The loose-limbed combo that is Mumpbeak was the idea of keyboard player Roy Powell who, not that you would know it, here restricts himself to a Hohner clavinet, the sounds from which are pulled, stretched, distorted into all manner of sonic parallels by virtue of a bank of effects pedals. Driving things along in his trademark busy yet propulsive style is Pat Mastelotto, making full use of his percussionist’s toybox.
This album is really a showcase for the bottom end of the sonic strata, and providing doubled-up bass on this album in various combinations are Shanir Ezra Blumenkranz, Bill Laswell, Tony Levin and Lorenzo Feliciati. I wouldn’t advise playing this wee beastie if you need to chill.
The most common combination of low end sound sculptors is Bill and Shanir. Bill has made a point in the press release of saying his contributions were largely textural, so the insistent rhythms pounded out on Forlelock will mostly be the work of Shanir. This track is an example of the thoroughly nasty-in-a-good-way racket that these guys pound out, and here we have Roy and Pat leading a demented funk that charges along at a pace, before a tongue-in-cheek bar band ending.
Not all is relentless attack as the space-jazz of Monocle attests, again Shanir and Bill combining while Roy does a passable impersonation of the redoubtable Allan Holdsworth, in a clavinet-as-synthaxe scenario. Thankfully the album was not called Nork, which spares you my schoolboy joke around the word “titular”…oh…hang on. Anyway, this time Bill is teamed with Lorenzo for the latter’s only appearance, and things get quite cosmic, in places it reminds me of a more technically proficient take on Metal Box-era PiL, before becoming very Crimsoid, as might be expected.
Arising out of Roy Powell’s experimenting with the guitar sounds dredged out of his clavinet via the fx pedals, Mumpbeak is one those freak accidents that was probably meant to happen. Roy sent his formative ideas to his Naked Truth compadre Pat Mastelotto who liked what he heard. As is the modern way, Roy then assembled the tunes and sent them whizzing through the ether from his Oslo base to Pat over in Austin, Texas. Bill Laswell recruited Shanir, the latter a rising star on the bass, having played with John Zorn, and those two added their parts from the East Coast of the USA. Tony Levin and Lorenzo Felciati added their parts later.
All the bass-wranglers but Lorenzo get together on Oak, and before you play this at the crockery-shaking volume its low frequency rumble deserves, I’d advise you check to see if the neighbours are out, just to be on the safe side. This thing lumbers (ouch) along like a group of young Ents at a discotheque. Roy manfully squalls and caterwauls over the top like a saxophone having a tooth out without anaesthetic when not making his clavinet sound like a psychotic atonal guitar. Bloody marvellous it is, too!
By the time the album has wended its way to the closing and longest track Piehole, all our traditional preconceptions as to what a clavinet and some bass guitars should sound like have been stomped on and reassembled, and here we sign off with a rhythmically contrapuntal anti-blues with Bill and Shanir providing a skewed melody over Pat’s cantering beats.
The production is such that, surprisingly, the sound is not dominated by the lower frequencies, as you may be forgiven for thinking, and a healthy balance is maintained throughout. Anyone with a taste for jazz flavoured electronic experimentation should love this, as would anyone familiar with Pat Mastelotto’s solo work. Not for the unadventurous.
01. Biscuit (5:15)
02. Forelock (4:31)
03. Monocle (5:52)
04. Nork (7:14)
05. Oak (4:29)
06. Chain (4:54)
07. Piehole (8:53)
Total Time – 41:13
Roy Powell – Hohner Clavinet & FX pedals
Bill Laswell – Electric Bass (tracks 1-5 & 7)
Shanir Ezra Blumenkranz – Electric Bass (tracks 1-3, 5 & 7)
Lorenzo Feliciati – Electric Bass (4)
Tony Levin – Electric Bass (5)
Pat Mastelotto – Acoustic and Electronic Drums & Percussion
Record Label: RareNoiseRecords
Release Date: 28th November 2013