Stonephace - Stonephace
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Well it does help if you get some serious musicians that see the vision so as sax player is Larry Stabbins (ex-Working Week), the guitar and bass are provided by Portishead’s Adrian Utley and Jim Barr (he of many projects including the very new and equally exciting Babel) and the hip-hop/beats are provided by Krysztof Oktalski (whose from that hot bed area avant-rave, Cornwall).
Older readers with know that Working Week were the jazz-dance equivalent of Franz “we just want to see people dance” Ferdinand in their day as the trendy/acceptable face of dancefloor for NME readers; ‘Venceremos’ squeezing in the John Peel Festive 50 at No. in 1984 with the album Working Nights reaching No. 23 the year later. As an aside, Portishead’s only ever Festival 50 entry was in 1994 at No. 8 with ‘Sour Times’; seems hard to believe?)
Anyway, back at Shonephace, the opening track ‘Wedgehead Gets Lucky’ actually starts like one of John Coltrane’s modal masterpieces (I kid you not) and then gets into a beat groove back with Stabbins’ flute, sax and acid jazz organ, some serious ‘bottom end’ by Barr and ‘bone by Helm DeVagas (who is also on keyboards and percussion). Think Natural Self goes go-go! I never got this lucky with my wedge.
After that killer start - it will be in Peterson’s top five tracks of 2009, ‘Yellow Brick Road’ (not that one) gets seriously acidified Yusef Lateef und Sa Ra garage; Barr is a brilliant plodding bass (not at all Get The Blessing; who have their own new album coming soon, Bugs In Amber) and we’re told the recording of Stonephace was arranged around the recording of Portishead’s Third album to accommodate Utley.
Talking of Utley, he gets his chance to show how gentle and refined he can be on the downtempo ‘White Queen Psychology’ that sees some (but not excessive) elctronic atmospherics. ‘Rotor’ is like the funky-samba version that’s come out of Luv’n’Haights’ dusty creates with sublime sax and Utley almost getting Hendrix like; this is going to kill the message board boys.
Stabbins’ flute arrangements have an air of 60s film score about them, particularly ‘Levels and Degrees of Light’ that’s picked up with the sax solo and guitar (really recommend turning your bass knob up to get the best of Barr).
I love the sleeve notes, “I listened to Madlib and Boards Of Canada and he listened to Keith Tippett (also check Sessions out on Tru-Thoughts) and early Soft Machine”. The closest to early Soft Machine is ‘Five Miles High’ which is strangely closest to West Coast underground with some serious percussion - yet another one for Carlos Niño’s ‘pyschedelic cosmic love from California’
Richard Edwards trombone is on the title track and dare I mention Guy Baker? He’s also on the title track that’s perhaps the most trip-hoppy of the set? Or even the most prog rock? Perhaps what defines Stonephace? Close on ten minutes of modal jazz consciousness explored: birth of the nu-cool-Ra?
For fans of the leftfield, the interludes are light relief until the Polar Bear-esque of ‘Essays For Alice’. Would they be brave enough to extend this one live? And the good news is that there is a live version of this band of Stabbins, Utley, Helm DeVegas (keys), Oktalski (beats/laptop) and visual provide by Stella Marina. Big Chill Festival is a must and this album slip in effortless next to Anthony Joseph’s Bird Head Son as essential 2009 listening.
Out on CD and a very limited special edition full CD plus 6-track vinyl release (that’s going to be very collectable) and you can order now from www.etchshop.co.uk.
Hectic Mix Nominations: ‘Five Miles High’, ‘Rotor’, ‘Wedgehead Gets Lucky’, ‘Levels And Degrees Of Light’, ‘Stonephace’
Reviewed: Stonephace - Stonephace (Tru-thoughts) Cat. No. TRUCD186 Release date: 20th April 2009
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