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Published: 2002/10/25
by Chris Gardner

Mostly Ape – Drums & Tuba

Righteous Babe Records 028-D

It's not a gimmick. No name screams it more, but Drums & Tuba is not a
gimmick. The
group has evolved from a sidewalk duo, devised as a stripped-down marching
band, to the current genre-bending trio (the "&" is esoteric code for
guitar). The New York trio fleshes the sound out with a dizzying array of
effects pedals – digital delays, pitch-shifters (like that of Reed Mathis of
Jacob Fred fame), a trio of Jam-mans (ala
Keller Williams), and a bevy of
other assorted trinkets, oddities and novelties. Such a spread would
overwhelm many an artist, but for D&T, these gizmos are truly the tools of
the trade.

Neither Brian Wolff (tuba/trumpet) nor Neal McKeeby (guitars)
bogs himself down with narcissistic navel-gazing these devices so often
inspire. The toys are never cracked out of the toy box unnecessarily. Each
purposeful note of Mostly Ape resonates, and, more often than not,
layers of seamless loops reveal themselves only upon close inspection.
Producer/sound technician Andrew "Goat Boy" Gilchrist beautifully captures
the result, a forward-looking, eclectic sound collage that embodies the
essence of progressive music, springing forth fully formed from a morass of
blended musical traditions, reeking of fermented newness.

The compositions, while often painstakingly constructed, breathe easy
breaths. The focus often falls on the sound, and "Name That Instrument"
presents a particular challenge. The questions tumble freely. Trumpet?
Tuba with a pitch-shifter? Electronic whatsit? Weird guitar effect? When
did that loop start? How many layers are there in that loop? Is it
all brass, or is there guitar buried in there too? Is there any chance they
can pull that off live? (The answer here is seemingly "yes", as the album
recorded "live " in the studio.) Sounds like New Orleans, doesn't it? What
the hell
makes that noise, a whale?

Part of the fun is the mind game. The compositions create dense, puzzling
layers that compel repeated, close listenings and constant rewindings, and
one can while away countless hours dissecting the tracks, peeling back
layers. It's heady stuff, but that's not half the fun. Better than the
grasping is the letting go.
(I sound like Yoda.) D&T will pour over you. Mostly Ape does not
prerequisites. You need not be versed in jazz history nor the evolution of
New Orleans marching bands. You need not be an experimental music freak nor
a gearhead. Just sit back and absorb. The carefully constructed sounds
effortless. The dense feels free of clutter. The otherworldly feels

From broken record outro of "Igor Rosso" to the sneaky and irresistible
brass loop of "Clashing" to the "Third Stone"-ish closer, "Magoo", the
tracks of Mostly Ape transcend the joys of deconstruction, coalescing
into jarring, unpredictable, and often beautiful songs. The warm simplicity
of the final product belies its methodical underpinnings, leaving an
engaging listen that improves with each spin.

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