With their latest release, the popular Medeski, Martin & Wood are making a step further in terms of their soundwhich does not come as a surprise, as they have constantly been trying to find new ways to expand their sonic palette. Originally, they started as a basic jazz organ trio and along the way they just kept adding and emphasizing new elements which have enabled them to be appreciated by different audiences. It seems that in this case they have taken the best elements from the previous incarnations, and by combining them, they have succeeded in making one of the most focused and intensely grooving albums they have ever released.
With the help of John King, who is listed both as a producer and an engineer (Beck, Beastie Boys), the trio has created a brilliant album packed with interesting melodies, soundscapes and rhythms that defy gravity. The opening "Anonymous Skulls" finds John Medeski expanding his choice of keyboards (beyond Hammond organ and acoustic piano), infusing layers and layers of keyboard sounds, followed by Wood's groovy bass lines and Martin's funky beats. It should be noted that all the tunes are about four minutes long, which provides them with certain boundaries and a sense of conciseness when compared to free and more recent atonal/experimental works like Tonic, The Dropper, and Uninvincible, and the recently reissued Farmer's Reserve. These records are interesting in their own right, but somehow this one inspires MMW to show what they can do with their instruments.
Compared to the previous Uninvincible, there are less guests than usual. The group is joined by guitar virtuoso Marc Ribot, who plays on four tracks ("Reflector," "New Planet," "Sasa" and "Queen Bee") and adds a real rock edge to those numbers, especially "Queen Bee," where he really lets it rip. There are other guest appearances by Sex Mob's Steven Bernstein and Briggan Krauss, who add saxophone and slide trumpet on "Sasa." "Mami Gato" has a Latin-inspired feel and melodies, but they're not obvious. Somehow, these sounds and beats suggest sound worlds belonging to different eras and genres (eg. Hancock's Head Hunters ), but only to the effect that they are blending traditional and contemporary elements with an admirable bravado in their quest to create the melange of sounds which characterise this record.
Most musicians limit themselves by avoiding risks and playing it safe. However, that is not the case here. End of the World Party is really a great album in the vein of Shack-Man and Combustication, and it has much more to offer than it might seem at first glance.