Show: With Time Is Fire and Insect Factory on Saturday at the Black Cat. Doors open at 9 p.m. 202-667-4490. blackcatdc.com. $12.
The new collaboration of art-punk guitarists Thalia Zedek and Jason Sanford and drummer Gavin McCarthy was not named E for a guitar chord or the most common English letter. Neither is it an attempt to bewilder Internet search engines. The name is intended as a sort of pictograph, with three equal lines to symbolize the parity of the musicians’ contributions.
Zedek, a Montgomery County native who’s played with such groups as Come and Live Skull, is the best known member. But she doesn’t dominate E’s sound, which is characterized by shifting interplay. All three members of the Boston trio sing, and McCarthy’s drums are just as likely to lead as Sanford’s homemade guitar, one of many instruments he’s fabricated from found objects. The resulting music is often noisy, yet includes gentle passages. One song is called “Delicate Fingers,” and the title is not ironic.
Although E’s music can slow down or chill out, it never relaxes. Tension is key, whether it’s expressed by parrying guitars or crisscrossing vocals. As Sanford repeats the title of “I Want to Feel Good,” his chant overlaps Zedek’s immigrant lament of “I wasn’t born this place.” Change and struggle are in every note E produces.