Jazz Adam has been playing solo out of Philadelphia for the past two years as Old Maybe, curating thick atmospheres with a lo-fi setup that’s roomy and malleable. On last summer’s HIVE MIND Adam explored welcome and unwelcome solitude, a Slint cover and a Chris Weisman cover among the album’s eleven pithy tracks—good indexes of the divergent places she’s pulled her own sounds from. Now, with Ricardo Balmaseda and Nina Ryser on bass and drums, Old Maybe have translated the roominess and soft aggression of that record into something more straightforwardly abrasive, and recently they’ve been billed with the likes of Palm and Hellier Ulysses.
The first EP for the three-piece, Oblio combines the occasional softness of Old Maybe’s previous work with a more pungent insistence. What before might have been posed as questions are now ultimatums, and the layered voicings that form them are commanding. In the skronky push and pull of the instrumentation—which lands in a comfortably murky space between no wave and noise rock—the trio articulate a sense of sheer exasperation drawn to its brink. “Did you have to extract me? / Did you have to use me? / Am I a piece of paper on which for you to scrawl all your thoughts and feelings?” Adam shouts on “The Shuffle”, her rhetorical questions cutting over the pounding drum and bass, the screeching chop of a guitar breaking through every few beats. This direct verbal reclaiming of one’s own place feels crucial, but some of Old Maybe’s most caustic statements are still made wordlessly. There’s the exhausted pure wail of someone reasonably tired of waiting around on “What’s Keeping You”, the racing crush of the guitar and bass on “Walking”. And the trio attend to silences as much as to each separate note—on the penultimate track, an idyllic pan flute swirl is undercurrent for the declaration “What / the / fuck / do you expect me to say,” the pauses between words giving them space to sink in doubly deep. These are fighting words, and the fight is an important one.
Oblio is out today on Apollonian Sound, and you can stream the EP in full below. Old Maybe will be playing a release show alongside Cloud Becomes Your Hand, Hermit Thrushes, and Jepeto Solutions (fka CE Schneider Topical) on May 28 at Philly’s Space 1026.