By Josh Klemons
RippleGroove has a way of making sense. In listening to their first album, Under the Microscope, you would never notice that their songs are often in unique time signatures. They simply work. You would never question their intent, as they seamlessly move in and out of musical styles. They clearly have their own sound. And you would never guess it, but these guys are a trio. That's right; despite the fact that they could easily pass for a quintet, if not a very talented quartet, it is actually only three, very exceptional Berklee grads, working in perfect harmony to create these lush backgrounds, rocking solos, funky bass lines, and solid drum beats.
Their music could call up visions of Phish or Medeski Martin & Wood as easily as Yes, John Scofield, or Wes Montgomery. This CD would be just as comfortable in the rock section of your local record store as it would be if it were placed alongside the jazz and funk greats. These guys seem like they could tackle an AC/DC song just as comfortably as something from Frank Zappa's catalogue. In the second track, "Jessie's Bullet," Tom Burda's shredding guitar comes through almost immediately. But equally impressive as his ingenuity on the fret board and the speed in his often blistering, but always impressively tasteful solos is the way that the band is always on top of him, filling in the sound and pushing him like any great rhythm section should, all the while giving him the room he needs to breath.
"Jack the Rippler" comes in like something out of a James Bond film. It is tense and suspenseful and almost seductive. As its syncopated rhythm and choppy melody fool the senses, it almost takes on a flavor of the Grateful Dead's "Estimated Prophet." While the song ripples in and out, always teasing at the peak and making you yearn for more, it really shows off the ability of the groove that these guys will eventually be known for, far and wide. Jed Devine on drums and Joe Hanley on keys and bass synthesizer really push this song and show all who care to hear that they can lay down the funk in any capacity that they see fit. These guys clearly control the groove.
Then comes along a song like "Squirrel Huntin'," their two-step, bluegrass, instrumental, funk ballad, and totally throws you for a loop. A very typical bluegrass introduction, even for an electric band, grabs your attention and fully prepares you for what you assume is to come. Then it happens, and you try to figure out how this band maintains both its composure and its very unique sound while playing a musical tongue from which it seems to be so distant. Complete with break-downs and peaks, this song not only lives up to the band's sound, but it helps show the extent to which these guys can tear apart an idea and come at it completely fresh. In this day and age of over-produced and regurgitated ideas, it is so refreshing to hear a band, especially one so young, that is already comfortable enough with its sound to not only think outside the box, but to open it up and take a walk around, all the while remembering where they are coming from and what they are trying to say, both to each other, and to those of us who have chosen to tap in.
The album ends with the aptly titled "No Cuddle." I say "apt" because it completely sums up the experience of Under the Microscope. To me, this song is an analogy for the entire album, if not the band. What starts as a simple Pink Floyd-ish heartbeat rhythm quickly builds under heavy, swirling leads and rocking back-beats, which constantly propel this song forward. It lifts and grows until the point when you start to wonder how three men can move so fast, get down so hard, and constantly find new ways to push themselves and their audience. The song crescendos and peaks, and then instead of relaxing and giving you a chance to regroup, it starts back in immediately and lets you know that it is not done yet. It continues its ascent to greatness, and then with one swift and glorious run, it is finished, allowing you to look around, regroup, and collect your thoughts. Your heartbeat is running right along with their fading rhythm, and they are simply gone, leaving you yearning for more.
The band is RippleGroove, the album is Under the Microscope.
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