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Published: 2010/02/08
by Randy Ray

Afroskull
To Obscurity and Beyond

self-released

New York via N’awlins with a whole lotta Detroit street smarts thrown in for good measure, Afroskull re-emerges with a new lineup but an old and reliable hold on da funk. Perhaps, being inspired by the eternal wandering spirit of New Orleans can have a lasting impact on any hard rock jazz fusion outfit, but the ‘Skull sounds positively re-born on their latest without too much of a change in their oddly unique blend
of soul and jam.

To Obscurity and Beyond opens with a car engine revving up, before heading out onto the city streets with a confident focus on the end in sight: “ya gots ta make it funky.” The ‘Skull CD features a universal grasp of hip shakin’ nuance and beat without becoming complacent within the various rhythmic structures, an oft-felt complaint about many funk outfits, and certainly something these cats have taken some
time to study.

Truth. This ain’t your drunk older brother’s New Yorkleans band. Anchored by original members Joe Scatassa on guitar and production and Jason Isaac on drums and percussion, and bolstered by a stellar horn section, Matt Iselin on keyboards, Dan Asher on bass, and Seth Moutal on percussion, there is a consistently accelerating arc ‘n pace, which seems to circumvent the myth that funk can only be.well, funky, and not rockin’. To groove is human, but to groove and rock is devilishly divine.

Everywhere, there is no dip in the band’s ability to push your ass onto the dance floor. Straight-up rock is pushed within a groove pocket (“Spyplane”), blues is explored from the grit underneath the surface (“Waste Management”), languid laziness is sidestepped with a fire-y sunset texture (“Me and My TV”), a lovely and patient narcotic sophistication is pondered and abandoned (“Dance of the Wild Koba”), a guitar riff offers temporary relief before the horn section supplements with a tethered call-and-response (“The Curse”), ambient jazz shimmers with a welcome freshness before another cool riff slaps some sense (“Redemption”), Zappa-like soul yelps and kicks with a cantankerous mood and features vocals by Michael Taylor from MoJEAUX Band (“Everything”), and speed funk shoots the ancient clock off the wall (“Zero Hour”).

The ‘Skull journey ends on To Obscurity and Beyond with the most exploratory piece on a CD which defies mundane genrefication and tepid classification. Appropriately enough, it is called “Escape from Rome,” and it neither appears ready to settle on a new destination, nor concerned with really understanding what the hell just happened. Some times in life, one just needs to hop in the damn car and take off. With the latest from Afroskull along for the ride, at least the tunes will kick it further on up the road.

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