LDOM: Organic music with soul

The CD jacket of Inner System Blues, the third album by The Last Days of May, is covered with multihued portraits of sad-faced, weary businessmen. They stand in groups, immobilized by despair, as if they'd just been shown a glimpse of an alternate existence, a sunnier life where freedom cradled their futures. Like the face screaming down from King Crimson's Court, these men have no idea what to do with their newfound knowledge.

Introducing... prog(ressive) rock.

Karl Precoda, perhaps the most central figure in LDOM, first achieved fame in the early eighties as the guitarist for the Dream Syndicate, an L.A.-based, Byrds-influenced, jangle-pop group. Years later, he resurfaced in Charlottesville and pieced together the band in 1997 with bassist (and obscure music guru) Thomas Howard and percussionist James Ralston.

The Last Days of May's freedom derives from their dub-influenced jams. There are no riffs, solos, verses, or vocals. As an instrumental trio, with keyboardist Leonard Wishart occasionally guesting on their albums, LDOM prefers to stay instead as riders on the storm.

Their albums have garnered them considerable press, even overseas reviews. It's understandable why. The sound echoing from Precoda's guitar seems like a type of freeform speech. While listening to Inner System Blues, a rapid blur of images filled my mind: submarine radar blips, chirring birds, humming power lines, crackling radio towers, insects skittering across the surface of a pond.

Their dark, spectral assaults cross killer bees with krautrock, the pulsing, jazzy, experimental sound pioneered in the sixties by German psychedelic bands Can and Neu!. And on this album, the pieces grow organically, like clouds at the meeting of the fronts, billowing over landscapes of rhythmically repetitive, funked-out basslines.

To get a true sense of LDOM, listen to the pieces grow, shift form, and evolve over marathon stretches, as in the highlight track, "Rangerland/Bewitched."

It's a shame that so many prog rock bands of the last two decades fell victim to unidirectional senility, by either 1) confusing "bombast for majesty" (see Yes, Genesis), or 2) becoming so dogged in their pursuit of the impossibly complex (see Tortoise, Don Caballero) that they played with the warmth of a toaster oven.

The Last Days of May have a soul, and although it might not be conducive to airplay, it's worth listening to.

For more information on their releases, visit their label at www.squealermusic.com.