Red Super Giant
Woodwind player Andy Masker and bassist Shawn “Hop” Beckner usually play in traditional band settings, but they both seem to have a restless need to experiment. As Red Super Giant, the duo works with an arsenal of computers, synthesizers, samplers, and acoustic and electric instruments to create a uniquely dizzying din.
The music on their 14-song debut album draws from’70s-era jazz-fusion, old-school funk,’80s electronica, and modern acid-jazz. There are elements of improvisation here and there, but most of work is carefully arranged with an emphasis on sweeping build-ups, swells, and dissipation. Both bandmates sing, moan, and chant here and there, but their instrumental tracks truly stand out.
Masker and Beckner create a gurgle of weird sound effects and pair it with a variety of crisp bass drum and snare drum samples as the foundation for most of the pieces. Some of the backing tracks click with frosty, stiff precision. Others rumble with a slightly warmer, human touch, often switching from synthesized sound sources to digitally sampled acoustic drums.
“Pure Folly” kicks things off with a dubstep/reggae-inspired groove. Next, they shift to a more jagged (and exciting) mix of styles on the spaced-out “Believing Doesn’t Make it So,” which boasts some hot, James Brown-style drum rhythms and horn blasts.
The pulsating “Burn All Tradition” and the bleepy, upbeat “Split the Atom” show off the strongest digital and analog combinations. Masker gets plenty jazzy with the sax on the more straightforward groove-based pieces. Miles Davis and John Coltrane would have dug the audacious phrasing on the fusion-funk tracks “What’s the Matter Vampire Bill?” and “Silver Surfer’s Lament.” African rhythms and tribal vibes propel “Lighter Than Air,” a funky jam that resembles some of the most cheerful Brian Eno/David Byrne collaborations.
It’s difficult to peg Red Super Giant’s unusual fusion of styles with a simple musical definition, but it’s easy to admire their sense of modern-age experimentation. (redsupergiant.net)