How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.
The groove runs deep and long on As Above, a 2-disc set from Club d'Elf. Voyaging through realms of electronica, ethnic percussion, and dirty funk, As Above pays exquisite attention to the beat. The two-plus hours of collected music on this set document the highlights of five months' worth of live improv at Boston's Lizard Lounge. (OK, so it's actually in Cambridge, but what's a hop across the river in the grand scheme of things?) Ringleader (bassist) Mike Rivard hosts a series of local jamswith due attention to composition, instrumentation, and so forth. And in addition to the regular members of this group, various guests sit in for individual performances. While one might expect a compilation of such diverse live events to be jumpy or uneven, this set displays remarkable cohesion.
At the same time, As Above is certainly not for everyone. The group displays an unabashed disrespect for fixed idioms. For example, on "Beneath the Underground," avant saxophonist Joe Maneri finds a place wailing alongside Bowie guitarist Reeves Gabrels. (The liner notes dub Maneri as a "portly, bearded medicine man." Perhaps the audio recording does not do justice to the dynamic imagery of the original event...) Periods of trance-like quietude can overturn at a moment's notice and give rise to edgy free funk. But somehow the nucleus of the group keeps everything tied down in a very delicate balancing act. And with the reverent preservation of the beat, the music keeps moving forward.
Track Listing: Disc One: Now I Understand; Shadow's Shift; Actual Smiles; Left Hand of Clyde (parts 1,2,3); Meet the Monster Tonight; Claude Raines Revisited; Last Business (dub); D'Empty Dance; So Below.
Disc Two: Get a Little Turning; Intro/Bass Beatbox; In a Perfect World; Route of the Root; As Above; Beneath the Underground; Buzz; Taurobolium; Trance Meeting; Last Business; Divine Invasion.
Personnel: Mike Rivard, Erik Kerr, Jere Faison, Jerry Leake, Tom Hall, Brahim Fribgane, Kenwood Dennard, Reeves Gabrels, Duke Levine, Ian Kennedy, Alain Mallet, DJ Logic, Mat Maneri, Joe Maneri, DJ C, Eric Hipp, Tom Halter, Dr. Didg, Roberto Cassan.