Stretching out with their first double CD, Steve Kimock Band continues to show more and more of itself with every release. East Meets West is compiled from the band's November 2001 visit to Japan (East) and their New Year's run at San Francisco's Great American Music Hall (West) and showcasing a dynamic band that manages to find synchronicity while in flux. Bending genres like licorice sticks, SKB pushes ever-outward defying both classification and the senses.
Disc One features the current line-up of SKB as heard on April's "Live In Colorado". Mitch Stein deftly handles the second guitar duties and Alphonso Johnson holds down the bass department with an impressive level of virtuosity. Rodney Holmes mans the drums and is both ferocious and gentle in his approach. Holmes also garners a few writing credits on this release.
"High And Lonesome" starts things quietly, painting an aural image of a remote plateau before descending into a trance-like journey- a ride down a winding highway, without conversation. Outside your window, slopes rise into cloudbanks suggesting peaks, and valleys loom below as you whisk along the cliffs edge. Bear in mind that SKB is instrumental; the music is infinitely suggestive without being explicit and what you hear on each listen may not be there the next.
From one landscape to another, "Africa" lights up the room like the blazing Serengeti sun with rapid-fire flourishes and lush melodics ala Ernest Ranglin. KVHW released this tune (then called "A New Africa") on their "Live At The Lip" CD several years back and perhaps both versions would suffer from comparison. (As such I've deliberately not heard the KVHW version in some time.) Rodney's playing is fluid but subdued as Alphonso
and Mitch spread out a happy floor upon which Steve's guitar dances.
"Moon People" (one of Rodney Holmes' compositions) carries the listener even further from their seat to a lunar wasteland but, no sooner have you gotten used to the graceful lope of a low-gravity walk, than you find the landscape invaded by a more aggressive form. Mitch stirs things with echoing feedback and Steve engages a harder tone. Syncopated dissonance from each guitar in sympathetic groove with the rhythm section explodes into a heavy groove as the "Moon People" turn out to be very serious folk, indeed. Alphonso plays a distinctive high, looping groove at times while the guitars explore some unusual areas of outer space.
"Sabertooth" keeps up the journey into Rodney's soundscapes and continues with the look at the rawer side of SKB. Beginning with a computerized loop, the band engages with a fury, adding Rodney's beats, Steve's table steel guitar, Alphonso's uncannily tight bass and Mitch's bag of bizarre tones. A theme develops, perhaps that of a pre-historic rainforest safari- the synth-loop dripping from the leaves while the band portrays the
scenery and tension.
A drum solo leads us into "Elmer's Revenge", a relatively new Kimock composition. While showing additional elements in his composition, this tune remains true to Steve's style, beginning subtly and growing into an explosion of not-quite-rock, not-really-jazz, exploratory jamming. The quieter segments feature Mitch's envelope-filtered rhythm guitar shifting about as Steve stretches out in a truly psychedelic fashion. The song moves to the next gear with a rocked out bridge that that ascends to an intensely tight group syncopation that, at its peak could lead the listener to wonder if the CD is skipping. A worthwhile twenty-minute excursion to wrap up a terrific disc.
But there's more...
Disc two transports the listener across time and space. Steve Kimock Band had been on the road since Mid-October and capped the well received outing with three shows in Japan; Yokohama being the final appearance. On bass for the tour was a new face, Richard Hammond. After valiantly surviving a trial-by-fire- learning material on the road over the past month- Richard had definitely settled in and gelled with the rest of the band, as you can hear.
The opener, "Ice Cream", bounces on with a lyrical, anthemic, theme and some all-over-the-kit drumming from Rodney Holmes. The jam is driven by a deep bass groove from Hammond and roams away widely, building momentum and energy every step of the way. Longtime fans will likely take right to this song as- in spite of it's relative newness- it's classic Kimock. Newer fans will be unable to shake the memorable theme and shredding guitar work.
Photo by Joe Iudice
Next, we get a double shot of "Long Form Part 1" and "Long Form Part 4" (parts 2 and 3 have made few appearances at all and not any since last summer.) "...Part 1" begins with structure and seems to quickly shrug it off in favor of the search for new ground. Steve takes point and the rest of the group fans out- watching one another’s back. Richard delves into the bottom layer neatly; not especially standing out but supporting strongly, bouncing off of Rodney's drums. The theme returns with renewed strength before they head off in another direction.
Holmes deserves an honorable mention for his terrific work here (as well as on the rest of the album) as does Mitch Stein for his distinctive grasp of the bizarre. He conjures a plethora of unusual tones from his guitar both in his capacity of rhythm player and as a contributor to the greater soundscape.
"Long Form Part 4" comes on with a dual guitar flurry and a straight-ahead back beat. Hammond keeps things funky and Steve keeps it loose. After the the theme is reprised, Mitch leads into a space-funk room as Steve cops some very tight rhythm carrying us back into the final rush of the theme.
"In Reply" is a dreamy, gentle ballad. Little can be said that would approximate its effectiveness at evoking an emotional response... This is definitely tune that one should experience. The performance captured here segues into the Kimock/Holmes mindmelt known as "Avalon".
"Avalon" builds slowly out of the segue-way and hits strong with its graceful theme. This is a guitar lovers' song with fascinating, winding solos as well as powerful peaks. The entire band rises together again and again riding waves of tension ever higher. This is a rock jam that’s done right. But its no Keith Richards riff. Ten feet taller and a mile further 'round, "Avalon" carries with it the ever-expanding knowledge of 50 years of rock & roll.
Not progressive-rock but progressing, not metal but heavy, not new-wave but loaded with waves, and absolutely not glam rock (no buts there); throw in a little jazz (because its a good thing to know) and you might just get close.. “East Meets West” bulges at the seams, showing us more and more of the Steve Kimock Band.