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Published: 2003/01/23
by Mike Greenhaus

Analog Hi-Fi Surprise – Mushroom

Weed 7910
For a band called Mushroom, this San Francisco sextet isn’t too trippy. Sure,
their jazz-funk-fusion embodies much of what the modern term "jamband" has
come to mean. But, their music is tight and up-tempo, focused in its
exploration.
Recorded and originally released in 1999, Analog Hi-Fi Surprise
does live up to its title. Remasterd, repackaged, and reissued with
four new tracks, Analog Hi-Fi takes the group’s raw,
underground energy and buffs its sound with clean production and
high-quality recordings. Shifting between funk, jazz, trance, and the violin
on "October 1970", Analog Hi-Fi is a fast paced and easily danceable
disc; in many ways a jamband variety pack.
Opening with the funky "Jamming with Erik", a new track for the reissue,
Mushroom unleashes their two-keyboard attack from the get-go. Part
space-rock, part Herbie Hancock dance party, Mushroom’s sound is keyboard
driven, even as the disc gives its best solos to the group’s two guitarists.
Band newcomer Michael Holt plays a Rhodes electric piano, while original
space pioneer Graham Connah pumps away on a heavy organ. And the duo duel,
each adding electric sounds and trance-rhythms. Laying down a drumbeat as
precise as a clock, drummer and occasional bongo player Patrick O’Hearn
holds things together while the group’ss keyboardists and lead guitarist Erik
Pearson stretch the songs out in every direction.
With each track written and arranged by the full band, Analog Hi-Fi
is highly collaborative, with O’Hearn during double duty as the disc’s
producer. "Rackets" sounds like an updated version of Herbie Hancock’s
Headhunters-era jams, with subtle synthesizers and electric piano
licks break the group’s deep funk. Starting off with a short solo by
Olmstead, "The Theme from the Movie ORock Bottom’" has the raw energy of a
rock song, packed into a tight, fusion nugget. The drums pound and the
keyboards loop, as Olmstead’s pronounced guitar takes center stage, at times
recalling Phish’s funnier moments. "Abbie Hoffman" opens with some guitar
duels between Olmstead and "snake guitarist" Erik Pearson before flowing
gently into a free-form jam session. "Mother’s, Birmingham 3:00 AM", another
new cut, leans towards the group’s jazzier side, evoking the spacey sounds
the group’s fungi title suggests.
So, is Mushrooms sound completely groundbreaking? No. Yet, the group puts
an exciting spin on several sounds overused within the burgeoning jamband
community. While many jazz-funk combos get caught in their groove, loosing
their sense of exploration and drowning their own energy, Mushroom use their
trance tendencies to hold their sound-together. When "Mother’s" begins to
sound repetitive four minutes in, Mushroom’s excellent keyboardists tickle
their plastic ivory and make the song once again exciting and fresh
sounding. Instead of filling the group’s large sound with horns and
auxiliary percussionists, like so many jazz-funk based units, Mushrooms
two-guitar/two-keyboard lineup is refreshing, adding the competitive edge
that keeps any instrumental collective sounding new. In many ways, Analog
Hi-fi Surprise, foreshadows the evolution of improvisational music, in
which even college-funk can dance trance.

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