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Published: 2008/08/22
by Matt Brockett

w00t – Garaj Mahal

Owl Studios

When you get players of this caliber together, more often than not the resulting music can end up trading technical virtuosity for listenability, but that is most definitely not the case with the dance-inducing grooves of Garaj Mahal. This is music that attracts both musicians and dancefloor denizens — complex and inventive at its core, with a shut up and listen booty-moving exterior. Its funk fusion for the people, not just the jazz heads.

The elastic Semos starts things off with the band undulating, drifting far away from each other and going in their own directions, and just when one wonders exactly what he’s listening to, they fly into an unbelievably tight groove. They do this several times before the nearly ten-minute song ends, with each new journey covering even more adventurous ground than the last. Eric Levys funky ass keys kick off Hotel and the funk just gets dirtier from there, with Kai Eckhardts so thick you can sink your teeth into em bass grooves laying the foundation. The prog-fusion of Pundit-Ji sounds akin to some of Frank Zappas most impressive forays into the sadly underappreciated genre, with Fareed Haques soaring leads and the unique tones of his Moog guitar. He even switches over to acoustic briefly during the song, to change the sound up and let Levy tear it up on the synths for awhile.

7 Cows Jumping Over The Moon explores more of the free jazz side of the Garaj, with the occasional funky side trip, and features some of the albums only vocals, mostly scatting and chanting. The dreamy Corner Peace, with Haques mood-setting sitar work and the rich, full tone of Eckhardts bass has something of a 1990s Flecktones feel to it at times. The klezmer beginning of Ishmael and Isaac morphs several times over, with psychedelic sitar grooves, soaring synths and even a few brief moments flirting with darker sounds. Some rather realistic sound effects on Uptown Tipitinas give a clue into possibilities for the bands favorite extracurricular activity, and musically its just a pretty chill, slowly bouncing groove. The closing Jamies Jam, dedicated to Zillas Jamie Janover takes awhile to get off the ground, but its well worth the wait to hear the diverse peaks and pockets it builds into one after another.

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