The four musicians of avant-rock supergroup Body Meπa — drummer Greg Fox, bassist Melvin Gibbs, and guitarists Sasha Frere-Jones and Gray McMurray — have spent their careers in a myriad of settings, and their debut album together, Work is slow, finds them operating in another mode, handing out sprawling post-rock jams that are both jazzy and psychedelic. One could cite earlier efforts as a background – jazz-fusion freaks in Gibbs ‘Power Tools, funk-rock meanders in Frere-Jones’ Ui, drugged fuzz in Fox’s Teeth Mountain – but the quartet seems extremely focused on this. disk. . More than their other exit, the point here is to enter.
As the title suggests, Work is slow has songs that unfold patiently, and the opening “Horse Flower Storm / Fabuloso” is imbued with the sweet languor of a hot summer day. This feeling comes mainly from the guitars: at the beginning, McMurray opts for an ambient ambience while Frere-Jones plays the role of the noodler (the guitar of the first appears in the left channel while that of the second is in the right channel). Even though McMurray slips into noisier terrain, he never competes for center stage. Such restraint is the key to Body Meπa’s cohesion: they constantly play against each other without overstepping boundaries, well aware that the atmosphere is best maintained when everyone has a say. When Fox launches his double kick-drum barrages, it’s less for an ostentatious climax than to playfully compensate for those contemplative guitar melodies.
Work is slow is more than dreamy soundscapes, however. “Bullitt” features a fiery wall of noise evoked by Gibbs’ rugged bass, Fox’s booming cymbals, and McMurray’s searing guitar. Frere-Jones’ free improvisation guitar groans in the midst of the chaos, like a small animal trapped in a burning building. It’s the raucousest song on the album, and every element is carefully controlled for maximum immersion and impact. It is followed by “Motherwell,” which serves as needed relief. The meaty bassline is sandwiched between bright, nimble guitars, and the repetition keeps you locked in its meditative groove.
There’s a quote from Ornette Coleman, the jazz titan whose 1978 album Body Meπa takes its name, that seems apt: “The theme you play at the start of the number is territory. And what comes next, which may not have much to do with it, is adventure. While Body Meπa doesn’t sound as heavy or unpredictable as Coleman’s band Prime Time, there is an equally invigorating spirit of possibility in the way the quartet goes through each track. On “Money Tree”, choppy guitars inspire hypnagogic bliss, but Gibbs’ unbroken eighth-note mid-song string injects mind-blowing verve. Suddenly, everything falls into place.
This is the real joy of Work is slow: You can feel the weight of every note, skronk and whistle, every change in rhythm, beat and melody. The contributions of Fox, Frere-Jones, Gibbs and McMurray may be underestimated, but they are all crucial to the creation of each track. This, in conjunction with clear and sustained atmospheres, allows the songs to feel both timeless and clearly linear; they are quietly exciting, like road trips lasting several hours. On the triumphant “Ribbon”, crackling bass drums erupt alongside sparkling guitars, and it exudes the magic of fireworks. Even with decades of collaborations under their belt, Body Meπa achieves a feat that always impresses: they are a new band perfectly in sync.
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