Extra Life’s Secular Works arrived unknown in our mailbox and quickly found its way into regular rotation. The New York group is fronted by guitarist/vocalist Charlie Looker, who spent six years in ZS, has played with Mick Barr, was a one-time member of Dirty Projectors (he performs on Rise Above), and has worked with Anthony Braxton, Glenn Branca, William Parker, Tyondai Braxton, Daniel Carter, etc. In Extra Life, he taps into a mesmerizing form of avant-rock raga, repeating words, and shifting into a windswept, entrancing post-punk throat singing. The sounds are fleshed out with drums, bass, saxophone, keyboard, violin. The first song to catch our attention is opener “Blackmail Blues,” which hit us like a darker, heavier take on Dirty Projectors (backed by Torch Of The Mystics Sun City Girls).
The vocals rat-a-tatting with the drums at the end of “Blackmail Blues,” the upward offerings of “The Refrain” — these are master works. The album itself is called Secular Works, but this stuff feels somehow religious in its fervor.