Modessa Aaah the Bats EP

There was no shortage of No Wave-damaged transmissions originating from Portland, Oregon around the turn of the millennium, and MODESSA was one of the briefest bursts of static to appear on that whole frequency, a brain trust of late ’90s international art-punk featuring Helen White of the angular Slampt-backed UK outfit PETTY CRIME, Ethan Swan of Portland’s EMERGENCY (the only ’90s band brave/cool enough to cover COME ON?), and Amy Henevald, also of EMERGENCY and formerly of DC’s legendary teen free-punk antagonists MELTDOWN. The group existed for only two weeks in May of 1999 during which they wrote and recorded the four songs on this EP, plus one live snippet committed straight to Walkman (so-called “efficient” post-punks of the current century should be taking notes). It has all of the off-kilter charm of three people working primarily under the guidance of shared instincts, with no time for or interest in belaboring the creative process—vocals take the form of overlapping chants and whispered incantations, backed by a brittle assemblage of needling single-note guitar, steadily cycling bass lines, and skittish drums that calls back to the messiest of late ’70s/early ’80 UK DIY. The defiant embrace of imperfection in pursuit of art truly never goes out of style, and MODESSA had the smarts to recognize that.