Critters Buggin'

Monkeypot Merganzer

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Like most of the early albums by Critters Buggin', 1997's Monkeypot Merganzer was originally released in a fairly small limited edition. Reissued in 2005, this album still sounds oddly ahead of its time. Much more so than most of the trio's other albums, Monkeypot Merganzer has its harsh and initially forbidding elements. Mono-named reedsman Skerik's sax parts alternate between Morphine-style low-register atmospherics (particularly on the quietly compelling "Mellow G") and free-improv skronk, and the rhythm section of drummer Matt Chamberlin and bassist Brad Houser goes in for the fractured polyrhythms rather than the white-boy wiggle that was the modus operandi of their old band, Edie Brickell & New Bohemians. Guest artists, including vibraphonist and adjunct percussionist Mike Dillon (who would join the band permanently shortly following this album's initial release), expand the band's instrumental template considerably, and elongated freakouts like "Hello Kitty" (built on a downright unhinged wah-wah solo from Dave Palmer) sit uncomfortably with more concise and atmospheric pieces like "AIDS" and ethnomusicological forgeries like the self-explanatory drum showcase "Burundi." Odd, occasionally "difficult," but entertaining, this is one of the trio's best albums, and one that deserves a wider audience.

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