Columbus surf-rock quartet Hypnotide recently released a new EP entitled The Ninja and the Sea Monster. Following in the footsteps of their 2015 full-length debut Landlocked, this 6-track collection again features a lineup of stalwart area (at one time) jazz musicians: Larry Marotta and Aaron Quinn (guitars), Joe Nelson (drums), and Brett Burleson (bass). The EP was brought to life through engineering by Jay Alton and Joe Nelson and mixing by Lisa Bella Donna, and is attracting attention in modern surf rock circles. The February release party figured prominently in Nelson’s Dick’s Den Residency. The EP is now available for streaming and as a cassette and digital download at Bandcamp. Keep reading for my thoughts on this concentrated slate of varied uptempo grooves.
“Shake Your Hips” gets The Ninja and the Sea Monster off to a rousing start, with a classic guitar riff up front in the mix and a huge pop chorus, plus some tasty honks and a high-flying solo from guest baritone saxophonist Fred Gablick. “Derecho” unfolds impactfully while establishing the twin-guitar attack, and both guitarists employ some sinister lines over the rhythm section’s non-stop groove, with menacing bass from Burleson. Big waves of dueling guitar is still the name of the game on “Dogs of Riga,” and Nelson’s military precision on the drumset gives the proceedings a solid foundation. “Eels Seal The Deal” opens on a slower, dramatic note, but then ups the ante with razor-wire riffs, lightning transitions, and a pummeling conclusion. Well-titled “Song of Simplicity” strikes upon a sunnier vibe, with classical-styled guitar patterns and propulsive bass from Marotta conjuring a day at the beach. Finale “Fire Eyed Girl” has a biting attack and then settles into something of a Greek groove, with ample guitar wizardry, rock solid bass from Burleson, and another round of meticulous stick work from Nelson before the song builds to a guitar-heavy climax.
The Ninja and the Sea Monster is a brief but powerful release, offering something for surf rock enthusiasts but also fans of guitar layered with influences from jazz, world and improvised styles. Stay tuned for the release of Hypnotide’s forthcoming second full-length album, which Nelson tells me will include some intriguing new concepts and should continue to expand the listener’s idea of “surf rock.”