By: Dennis Cook
Sometimes the grooviest things hide in plain sight. Pigeonholed as a jam band some time ago, Blue Turtle Seduction is actually a first order 21st century party band, drawing heavily from the undulating slink of The Clash, the grinning hop of Outkast and the whiskey spilling acoustic rock of The Pogues. Anchored to interlocked vocals and a buoyant sway, 13 Floors is a good time, plain and simple, and a finely crafted studio effort that hints at their true depths.
Positively possessed with imparting an enjoyable experience, it's easy to miss the sharper, more angular elements in Blue Turtle. For the longest time I thought they had no darkness, all sunshine and skipping, but spend time with "Rome" or "Stop Drop And Roll" and you pick up on some quality post-millennial tension, genuine apprehension about the shit storm on humanity's horizon. That they encase these shadowy thoughts in pleasant casings is a neat trick. It's easy to be mopey; writing an effective sad song is shooting fish in a barrel. If you can slip a spot of observant blackness past folks with a lil' candy coating then the medicine might actually go down. There's a pleasant duality to 13 Floors, where serious guys make fun music that doesn't sacrifice lyrical substance for all its basic enjoy ability.
The mixture of folksy instrumentation (fiddle, mandolin, harmonica) with a muscled up rhythm section and sinewy, barbed electric guitar recalls the early '70s heyday of British folk-rock given a post hip-hop twist. Their harmonies echo the '60s Greenwich Village folk scene punctured by an MC's staccato cadence. It is their own hybrid, and as such it feels a little alien the first few times you encounter it. That said, over time one begins to appreciate that BTS is breaking new ground, and at the very least deserves credit for being one of the few bands on the touring circuit that gives strong attention to their vocals.
Standouts include "Foot By Foot" (a lively journey into many strange canyons of the heart), "Castaway" (an island accented variation on a stew pot of traditional folk imagery), "Rome" (a fiddlin' dance number for the end of empires), "El Camino" (a rousing weirdo's reel that feels like running down a hill with a drink in your hand), "Perfect Gentlemen" (a nifty cover of Wycleff Jean's stripper ditty) and 13-minute closer "Roses > Big Belt Buckle" (a jam vehicle lit with mirror ball lights, John Williams quotations and blues-rock chug that ends with a "Middle Earth Jam" that's pretty amusing). Sink into this music over the course of a whole album and you discover a band making their own sound. It's hard to draw exact parallels and isn't that really what we want from any band, a unique form of artistic expression? Blue Turtle Seduction has found their voice and this release only makes one genuinely curious about the fine outbursts to come.
JamBase | Lake Tahoe
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