The great jazz/folk/avant guitarist Bill Frisell can always be counted on for an adventurous musical outing, whether he’s working in a trio setting where he’s the leader, helping out on someone else’s CD, or, as he is here, part of a democratic quartet. Actually, only two of the members of Floratone are players: Frisell, on an arsenal of electric and acoustic guitars that are often looped and usually effected; and the much-in-demand drummer Matt Chamberlain, whose percussion work is also looped and channeled through piles of both subtle and extreme electronics. The other two in the foursome are both listed as producers and have considerable history with Frisell: Tucker Martine (who also engineered) and long-time associate Lee Townshend. All four are credited with composing the tracks, which vary in tone from dark, swampy funk to more ethereal journeys. The presence of Ron Miles on cornet (also altered electronically in many instances) on nearly half the tracks gives some of the disc a sort of Bitches Brew quality, and two other guests also add intriguing colors to the polyglot of rhythms and styles: bassist Viktor Krauss and viola player Eyvind Kang. Never predictable, the music ebbs and flows and jerks and tumbles in so many interesting directions it makes my head spin, yet for all the unusual sonic treatments and twists and turns in the music, it never veers too far into true dissonance, and a bright melody always seems to be lurking around the next musical corner. Frisell is, as always, endlessly inventive—never showing off, but still coming up with mind-blowing ideas. A lot of the power of this particular project, however, comes from the interplay of the musicians to create intriguing natural and electronic grooves In the wide spectrum of Frisell’s work, this has some of the feeling of parts of Blues Dream (the horn arrangements) and The Intercontinentals, but it’s also clearly a new and very different animal. Highly recommended to those with adventurous taste.
Must Plays: “Floratone,” “The Passenger”
Producers: Floratone. Engineer: Tucker Martine. Studios: Flora and Studio Litho (Seattle), Studio Soundworks (San Francisco; mixing). Mastering: Greg Calbi/Sterling.