Backbelly is a cross between the jazz-funk of early Medeski, Martin & Wood, the hard-funk/hip-hop of Big Ass Truck, and Albert Ayler. True, it doesn't say much, but the music defies description. There's a hard-hitting rhythm section (Earl Harvin and Brad Houser on four tracks, the latter playing a mean, distorted electric bass), a second drummer who also plays vibes and tabla, a saxophonist who also uses an eight-track tape machine as if it were a turntable, an actual turntablist, and a keyboardist. The music is groovy, wild, and occasionally mad. Heads are approximate but vigorously stated, jazzy solos abound, grooves too, along with moments of pure exuberance that clearly illustrate why Eugene Chadbourne has been recruiting this group as his backup band in the early 2000s. The album has been recorded live and mixed on the fly. There are a few overloads and the whole thing is mastered generally too high, but Backbelly is surely listenable. "Templer" kicks things off with a Ornette Coleman-esque head, backed by Joc Max's scratching and E. Clarke Wyatt's electric piano. The track makes free jazz, hip-hop, and funk clash, and the results are impressive and unorthodox. "Ratsody" adopts a more "conventional" form of angular avant-garde jazz. Mark Southerland plays a "double sax" in "Double Circus Horn" (an old trick, but nicely performed). "Poleshift" delivers the highlight of the disc: Mike Dillon is prominently featured on vibes and percussion (in a drums duet with Earl Harvin), while the tune itself shifts from swing vamp early on to jazz-funk groove in the last moments. Southerland's eight-track scratching creates a very strange atmosphere in the closer, "Walt's Sweatshop" (excerpts from the Walt Disney audio books). Recommended, if you can find this self-released item.
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AllMusic Review by François Couture