Mako Sica (meaning "bad lands") is a three-piece band from Chicago formed in 2007. With two members (Przemyslaw Drazek and Michael Kendrick) formerly of the band Rope on the Family Vinyard imprint and a new singer (Brent Fuscaldo), the group combines dissonant, classical-influenced arrangements with wordless, mantra-like singing and a bluesy rhythm section. In the spirit of Chicago's explorative artists such as the legendary Sun Ra, The Art Ensemble of Chicago, and even US Maple (whose guitarist Todd Rittmann recorded Mako Sica's debut), they create a sound that is all their own. Mako Sica uses guitars, drums, trumpet, and at times extra percussion and electric thumb piano to produce songs in the vein of Amon Duul, Hex-era Earth and the out-there reaches of the Impulse Records catalog. The band uses a group-mind aesthetic and an uncanny dose of negative space that charms the listener to be a part of the music.
"Fate Deals A Hand" is a 21-minute long opus stretching across side A. Its title is drawn from a painting by Chicago painter Andre
Daugavietis, whose work also covers the band's "Essence" release on cassette. This song is broken down in four movements -- "Pharoah Speak," "Matnia," "The Gulf's Mirror" and "Slick Belly of a Beast." It is an offering in respect to Mother Nature and her supreme might. In light of the Deepwater Horizon and Hurricane Katrina tragedies that ravaged America's Delta areas, the composition routes storm paths and the complex emotions impossible to express in words. "Pharaoh Speak" begins with a slide guitar voicing Middle-Eastern melodies along with a high-pitched calling of vocals. It's meditative and calm before the uprising of noise and sheer majestic beauty of the apex is reached. A grand statement of Mother Nature's power and beauty in the highest order. The next section, "Matnia" understates a low-rumbling bass line as the gods breathe in and out a message of warning. The pace picks up and a celebration dance breaks out, hearkening a Klezmer-like melody line. This is a moment of sheer bliss, turning a blind eye to the land and only pursuit of selfish desires and negligence. "The Gulf's Mirror" is a time of self reflection and peace. As the music is reduced to percussion and voice, a trumpet enters with somber tones bringing reverence to the land. "Slick Belly of a Beast" brutally portrays the greed and shameless harm caused by the 2010 oil spill. Consequences of this mistake are evoked in crushing detail.
Also inspired by a painting (this time by artist Albert Ryder), "On Cracked Sea" explores the abstract, the impossible, the beautiful element of a sea violently splitting as if dry. This image is carved in the opening section "Invisible Barriers" which is a fragmented groove and guitar lead that's part Surf Rock, Appalachian dulcimer picking, and Reinhart-esque in phrasing. The band settles into a romantic groove and repeated vocal line in "Black Waters", under which the whale calls of a guitar and scattered percussion pierces through. At the eight-minute mark, a blues-inspired section pays homage to Chicago's famous Maxwell Street Market. This open air market brought together a cross-section of people from all backgrounds and ethnicities into one small but culturally rich space - the haves and the have-nots - in an exchange of "hot" items, culture, and the blues. As Chicago has long been a camouflaged map of neighborhoods divided by socio-economical factors, Maxwell Street illustrated the beauty of coexistence and opportunity. The last section, "Unity," is a neverending chapter that acknowledges all connected beings in one force.
The final composition, "Chain Leg", paints the triumphant arc of a prisoner who is set free. We can still see slavery in many forms within our society and affecting all groups regardless of class, gender, or race, as well as to institutions, political boundaries, emotions and human desires. "Chain Leg" conjures the moans of a captive who wishes for nothing more than to break free from confinement, and eventual escape into an ideal freedom. It is a story of hope and relentless commitment to fight these forms of slavery, and always be true to oneself. "Chain Leg" represents Mako Sica's journey into a long line of musical stories documenting struggle and the human spirit.