Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Rudder - "Matorning" (Nineteen-Eight Records)

So I recently got a copy of “Matorning”, the new album from NYC based group Rudder on Nineteen-Eight Records. I’ll get the interest declaration out of the way right now, and state that I’m related to one of the band. Whatever about that, I’m not one for plugging stuff that I don’t like, plus you can get audio clips on the web and decide for yourself.

Where was I – oh yes, the album. So, they are all great musicians, and they’ve got a sense of humour. Rudder are a four-piece, composed of Keith Carlock on drums, Tim Lefebvre on bass, Henry Hey on keyboards, and Chris Cheek on saxaphones. They’ve all done various famous stuff, including Steely Dan, Saturday Night Live, Rod Stewart plus their own projects - you name it.

To the album. The band claim to “feed the intense craving for [an] organic and phenomenal groove experience". Now I'm all about phenomenal groove experiences (although they typically are more likely to be supplied by rigorously quantised machines, but that's a subject for another day) - so giving the ten-track “Matorning” a spin is particularly interesting, as my 'phenomenal' threshold for grooves is set pretty high.

First to hit is “3H Club”, and within 3 seconds it’s an experience alright, with an insistent groove getting hit from here to next week while the edge-of-distortion bass grumbles over the top and the keyboards vamp around. It’s difficult to describe the genre, but it’s a good genre whatever it is. Just when you think it’s going to be a pure bass groove, the sax appears and leads the whole track in to a more classical jazz mode, joined in a second by an organ. Every so often it breaks, and every time it comes back (for an organ solo, then a stomping building jam, then a sax workout, then the main tune again), the groove seems heavier and more insistant. 3H Club runs for a touch over 7 minutes, and every time you think you have a label that you could pin on it, something happens to make you think again.

If you weren’t sure about the electicism after the first track, then the rest of the album will definitely sort you out. While the theme of jazz and jamming runs across the whole album (although this is udpated jazz - without being different-planet unlistenable), the extra ingredients are always being mixed. “Toyko Chicken” adds electrified and cheeky ska-punk, “Lucy” distills a stunningly contemplative downtempo track into the most plaintive sax melody, “One Note Mosh” is an urgent and musical car chase.

Usually anything with 7 beats in the bar sounds horrifically indulgent, but on “Jackass Surcharge”, Rudder manage to get those beats in (or take them out) to come up with a stunningly funky looping monster, without sounding deliberately clever – it’s good solid fun.

The second half of the album is just as good – from the deranged offkilter “Innit” (where did that title come from - aren’t these guys supposed to be American?) to the hilariously titled “Lucky Beard” which seems (amongst other things) to have a time signature which simultaneously leans two ways. Devastatingly funky. “Daitu” comes across almost like a sub-acid-house jam, all distortion and looping, loping bass – custom made for a big PA. Then it’s in to the last two on the album, with the frantic and claustrophobic 2 minutes of jamming that is “Neppe” leaving on to the finale, “CDL”, which appears in a sweep of pads and effects, until a repeating bassline and piano motif opens up the track and reveals (together with “Lucy”) the most commercial sound on the whole record, as straight powerful chords underpin an arching sax tune as the band drive inexorably towards the end in a deliberate and articulate full stop on the ten tracks.

The music itself really is great, and suprisingly easy and engaging to listen to for something that has so many ideas. The mix of players sounds right too - if you haven’t noticed by the end how well the band work together, then you need to listen again – the effortless and easy flow of the sax, the always-in-the-right-place stylings of the keyboards, the busy and hugely effective work going on all the time in the bass, and the freakishly metronomic and funky drums, it’s effortlessly musical, and highly recommended. Just don’t ask me what to call it.

Tuneful, thought-provoking, and funky to the point of uncontrollably danceable, Rudder supply music to snap genres by.

If they are this heavy, engaging and funky on record, you wouldn’t want to miss them live...

1 comment:

patrick said...

Sounds great - I'll definitely check them out.