Snarky Puppy helped bring '70s-style fusion into the jam band era with a series of Grammy-winning albums that found them incorporating elements of funk, jazz-rock, and blues. Produced by bassist and bandleader Michael League, 2019's Immigrance continues this trajectory with a set of highly kinetic instrumental tracks (purportedly inspired by the band's travels around the globe) that balance exploratory improvisation with intricately arranged group interplay. As with past Snarky Puppy albums, Immigrance is less about each bandmember's individual improvisational contribution (though there are moments of brilliant soloing), and more focused on the group's intricate, mutative arrangements. "Chonks" is swaggering blues-rock bombast punctuated by soulful, jazzy horn parts and thick keyboard riffs. Similarly, "Xavi" is flute-led robo-Latin exotica that slams headlong into a fractured jazz-metal section, all of which brings to mind the work of Japanese guitarist Kazumi Watanabe. Also engaging, "Bigly Strictness" wouldn't sound out of place on a '90s alt-rock album by Garbage, and "Bling Bling" could easily be the backing track to a '90s Sting song. There are also new agey moments here, as on the '80s-sounding Miles Davis-meets-Pat Metheny atmospherics of "Coven." The slow jam of "While We're Young" also recalls the later-career work of Davis with its multi-tracked trumpet solo dipped in silvery effects. Elsewhere, "Bad Kids to the Back" delivers an '80s funk groove, replete with clipped horns and a flowing sax solo, while "Even Us" finds the band taking an unexpected turn toward brooding, acoustic Eastern European folk. Ultimately, the evocative nature of much of Snarky Puppy's music on Immigrance lends it a soundtrack vibe, as if each song were originally scored to the visual, cinematic beats of one of the band's world tours.
by Matt Collar