The Motet | Live
Harmonized Records | distributed by Home Grown Music Network
It takes guts to open with a drum solo. You have to assume you're immediately alienating anyone whose mind isn’t open. This could, of course, be a good thing. Sometimes the best parties happen when everyone in the room is on the same wavelength.
The first time I saw The Motet in concert, they opened with a massive drum solo, which included everyone in the band on percussion. I thought it was a brilliant way to start the show, even after I found out I was simply late, and they had already been on stage for a while. So imagine how pleased I was they opened their live album with a drum solo. Although “solo” might not be the right word to describe it, since once again the entire band was joining drummer Dave Watts and percussionist Scott Messersmith to create a great giant sound.
Beginning an album like this is an interesting technique. The drums grab your attention, yet don’t reveal anything of the nature of the band. You’re listening to the album, yet feel like it’s a coming attraction. You’re already enjoying them before having any sense of what they sound like. Is that perhaps the purest form of musical enjoyment?
As Mike Tiernan’s funky guitar plays the intro to “Know Her,” some reference points land in your head. Funk, rock, soul, the obligatory Stevie Wonder reference. Singer Jans Ingber channels Stevie but takes it off to his own place, and joins on percussion when not leading the charge. The band is tight, punching out explosive guitar and keyboard solos while the bass and drums dance. The singer is the elevating element, soaring over the jam with a virtuosity rarely seen in this scene. “Sandunga” opens into a Latin jazz groove, and it’s in this realm that The Motet really shines. When Greg Raymond hits his keyboard solo in the intro, you may as well be in Havana, ingesting Irakere and smoking cigars. Can these guys really be from Colorado?
The album covers a lot of ground, from the prog-rock keyboard explosion in “The Archer or the Arrow” to the Meters-like bounce of “Scribbitts.” For a band with such a talented singer, they have no fear of long instrumentals or singing in foreign languages. “Rumba Pa Los Santos” is exclusively a drums and vocals song, whose African rhythms and sounds could easily be an outtake from Paul Simon’s Graceland record. “Foxploration” and it’s son “Foxploration II” take The Motet to the outer fringes of jazzy funk, with keyboards flying and Paul McDaniel’s bass undulating. “Belly” takes a slow, steady burn and lights it into disco fever.
Suddenly, The Motet depart as they arrived, banging away on the drums. And after a few minutes of silent pondering, a hidden track reveals itself. Ah, the hidden track. Is there no digital post-production trick we love more? Not me. It’s like an encore on an album. Especially when it’s Aaron Neville’s “Hercules.” But eventually the cheers fade, and the drums dissipate. That’s why you’ll want to get this CD. Because now I get to hit play and listen to it all over again.
JamBase | North Carolina
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