Get on Elektrac!

It’s been a great for jazz releases lately. Thundercat’s monsterous epic, Drunk, hit the shelves, Chris Hazelton’s Boogaloo 7′s Soul Jazz Fridays is holding down the local jazz game, and The Bad Plus is making pop jazzy again. But the jazz/funk/electronic hybrid record that caught my ear and would not let go is Shobaleader One‘s Elektrac. Finding the sweet spot between Magic Sword’s electonic onslaught and The Jazz Dispensary’s funked up compilation, Shobaleader One has made a bebop record for the 21st century.

Starting out with the drum forward arrangement of “The Swifty,” Shobaleader One quickly establishes their talent for rafting meaty bass riffs and jittering rhythms. Fast without losing an ounce of smoothness, “The Swifty” sets the bar high for the rest of the album, a bar that is raised with the second track, “Coopers World.” This next song is heavy and quick, creating and abandoning progressions almost simultaneously. “Coopers World” is the type of song that is musically dense without losing its beat.

As the above video implies, Elektrac is a live album. Given the complexity and layering of the album, it’s a marvel that this thing could be produced in a studio, and it’s nothing short of miraculous that it is able to unfurl with such precision on stage. Just as this album hover’s between studio and stage, Shobaleader One hovers between band and single genius. Shobaleader One is the band of the drum and bass/acid house mastermind known as Squarepusher (or Tom Jenkinson if you’re feeling nasty). Jenkinson’s taut arrangements come to life under the band’s performances.

And no where is this more evident than in “E8 Boogie.” Starting slow, as a breath, “E8 Boogie” has the timing down–when to burst and when to ebb. With a bass line that is faster than Kansas City’s meteorological shifts, “E8 Boogie” is straight funky and heavy. The song is guaranteed to spark even the deadest room with soul power.

I think it’s safe to say that Elektrac isn’t for everyone (much in the same way The Mars Volta isn’t for everyone). That said, Shobaleader One’s live album roils and pops with passion, energy and technical skill that is unmatched in today’s musical landscape. Part jazz, part techno, part funk, Elektrac lives in the spaces between genres–like the best types of art.

The album ends with the uncompromising “Journey To Reedham.” 8-bit collides with jazz, synthesizers collide with groovy bass lines, dance grooves collide with weird time signatures. There’s a lot of collision happening. But more than that, “Journey To Reedham” ends Elektrac on an uptick, a sense that anything could be possible. This, perhaps, might be the album’s greatest strength. Of course the songs are phenomenal and the playing magnificent, but Elektrac‘s exploratory nature embodies the sense of curiousity, of hope.


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