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The band's moniker--inspired by malt liquor and Mick Jagger--is highly deceptive. Malt Swagger sound like they'd be a beer-fueled, cock-rock extravaganza. Actually, the five-piece collective, headed by guitarist Lyndon B. Jernigan (formerly of What Peggy Wants) and Durham artist/bartender/drummer extraordinaire Mark Cunningham, are a vibes-driven, suits-wearin' instrumental band.

The Lost Pilot, the band's debut album, could be a creepy Angelo Badalamenti soundtrack for a Bermuda Triangle mishap--a lost ship piloted by ghostly mariners. Steve Carter's bell-like vibe tones resound through the watery deep, while scratchy guitars, keyboards and "clanks and rattles" contribute to the eerie mood. Jernigan's tastes run from a fascination with "all things German" to Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, but The Lost Pilot primarily reflects a reverence for the film scores of Ennio Morricone and Henry Mancini.

Beginning with "Fried Pink," the nautical adventure moves through a series of calms and storms, much like a ship yawing on the waves. The album includes two of the "Karl songs," a narrative series the band has been working on for much of its six years. The only vocal appears on the track "MC Torgeau"--a scat singin' bit that's pure Popeye.

While The Lost Pilot has sold out of its first pressing, it should be back in the stores next month. In the meantime, check out one of Malt Swagger's gigs for an added bonus: Cunningham chronicles the band's adventures--say, whoopin' alien butt--in a mini-comic he gives out at shows.

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