Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Magnatite's "Fifth Level En Route"

Magnatite is the brainchild of Sam Damask, bassist extraordinaire and a familiar of local heavy hitters Bill Pohl (ex-Underground Railroad, now with Colorado's Thinking Plague), Big Mike Richardson, and the Fort's theatrical-metal answer to Devo, Urizen (a couple of whose members guest on Magnatite's debut, on a tour de force called "Eat Shit and Die" that betrays Sam's roots in prog and metal). He once led a Denton-based funk-metal horn band called Little Brian, whose CD I dug real much, but soon after its release, Sam departed li'l d, first for Austin, then for Boston University, where he studied electrical engineering. Now he's back in the Metromess. Lucky us.

Onstage, Magnatite is a four-piece, with guitarists Selden Tual and Zach Smith filling out the front line, but on record, it's basically Sam and drummer Bo Thomas with occasional assistance. (While Sam doesn't rate himself as a guitarist, he's fluent enough on the six-string axe to play Kirk Hammett in Big Mike's Metallica project.)

Magnatite's funk is stripped down to the essence, which is to say, the groove. Most post-RHCP white funkateers overplay like a mofo, but Sam knows that in funk, simplicity is the key; the lock that makes the groove comes from the subtle interplay of multiple repeating parts. Even when he flaunts his impressive chops (as he does on "What's In Your Wallet"), it's always in service of the One. Sometimes the spareness of the tracks cries out for another instrument (a keyboard, say), but when it's working, as it is on the opening "Cryptography" (replete with a vocoder that summons the spirits of Zapp and Roger), "Return of the Fly," "Gangsta Jam," and "Astral Travel," a casual listener might think they were listening to an outtake from Motor Booty Affair or Electric Spanking of War Babies. Get down in this filthy mess and wallow around. It'll get good to you.


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