Friday, August 9, 2013
Up From the Underground:The Tomas Doncker Band - "Power of the Trinity...A Slight Return"
O.k. We are really going past the bounds of what we normally cover but there is more common ground than you might suspect, if for no other reason than the fact this is a Bill Laswell project who not only helmed avant garde jazz metal outfit Painkiller but worked with John Zorn and Swans and it's not Dead Can Dance but if you are a fan of world music, then this release is worth checking out and frankly has me thinking that I quit smoking pot a decade too soon, as I would have gotten a lot of play from this album back in my bong's glory days. There is a coat of psychedelics over their jazz-inflected funk. It takes you back to the glory days of Parliament Funkadelic.
From the start it's evident Tomas has surrounded himself with the cream of the crop, when it comes to the players he has on this thing. Bill Laswell's wife Ethiopian singer Gigi, is featured on the opening track "Brooklyn2Ethiopia" appear on the album, along. The more rock tinged guitars are handled by Laswell protégé James Dellatacoma. The quasi-rasta spiritual overtones to the lyrical content is much more evolved, than your run of the mill funk outfit.
Laswell's bass playing is prominent on "We Need Justice" along with Trombonist Joe Bowie from the fusion act , Defunkt lends his talents to the track. There is a wider exploration and emersion of genres on this song, though none of the experimentation burdens the groove but enhances it along with the more etheric touches of female vocals that glide in over the second half of the song, brings texture that takes it beyond the urban funk and into other dimensions.
Laswell returns to provide the low end Curtis Mayfeild bump of "Peace ( Hold on). The song is flawless, the layers of backing vocals are as breathtaking as they are smooth. The soulful resonance of Doncker's voice is best displayed here and shines in the call and response section.
"Habesha Girl" takes on more of an electronic element. The vocals on this album don't bother with western pop conventions, yet are not devoid of hooks. Doncker's voice shines in the layered harmonies preceding the verses. The turn to dance hall, is a little jarring despite the fluid backdrop.
Afrika Bambaataa's right hand man Charlie Funk shows up on the track "Happy" that holds a 70's funk groove and is the album's most straight forward song, relying on the elegant guitar that slides in through the cracks in the bass line, to make it interesting.
Ethiopian singer Mahmoud Ahmed appears on the blues soaked "Abet Guarage" This song seems like more of a live jam and doesn't adorn itself with the multi layered back drops the others have. It's a celebratory closer that makes sense but compared to the other songs lacks some of the surprises. I think it is more of a showcase for Doncker's guitar playing which amid all of the varied genres touched on here is most at home playing the blues as he highlighted on the Howlin Wolf tribute he released this year.
It comes down to a matter of taste, and how expansive yours is if you will dig this album, it's air tight in both execution and intention. Doncker has perfectly achieved to make the album that was in his mind and got by with a little help from his friends.