RAISINHILL | SELF-TITLED DEBUT ALBUM

The trio format is perhaps the most daunting formation in music. The spotlight shines a little brighter on each member in concert and in the studio. Each member has more responsibility than usual. Raisinhill is a young band that is definitely up to the task, judging from the strength of their self-titled debut CD.

Although the instrumentation befits a jazz sound, Raisinhill definitely culls their sonic stash from a much wider swath of influences. Guitarist John Kasiewicz lends a wealth of compositional and improvisational substance, having studied under atonal composer Ernie Stires (who also taught Trey Anastasio). Upright bassist Brian Anderson studied jazz bass performance in college, and is proficient at plucking with his fingers and with a bow. Drummer Jay Bond attended Loyola University where he studied under the great Johnny Vidacovich. All three proudly display their pedigrees through careful dynamics and fluid musicianship on this CD.

This music demands your attention, but on the right night it can slip unnoticed into your cortex where it lingers until you find yourself humming a melody you don't remember hearing. That is what keeps the listener coming back for more. Endearing melodies reminiscent of another guitar-led trio, The Slip, literally drift, soar, dash, and bounce from your speakers. Kasiewicz possesses an undeniably Anastasio-like control over the direction that the music moves. The opening crash of “Nameless” kicks the CD off on a hydro-gliding freefall that quickly moves through various sections of varying composition before returning majestically to the main riff. It’s apparent that these are not off-the-cuff jams. The band’s sound is firmly rooted in song but still has an underlying current of outer space. Latin beats, space rock, and insistent techno-style breaks make track one a lot to digest. “V.S.S.” is a slightly foreboding tune that displays elements of balls-out rock, which contrasts with the next tune, “The Ridge.” This is a patient, understated song for several minutes before it explodes into a triumphant blaze of stratospheric guitar and road-crushing bass.

There are several short interludes between songs, like the 28-second techno-spasm “Jokes” that glues the atmospherics of “The Ridge” to the effervescent swoop of “The Road Song.” This band is better at achieving extremely heady atmospheres than any trio I have heard. Rather than operating at separate levels, Raisinhill moves together with careful grace and respect. “Soul Jive” finds the band, particularly Kasiewicz, operating in a classic Scofield jazz mode as unified melodic passages alternate with drum breaks and rocked-out workouts. By this point of the album, it is apparent that Raisinhill’s cinematic approach is the result of a truly group effort. You can hear it in the way Kasiewicz languidly drifts his creations along a bass line, in the way that the sound grows from Bond’s steadfast high hat and snare drum, and in the way that Anderson cascades his bass notes around the other members. Entire songs have been crafted from much less than Raisinhill creates on the minute-long “She Likes Me,” which gives way to the classic brick-and-mortar style intro of “Maker’s Mark.” The band rides Anderson’s frantic, Primus-like bass into atonal jazz/rock oblivion.

Wistful, powerful, ambient, jazzy, and sweeping – this CD is all of these words and then some. It is the sound of three highly skilled players having a very thought-provoking and vibrant conversation. Eavesdropping is highly encouraged!

Bryan Rodgers
Go See Live Music!

http://www.raisinhill.com

[Published on: 3/4/03]

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