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Existing somewhere on the overlapping flanges of extreme metal, avant-garde jazz, and progressive rock, the Washington, D.C.-based duo Orthrelm specializes in intricately composed guitar-drum instrumentals of vast, almost alien complexity. The band formed in mid-2000 when guitarist Mick Barr (formerly one half of Crom-Tech) sent drummer Josh Blair, then based in New York, a tape of songs he had been working on over the last several years and wanted to put to rest. Blair then came up with drum parts to go along with what Barr had sent him and the results were eventually recorded and released on the Virginia-based Tolotta label as the Iorxhscimtor EP in 2001. Blair, who despite the heavily composed nature of Orthrelm's music has spent most of his musical career doing improvisation, soon moved to the D.C. area. The two were allowed to work more closely on songwriting, which they became prolific at, with several more releases coming out over the next couple of years. These included Asristirveildrioxe -- the duo's first release, a 99-track, 12-minute extravaganza released on the Troubleman Unlimited imprint in 2001 -- as well as a split CD with the New York drum'n'bass duo Touchdown in 2002, also on Troubleman Unlimited. Further releases came later on San Diego's Three One G and Boston's Hydra Head. During this time, Orthrelm also toured heavily, sharing the stage with such bands as the Locust, the Flying Luttenbachers, Lightning Bolt, Arab on Radar, Total Shutdown, Thoughtstreams, Pithot, and others, often combining their songs into giant, set-length suites of 30 minutes or more. In addition to playing in Orthrelm, Blair also plays in the more improv-oriented group the ABCs, while Barr has a solo side project known as Octis, which explores similar territory as Orthrelm but with a drum machine instead of real drums. ~ William York

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