August 8, 2013

Do you like this?

Percussionist Mike Pride’s new album Drummer’s Corpse, released at the same time as his radically different Birthing Days, is the pointedly less accessible of the two albums, featuring two lengthy and thorny suites that comprise the hour-long outing. The 33-minute title track, which features eight additional percussionists plus guitarist Chris Welcome, begins with gong hits and occasional pain cries, before the sonic onslaught commences properly with a wall of dissonance and little semblance of melody, going for pure visceral impact. Its irregular drum beats and cymbal hits have extreme stereo separation, for maximum disorientation, and the vocals evolve into yells and, eventually, screams. Over the course of the piece, the intensity manages to increase steadily, with a step up around the 8-minute mark with an increased frequency of drum hits and guitar-strumming speed. One could hear it as an extension of saxophonist/composer John Zorn’s thrash-jazz aesthetic or ’60s free jazz, like John Coltrane’s classic Ascension, and Pride has stated that this album is intended to be his own Ascension, a scream against violence, and a “howl of strength, power and self-reliance.”

The second piece, “Some Will Die Animals,” is another personal expression, created as a tribute to Pride’s friend and fellow musician Gen Makino who committed suicide, and while it’s not as dense as the title track, it’s as complicated and enigmatic. An upright bass provides a drone while unpredictable guitar picking perforates the piece, with the most expressive playing coming from the sporadic, explosive drum hits. Two puzzling segments are embedded, featuring faux news broadcasts from two men and two women speaking simultaneously. Drummer’s Corpse is not precisely noise, metal or free jazz, but it’s some kind of glorious, nourishing and monstrous fireball of sound and abstract aural splatter—two distinctly uncompromising, unsettling love-it-or-hate-it statements.

While the current standard bearer for retro soul is the Daptone Records family led by Gabriel Roth, best known for work with Amy Winehouse and Sharon Jones, there’s a healthy contingent of worthy soul/funk revivalists working domestically and abroad, including the Finnish outfit The Soul Investigators and the record label Timmion. The Soul Investigators, known for working with singer Nicole Willis, have now teamed up with the East Coast/West Coast vocal duo Myron & E for the debut collaboration Broadway on Stones Throw Records. Former dancer Myron Glasper, from South Central L.A., and Eric “E da Boss” Cooke, from Newark, New Jersey, met while touring with Blackalicious, and their voices meld together nicely, like on the track “On Broadway,” where they sing in tandem, separated by an octave. Their singing is smooth and seemingly effortless, and the duo is content to not modulate their voices or ham it up with dramatic affectations.

The Soul Investigators prove to be seasoned soul-funk players, with that style that is balanced and never overstated. They can slyly carry a groove by doing a lot with a little, like on “Do It Do It Disco,” which draws the listener in with a basic drum beat and tambourine shake, gingerly adding a bass line backbone, guitar strums, and organ chords. Broadway was recorded cleanly and carefully, and it doesn’t quite have the retro studio-effect obsession that other peers have, although “Back N Forth” offers a stylistic departure with an odd echo effect; string and brass flourishes are used with a small ensemble, instead of the Hitsville orchestral accompaniments of classic recordings. Broadway is not belted-out, heart-wrenching soul; instead, it offers a velvety tenderness from Myron & E and a satisfying nostalgia, alternating between an easy-going reverence and a spirited get-on-your-feet energy.


August 8, 2013

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