EX OH is a pop artist Jerry Adler, who resides in New York’s Hudson Valley.
Jerry Adler has been around for a while. Yet despite his impressive catalog, and perhaps because it is so wildly eclectic, his career has flown stubbornly under the radar.
Coming out of the same NYC scene that produced The Strokes, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, and Interpol in the early 00’s, The Blam recorded two terrific albums (The Blam and Caveat Emptor), was a hit on national college radio, and toured successfully in the U.S. and UK, but weren’t quite able to ride the wave that carried numerous others to greater recognition at that time. The group dissolved in 2005. Due to prominent placements over the years in hit TV shows such as The Office and Skins (UK) the band has cultivated a small and dedicated cult following.
Leaving behind the bouncy, psychedelic, power pop of The Blam, Adler returned the next year with something completely different. “After The Blam, I wasn’t even sure I wanted to make music anymore, or any art, for that matter,” he says. “And if I did, I didn’t know if what I wanted to say would or should be in the format of a three-minute pop song. So I just let it go and didn’t think about it much, until the urge returned. One day I picked up an acoustic guitar and two months later there were 25 songs.” Flugente (2006-10), captured on two albums but best exemplified in live performances that bordered on performance art, was an austere, one man/one voice, lyrical torrent of withering self-reflection and social criticism. Artistically it was formidable, commercially it was not.
In 2011, after side tracks that included learning to play the ukulele (to make an instrumental record for his newborn daughter) and pedal steel guitar, Adler made yet another 90-degree turn with Wave Sleep Wave, a deeply experimental, loop-based, guitar and drums duo with Yuval Lion (Cibo Matto, Suzanne Vega, The Blam). They produced two fine albums, toured with Balkan Beat Box, and landed on a handful of critics’ “Best of the Year” lists. But, by 2014 Adler and Lion were living in different cities and continuing the band became unsustainable.
Ever restless, Adler’s guitar experimentation in Wave Sleep Wave would lead him to join with classical sitar player Mustafa Bhagat (Biryani Boys) and form Arranged Marriage NP, in 2016. The instrumental duo relies on the Indian raga canon for its material, but replaces the traditional tabla drum with a whirling, swirling galaxy of sound to produce what The Big Takeover called, “a stunning debut that merges Indian classicism with Brian Eno’s sonic manipulation… truly magical.” The band was featured on NPR and garnered a coveted primetime slot in the prestigious 24-Hour Drone event at New York’s Hudson Basilica. A follow-up album is expected.
Now Adler delivers EX OH, an album of super-tightly woven, impeccably arranged, songwriterly pop songs packed with myriad sounds and surprises. “I guess if you make enough left turns you get back to where you started,” Adler explains. “This is where I came from. I learned how to play music by writing songs. It’s been a long time since I’ve written in a more conventional style, but it’s been so interesting to return to it after so many years. It’s almost like a different person is doing it.” Indeed, within the structural framework of his excellent writing, one also finds all the elements from his other endeavors—the pop sensibilities of The Blam, the lyrical force of Flugente, the layered beauty of Wave Sleep Wave, and the sound-as-music ethos of Arranged Marriage NP. Time will tell if EX OH is home or just another stop along the way for Jerry Adler. For now, it’s another adventurous record from a curious artist.