Hypnotic Brass Ensemble

Hypnotic Brass Ensemble

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"Hypnotic" may be somewhat misleading: the word suggests something lulling and gently soothing, but the music made by this band of brothers is fiery and dynamic, anything but sleepy. While occasionally reminiscent of more established brass band traditions (Balkan, New Orleans), with a hint of soul and a dash of Afro-beat's frenzied intensity, their music is best described as jazzy instrumental funk: compositionally sophisticated, highly contrapuntal, and infused with thorny harmonics undoubtedly picked up from their father -- avant-jazz notable Kelan Phil Cohran -- but always rhythmically direct and unfailingly tight. Anchored by sturdy, simple drum parts and Tycho Cohran's supple, syncopated sousaphone basslines, the Hypnotic Brass Ensemble blow dense chord clusters, indelibly soulful unison melodies, and tuneful interlocking counterlines, with only occasional focused soloing and emphasis on accessibility and groove. The album -- their first widely released full-length, which features re-recordings of many selections from their earlier self-released CD-Rs -- is consistently strong though fairly stylistically homogenous, containing mostly upbeat, party-ready tunes with either straight-ahead funk or Afro-inflected grooves, but there are a couple of curve balls in the lush, languorous (and yes, plausibly hypnotic) "Jupiter" and the especially manic, Balkan-esque Moondog cover "Rabbit Hop" (which reappears at the end with the addition of some spacy, wobbly electronic sounds). The only notable flaw in the flow comes toward the end of "Party Started," with some crowd-hyping chants that come off as moronically fratty -- though the group shouldn't necessarily avoid vocals altogether: by contrast, the street-corner scatting that closes the slinky "Ballicki Bone" is a special highlight. As a whole, it makes for an exceedingly spirited and largely unique listening experience.

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