13 Nov 2015

Invisible Astro Healing Rhythm Quartet – 2

Reviewed by Todd Leiter-Weintraub (Hop On Pop)

The press materials that accompanied Invisible Astro Healing Rhythm Quartet’s second album claim that the band pulls a strong influence from the Ethiopian funk of the 70s and 80s. While I am certainly hearing those influences in bits and pieces, I am also hearing a lot more.

“Praise One” opens with some spacy, atmospheric synth and percussion, but then the full band kicks in with a groove that is reminiscent of the Thrill Jockey post-rock bands that came of age in the 1990s. However, the horn interplay looks back to Sun Ra’s Arkestra of the mid 70s, with some fine unison playing and mad electric piano that flits about in the background like an insane hummingbird. And I mean that as a good thing.

“Praise 2” begins with a loping country waltz that exposes the band’s Bakersfield roots. But then, in comes the Farfisa to turn that sound on its ear. Some nice clean-tone guitar melodies follow to reinforce the country vibe, and then warp it, making way for a slightly tipsy-sounding horn section. A shift to 4/4 around the 4-minute mark, and we are back into jazzier territory, with saxophones squawking over the off-time syncopation of the rhythm section, disappearing any hint of the earlier country music sound.

“Headways” brings some of that great, shuffling funk stutter referred to in the press materials, but nonetheless has an almost Salsa-like feel at times. The track kicks off with some weird, spacy synth that sets up the main theme, and is then joined by some very psychedelic wah-guitar that helps the synth carry the main load. Soon enough, however, the sax comes in and flies off the deep end, setting up some great band interplay. A psychedelic wah-guitar solo peels off from the main theme, building and expanding on it, in the best of the jazz tradition.

The album ends on a romantic note. “Cosmic Loneliness” has shades of Sonny Sharrock’s more lyrical moments with Pharaoh Sanders. The saxophone and guitar compliment each other in a wobbly walk together down a crookedly melodic path. Then the distortion drops off the guitar for a quick foray into 60s space/surf rock, only to be interrupted by party crashing horns. All jazz, all day, but mostly all night: smoky and sexy, like the soundtrack for a soft-focus Hollywood love scene.

In all, the influences are so varied that it’s a difficult sound to pin down. For the listener who just wants something pleasant to play in the background, this is an album that can fit the bill, and you can let it simply float pleasantly by. But the groove can transport you, too, if you let it, and for the more-attentive listener, there is enough substance to provide greater rewards with each listen.

Available directly from the Trouble in Mind webstore, or from Amazons US and UK.

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