Tuesday, May 17, 2011

The Graves Brothers Deluxe's "San Malo"

I'm not familiar with the Graves Brothers Deluxe's earlier work, so I came to San Malo without preconceptions (although after hearing it, I did learn of a 2009 collaboration with Acid Mothers Temple's Kawabata Makoto and the Boredoms' Yamamoto Seiichi that sounds intriguing). But from the opening notes of "San Malo National Anthem," which begins in minimalist fashion and builds to a full-blown funk overture, it was clear that something extraordinary is afoot here.

Fronted by NOLA native Stoo Odom (who sings and plays bass), the band plays a post hip-hop psychedelic rock, like a bayou Led Zeppelin oozing swampy funk, urban grit, and instruments that sound like they're sampled even when they're not. The music on San Malo was inspired by the story of St. Malo, Louisiana, a fishing village founded by ship-jumping Filipinos who participated in the Battle of New Orleans during the War of 1812 and somehow managed to keep their village's existence a secret from the outside world for over a century, until journo Lafcadio Hearn lifted the lid in an 1883 Harper's Weekly story. The village was destroyed by the New Orleans hurricane of 1915.

You wouldn't glean any of the aforementioned historical details by listening to the rekkid, and that's fine. It's more of a spiritual inspiration than a literal foundation. The music is tense and edgy, with a tinge of apocalyptic dread that's hammered home by tunes like "Five Foot Category Five" and "My Heart Burned Down Today" (sample lyric: "See my love in the black smoke in the sky").

You don't need any knowledge of the programmatic intent, however, to groove to jams like "Papio Papio (The Swamp Ape Again)," which lends cinematic sweep to what sounds like a demented Dick Dale on the loose with a wah-wah pedal; "The Ballad of San Malo," which boasts a drunken-sounding, dissonant riff like the one that powered Led Zep's "Dancing Days;" or the climactic "Noisy Kind of Nothing," which unleashes the full force of guitarist/saxophonist Willy the Mailman's unhinged chaos-slide. The closing "Song for Mating Mailmen" is a free jazz blowout to rival the Stooges' "L.A. Blues." Overall, a fine mess to wallow in.


Blogger Booty Chesterfield said...

These guys kick ass in a live environment too. They tour the US and Europe yearly and I recommend seeing them if they come to your town. You can tell that these cats have been playing together for quite some time. It really comes across in their shows.

2:06 PM  

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