Fat Mama

*Loadstar 8.1

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From the first note, it is obvious that Fat Mama has evolved greatly since their 1997 debut Mamatus. Electronics filter in and the band kicks into a groove behind them. Three primary strains seem to exist in the band's sound: fairly straight-ahead jazz fusion (see the heads of most of the songs on *Loadstar, such as "Beware the Bloodborne Pathogens"); free stuff, little blasts of anarchy worked in around swinging grooves, and perhaps a little less articulated than they might be (see the middle of "Road Derby"); and an electronic twist (see the near-ambient preludes to most of the songs, such as the "The Kichel Stomp"). Here, the electronica doesn't take on the form of pulsing dance grooves, as it does in their tour circuit counterparts the Disco Biscuits and Sound Tribe Sector 9. Instead, it acts more as an approach to manipulating sound. It is electronic in the sense that, in places, electric instruments are filtered such that they lost their identity as producers of a specific kind of sound and, instead, are allowed to paint more abstract pictures. Even at their weirdest, though, it all seems to curl back around the tandem horn section of Jon Gray (trumpet, trombone) and Brett Joseph (tenor saxophone). Some of the most gorgeous moments on the disc are when electronic and traditional elements begin to dance around each other, such as on the sublime "Knucklehead." In general, the ideas are fresh, but they don't seem to be organized very well. Song sections seem to jump sometimes. While each section is compelling in and of itself, they often lose momentum in the transitions to the ideas that follow. There rarely seems to be a sense of unity running through the pieces -- though there is definitely one sewn throughout the disc which, as a whole, is quite an achievement.

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