The Fun of Watching Fireworks
American Analog Set
Emperor Jones/Trance Syndicate
The term "space" is rapidly approaching overexposure, as is the genre (already the suspicion grows that it's becoming a refuge for those who can't really play, at least not fast). It's tempting to declare the whole thing over, but the American Analog Set's fine debut CD--preceded only by a 7-inch released this spring--begs you dally a little bit longer. Fireworks starts like a sunrise--or, more accurately, like a landscape being illuminated by a sunrise--with "diana slowburner ii" (also the A side on the 7-inch), a gradual emergence of tone and color, a slow deepening of texture that swells until everything can be plainly beheld. A springy guitar emerges from the current of "diana," propelling "on my way," an actual--that is to say, linear--song. The words are a bit murky--AAS uses them more in the service of mood than meaning--but when guitarist Andrew Kenny sings "I'm on my way" as the music gently pounces behind him, the feelings of liberation and release implicit in the title become clear.
AAS' tone is cool, detached but not distant; think of Galaxie 500 on half a Xanax and you're most of the way there, at least sometimes. Subdued guitar and Casio-class keyboard sounds combine to seduce the listener away from the literal and invite fancies for which they provide the soundtrack. Lo-fi need not mean low quality, AAS says with Fireworks, and while space may not be the final frontier, it's by no means fully mapped.
Eric "Scorch" Scortia
Heads Up Records
How can you not love the Hammond B-3 organ? The retro cachet, that warbling tone and warm-jet pulse all conspire to induce grins and toe-tapping before you can say "Jimmy Smith." Those who specialize in Hammond sounds know the comforts of the instruments' billowy sonic cushions, but they also have to know its limitations and how to maneuver within them.
Scortia does, employing a number of guests--including our own tenor saxman Marchel Ivery--whose contributions give Scortia a chance to rest and keep his solo turns fresh. On some tracks it's guitar; on others, sax, trumpet, or trombone. Scortia always has had a sense of humor about his playing, but Vital Organ finds him getting a bit more serious than he was on its predecessor, A Night on the Town. Gone are with-a-wink numbers like Roger Miller's "King of the Road," replaced by a tribute to Thelonious Monk ("Monk's Blues,") and a song by Miles Davis ("All Blues"). Scortia's own songwriting is better represented, and the songs' arrangements--as well as the playing--are more ambitious and overtly jazzy without seeming wilfully so. Vital Organ is Scortia's reminder that he has serious talent.