How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.
Schfvilkus (pronounced “shpil-kuss,” Yiddish for being on pins and needles) is a band with its hand on the new century’s pulse. These Nashville cats throw everything into the blender: rock, funk, hip-hop, bluegrass, Arabic music, and good old jazz, to name but a few. What is surprising is how completely everything coheres instead of becoming the expected mish-mash. Christian Grainger and his buddies know just what they’re doing and they sell it like pros.
“Pleather” was a great choice for a starting point, immersing us in the kind of sweaty funk its namesake has been known to inflict. DJ Viper is listed as an additional musician, but his turntable brew is an essential element in the Schfvilkus mix. (The fact that he also plays with Hank Williams III gives another indication of where the band is coming from.) “Swat” isn’t the theme to the '70s cop show but certainly holds true to the spirit, and “Scuffle for Truffles” is an especially good showcase for Grainger’s thoughtful talents. Perhaps the one off-step is the overlong “Rockdweller,” which takes forever to establish a groove after lots of free-form noodling. But for an album this good one shaky track is easily forgiven, especially since it rocks the house about three minutes in.
Drummer David Walden is the secret weapon, cobbling together outstanding beats throughout the disc from Latin rhythms (the wildly entertaining “Sierra del Yugo”) to Middle Eastern complexity (“Much Minutes”) and wide-gapped funk (“Sumoneshrew”). Everyone in the group locks together tight as frog booty, even the scattered guest horns. With “Hoedown Throwdown” Schfvilkus saved the best of many great tracks for last. It starts off as a slow lope with Ned Henry’s fiddle up front and gradually picks up pace until it’s running at breakneck speed, a la the Dregs. Then the tempo abruptly drops back to square one and the fun begins anew. The totally goofy hidden track closes the disc on an appropriately upbeat note.
This is one of the best independent releases to cross the fusion desk in some time, and unfortunately it got lost in the shuffle until now. Schfvilkus offers a tantalizingly humorous glimpse into the future of fusion. These guys are among the unkempt prophets of the music to come.
Personnel: Maxwell Abrams, tenor and soprano saxes; Christian Grainger, guitars, samplers; Carlos Pennell,
guitars; Joseph Maloney, bass, acoustic guitar, vocals; David Walden, drums, percussion; Jeff
Coffin, reeds, didgeridoo (10); DJ Viper, turntables (3,6), guitar (6); Chris West, reeds; Steve
Herman, Quentin Ware (1), trumpet; Roland Barber, Chris Dunn (2), trombone; Sandip Burman (3),
Annie Sellick (6), vocals; Graham Spice, clarinet (2), piano (9); Tracy Silverman (1,6), Ned Henry