Down With Gravity – Forever Einstein
Cuneiform Records 136
Forever Einstein forges its own brand of fusion on "Down With Gravity".
On paper, jazz fusion was a great idea. Take top-notch jazz musicians,
inject the arrangements with pop sensibilities, and voila!: accessible, smart
music. But a funny thing happened on the way to the Spyro Gyra concert; a lot
of jazz fusion, thanks to overproduction and cheesy synthesizer sounds,
simply sounded like Muzak, or at least New Age crap.
Then Forever Einstein chimed in.
Instead of fusing jazz with pop, this trio blends jazz with punk, prog,
and emo, to name a few. Think the chops of Medeski Martin and Wood – or Primus
for that matter – with the tortured soul of Sunny Day Real Estate.
The first track kicks off with some surf guitar – this element is
prominent throughout the disc – and some busy drumming. Early on, it’s
apparent that drummer John Roulat does not subscribe to the "less is more"
philosophy and, while his fills are clearly well played, they’re not always
well thought out. Sometimes the most important notes are the ones you don’t
play, and Roulat will be well-served to take that approach in the future.
Regardless, the opening track – I’m forgoing song titles, because they are
funny but lengthy, like track one, Maybe spending the rest
of your life in a madhouse will teach you some manners – is a catchy contrast
of dark and light, with some nice shading thanks to guitarist Chuck Vrtacek.
The second song on this instrumental album has a nice melodic chorus
and eventually morphs into a noisy, prog-rock section. Then more surf guitar
with some dark, King Crimson-esque riffing.
Other highlights are the calypso beats that should appeal to String
Cheese Incident fans on the third track and a Celtic guitar line on the
fourth track. Track four also includes a well-played, melodic bass mini-solo
by Jack Vees, backed by some old-school rock and roll rhythm guitar.
While Forever Einstein’s music defies classification, it might be easier
to discern what their music isn’t. This is not a jam band, at least not on
album. There are elements here that are sure to appeal to jam fans – jazzy
arrangements, quirky playing and strong musicianship – but Forever Einstein
are clearly not interested in jumping on the jam wagon, although it would
probably result in an instant, sizable fan base.
Forever Einstein should be commended for blending countless musical
styles without spreading themselves too thin. "Fighting Gravity" is clearly
ambitious, but not too high-brow to alienate the masses. These guys can rock,
swing or funk things up, sometimes doing all three in one song. The only
drawback may be the do-it-yourself sounding production that especially leaves
a lot to be desired in the drum sound, specifically the cymbals. But that’s
part of recording on an indie label, and maybe part of the charm of this refreshing, eclectic and enjoyable album.