David Grubbs, Jim O’Rourke’s future Gastr del Sol partner, formed Bastro after the end of Squirrel Bait; the Kentucky-born guitarist/singer recorded the band’s six-song debut with only a former bandmate, bassist Clark Johnson, and a rhythm machine. Bringing drummer John McEntire into the lineup, the trio made Bastro Diablo Guapo, an above-average LP that embraces — but isn’t consumed by — Chicago-styled thrash noise. Rather than careen around like a rhinoceros plugged into an electric socket, Bastro stays tight, well-structured and musical, even when engaging in meltdown firepower.
Sing the Troubled Beast tempers Grubbs’ extremist instincts to reveal a rough but stately melodic side, and an affecting poetic sensibility. The guitar has the rich textures of a Hammond organ (an instrument which, along with piano, makes an occasional appearance here); the rhythm section demonstrates the facility to dig trenches or drop back to small-scale time-keeping. While “The Sifter” is either a disastrous mastering mistake or just a pointless bit of transistorized foolishness, the haunting, somber “Tobacco in the Sink” crystallizes Bastro’s achievements.