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Published: 2012/03/07
by Brian Robbins

The Royal Noise
Keep On Moving


What you realize not long into Keep On Moving, the debut album by The Royal Noise, is that the whole band – the whole damn band – is a pack of rhythm devils. And I’m not just talking about the obvious stuff, like the scary telepathy going on among drummer Jonathan Proffitt, percussionist Andrew Robertson, and bassist Darius Shepherd (those three are so deadly in-sync I bet they finish each other’s sentences). I mean, listen to Frank Quinn’s tasty keyboard work or Mike LaBombard’s soul-soaked sax playing (and some fine B3, as well): they can be as melodic as hell, but it’s all about the groove first and foremost. Or take guitarist Johan Harvey, who can wukka-wukka a wah pedal right off its hinges or slather on some creamy leads as needed – the man is another slave to the pocket if there ever was one.

Yep: a clear case of a half-dozen souls consumed by percussion poltergeists … and there are only two things they could have done: call an exorcist or form a kick-ass jazz/funk band. Fortunately for us, The Royal Noise gave in to the beat beast and did the latter.

Masters of both stop-on-a-dime pre-arranged shape-shifts and let-it-flow-for-now jams, The Royal Noise know how to keep things interesting without making it too busy. Consider “Fish Grease (Don’t Freeze)”: it doesn’t take but the first minute to establish the tune’s gooey funkiness – from there, LaBombard is let loose to blow, blow, blow a living gale of sax. Harvey and the keys step in with a lurching Frankenstein rhythm that challenges the drums … but it’s no problem: the groove is recaptured, no sweat.

The stop-and-go of “Be Yourself” establishes the band’s talent for moving as one, exploding into the powerful main theme of “Ten Fidy!” just as naturally as can be – a showcase for some fretboard twists by Harvey and a Latin-flavored sax romp by LaBombard. “Drop That Catfoot” is another great example of complex rhythm switch-ups without clutter; Shepherd’s bass leads the way along “Congress St, 2a.m.” with the coolest of gaits before giving way to a tension-filled final minute; “Ham Sandwich” may make you think of Galactic at their funkiest; and “Flying” is just plain beautiful.

On the album-closing “Back At The Bakery”, Proffitt and Robertson lead the way through a “Baba Jingo”-like churn. Shepherd triples-up the song’s driving pulse while Quinn’s wailing keys only add to the urgency. Ever so gently, the tempo begins to ease, gradually slowing enough to let LaBombard’s sultry sax slink through. A pause, a few long deep breaths, miles-deep cymbal sizzle, and a big suspended organ chord leads to funky-but-clean guitar by Harvey; waa- woomp goes the bass and the band achieves a gentle lift off … having gone effortlessly from a sweat-soaked-and-crazy 1:00 AM tumble to a gentle Sunday afternoon walk in the park.

How does The Royal Noise do that?

I don’t know, but I’m glad they do.

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