A group re-forming and recording a new album after a 20-year hiatus: That's a worrying premise. Fans must shed their expectations, since obviously the Muffins will not pick things up where they left them shortly after the release of 185. And indeed they don't, even though the music is immediately identifiable. But times have changed and the group's take on adventurous instrumental prog rock has since yielded a number of followers, especially in 1990s America with groups like Chainsaw Jazz, Trap, Smokin' Granny, and Boud Deun. Bandwidth presents 12 new pieces, all instrumental. In addition to the four original members (Tom Scott, Dave Newhouse, Billy Swann, and Paul Sears), some feature trombonist Doug Elliot, and "East of Diamond" adds a string trio that includes ex-Grits Amy Taylor. The music takes a more relaxed stance and moves away from the quirky time signatures and atonal melodies of avant rock to include instead a jazz fusion feel. "Essay R" even goes into a bluesy "cop series theme" vamp. The compositions are simpler, although at times an effort (too big an effort?) has been made to cram a lot of themes into a single song, as in "World Maps." The group has lost a lot of its edge -- or is it that the "edge" has moved further left? The musicianship remains strong and all in all Bandwidth is a good album, but this ground was broken two decades ago.
by François Couture