerable pieces, with one untitled song at the end.
Clikitat Ikatowi fit quite well - naturally, since they contained a member of Heroin - into the 'San Diego' sound, perhaps in its more mature expression. That is to say, it incorporates the abrasive qualities of hardcore and emo, and expands them into a looser, even more 'jazzy' atmosphere. The term 'soundscape' springs to mind when listening to River of Souls - but this isn't post-rock, and it isn't even Slint either! When I first heard 'Affirmation' from Orchestrated, the first comparison I in fact thought of was 'Swing Kids played backwards through a washing machine'. River of Souls certainly never strays far from the musical viscera of that genre, and while my description may not make much physical or literal sense, it is the best I can do to describe Clikatat Ikatowi's swirling, dissolute style of hardcore.
To listen to this record is not just another exercise in abrasion and spastic dynamics, however, because what is so interesting is what the band do in and around the heavy parts. The drumming is the distinctive element here, the oblique propulsion for the very open sound of all their songs. Clikatat Ikatowi deconstructed hardcore - laid it all out together, not in the minimalist and coldly tense manner of Slint, but separated into a indefinable soup where all the elements mix and merge, without ever actually fitting together like they did before. Clikatat Ikatowi do for 90's hardcore what Patti Smith did for 70's rock - this I realized when the murmured wanderings of 'Pleiadian Dance' reminded me irressistibly of Horses. They dismantle it into pure jazz poetry, in which emotion cannot help but find its free expression.
Clikatat Ikatowi on eMusic
Also, blend77 over at Zen Face did a post a while back with both Clikatat albums. Just type their name into the search bar on his blog and you'll find it in the archives.