Punch Brothers
Album: Ahoy! (EP)
Label: Nonesuch
Tracks: 5

The abundantly productive Nashville studio sessions for last year’s acclaimed Punch Brothers album release Who’s Feeling Young Now? also spawned the five tracks that make up this Ahoy! EP. The disc takes off in deceptively leisurely fashion with an expansive treatment of Josh Ritter’s Another New World, which covers a lot of ground in its six and a half minutes, before the guys gather speed for a breakneck virtuoso runthrough of the Gillian Welch/David Rawlings breakdown Down Along The Dixie Line.

The kernel of this 20-minute EP is a thoughtfully expressive group reworking of the old traditional number Moonshiner, graced by some sublime, delicate mando and guitar embellishments. The brief chugalong band instrumental Squirrel Of Possibility may be a bit of a throwaway, but at least it demonstrates the band’s keen sense of ensemble balance and dynamics in a succinct 2¾ minutes. Saving the most iconoclastic cut till last, the insistently declamatory Icarus Smicarus is a superbly discordant punk-grass-billy onslaught that’s bound to frighten the horses as far away as the stable, bolting before the riders have had the chance to dismount. What the hell that one’s all about is anyone’s guess, but it sounds great!

This well-programmed EP’s just as well worth the punt, and an essential appendage to that full-length album; not just for punch-drunk completists!

David Kidman