Eagle Twin may not be the first to find musical inspiration from Ted Hughes' Crow, a 1970 collection of poetry in which the Crow is the protagonist in various mythic settings. Paul Simon, for example, copped the black rainbow in "My Little Town" from page one. But it's safe to say the Salt Lake City outfit is probably the first band formed around the poems.
"Crow is the fallen angel, old man death, Christ, Ulysses," Eagle Twin guitarist Gentry Densley says. "The universality of myth is something that figures strong in Eagle Twin."
As Hughes might ask, who begat Eagle Twin? Densley and his occasional collaborator, drummer Tyler Smith, had been kicking around the idea of a two-piece for years. And since Densley was already writing songs about "Crow," Eagle Twin was born. "The poems have rhythms that actually gave me ideas for riffs, as well as structure and form." Densley says. "If I ever open up the book and start to read, the music just starts to form in my head."
Densley is better known as a founding member of Iceburn, an influential avant-garde metal, jazzcore or math-rock group (depending on who you ask). In Iceburn, Densley was noted for incorporating his infatuation with jazz, starting with the modal jazz of Miles Davis and John Coltrane. He later got into the "odd meters and altered scales" of Mahavishnu Orchestra, and then into the avant-garde and free jazz of artists like Sun Ra and Anthony Braxton.
As to how that jazz informs Eagle Twin, Smith says it's more about approach than sound. "Sometimes jazz elements will come out a little bit, the freer kind of stuff," Smith says. "But it's more the idea of jazz, where things can be whatever and they can go wherever."
The duo grounds its improvisational urges with more traditional rock elements; their debut record, The Unkindness of Crows, balances muddy noise and lumbering sludgy riffs with bluesy hooks. Many of the lyrics come straight from Hughes' text, which combine with Densley's low gruff voice to make him sound like a very heavy, very haggard Nick Cave. And as for the riffs, "They're these things, out there, floating like big therianthropic vibrations," Densley muses. "You just let them flow through all the filters in the brain and down to the fingers."
Eagle Twin, opening for Sunn 0))). 8 p.m. Thu., Sept. 17 (doors at 7 p.m.). Mr. Small's Theatre, 400 Lincoln Ave., Millvale. $15. 412-821-4447 or www.mrsmalls.com