Tribal Tech – ‘Thick’

ThickTribal Tech
by J. Barrett

Their first release for a new label, their first album in four years. You’d expect second-guessing, a schedule, and a whole lot of worry. Not so: the band entered the studio with no plan and left with an album, just three days later. What they came up with is spontaneous, funky, a little formless at times – and worth your attention.

“Sheik of Encino” is one word: response. You hear a phrase on synth and it comes back on bass, or maybe on a distant guitar. The sounds keep changing, and a simple idea is simply beautiful. Henderson’s solo is standard-issue Guitar Hero (tasty slides at the beginning); Scott Kinsey’s liquid synth is intense, pushed harder by the pounding drums. Henderson returns with a fuzzy rhythm part, and answers himself in clean lines. The end is abrupt, taking us to a “Party at Kinsey’s”. For a minute we hear snaky “computer” sounds – then the keyboard comes in! (the opening was Henderson, in a wonderful mimic job.) Kinsey then shows what he can do, including a bit where he sounds like Henderson! It leads to party noises, and we are done. But the party has just begun.

“Jalapeno” is a splashy thing, Henderson’s smoothie line blending with equally liquid synths. Bassist Gary Willis has a roaming funk solo, the keys flowing beneath. When Henderson joins he’s tangy, a blues snake slithering everywhere. It’s replaced abruptly by “Clinic Troll”, which sound like My First Synthesizer Lesson. Beeps, boops, and weird things prevail; Henderson and drummer Kirk Covington make a bed for the strangeness to lie on. Not much happening here, but worth a listen?

“Thick” is the centerpiece. Wills lays the fat groove; Kinsey drifts in like pedal steel. While Henderson is in the funk/rock mold, he gets noisy at times; Kinsey also goes atonal. About five minutes in it gets really heavy, with a rock solo straight from the ‘Sixties. Kinsey goes spacey with shimmering waves of sound, and all is calm. Eleven minutes is too much for this simple idea, but it lets the guys stretch – and it IS thick.

“You May Remember Me” opens on feedback and great waves of synth; it subsides, leaving the pedal-steel sound, rumbling bass, and computer noises. What starts as noodling develops into a sweet theme, with Kinsey the focus. Henderson’s tough line is a bit loud, and it changes the mood; when he goes plaintive, the beauty returns.

The sound of the swamp comes as a shock in “Somewhat Later”; it’s a single- string blues straight from the back porch. While Henderson twangs, Kinsey gets a wah-wah sound from the synth – dog barks, too. Something’s in the water. From the swamp we go to India – the guitar on “What Has He Had?” sounds like a sitar in places. Bass slides deep, drums crack; Henderson slides, moans, and scrams. Here he shares blues, Hendrix, and straight-ahead fire. After a false ending, guitar and synth (sounding like ELP’s “Lucky Man”) come back for a great encore. It’s worth waiting for, and it makes the track.

It’s noisy in spots, and if you’re not partial to rock guitar, Henderson’s solo might seem excessive. The interplay is great and the keyboards change tones to great effect. The best are “Sheik of Encino”, Party at Kinsey’s”, “Somewhat Later”, and the last half of “What Has He Had?” It’s meant for the fusion crowd, but don’t be fooled; this is for adventurous ears.

Rating: *** ¼
Songs: Sheik of Encino; Party at Kinsey’s; Jalapeno; Clinic Troll; Thick; You May Remember Me; Slick; Somewhat Later; What Has He Had?
Musicians: Scott Henderson (guitar); Scott Kinsey (keyboards); Gary Willis (bass); Kirk Covington (drums).

For more on Tribal Tech visit the Zebra Records Web site.

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