Cuneiform have done it again in terms of restoring one of the perhaps hidden corners of British fusion to a contemporary audience. The band's relatively conventional take on the genre is happily tempered by compositional variety and a level of interplay that went beyond what was the norm, making for music that holds the attention. Captured for posterity on two different live dates from 1975, this is also music that shows an independence of mind even while it stays within the fusion parameters of the day.
Guitarist Gary Boyle often dominates proceedings, as he does on "Spanish Sun." It's apparent he has technique to spare, especially in the course of his multi-noted but nonetheless clearly articulated runs the like of which often serve to put him in the same category as John McLaughlin, roughly speaking.
It's not all exclusively about him, however. Hugh Hopper's fuzz bass has the effect of putting an entirely different spin on proceedings, and his compositions, not the least of them being the title track, are as distinctive as anything in his back pages. As much as anything else they serve to keep the unnerving specter of technical flash at bay, not least because of the demands they make of the musician's ability to listen and be heard.
It's on the non-band composition "Crunch Cake" that keyboard player Laurence Scott comes into his own. His electric piano sound is earthy, in so far as that's possible given the instrument's inherent characteristics, and the minimal nature of his lines, enhanced as much through touch and sound manipulation as they are, harmonically get inside the composition in a way that mere technical flash wouldn't have.
Hopper's "Lily Kong" is music for a seventies cop show in every positive way, the sly and indeed very English form of funk that's shot through it elevating the music to a higher level even while it affords the band the chance to groove. When that fuzz bass rises from the bottom up, it highlights also how this group were all supreme colorists.
The title track mentioned above is a similar exercise in maximizing the minimal. The slightly dark, slightly enigmatic melody is dirtily enunciated by Boyle before a shift in dynamics has a most positive effect. Scott again comes to the fore on his electric piano, proving once again that for all the dedication to soloing, this was also a band committed to a greater musical endeavor than mere technical display. When all is said and doneand in that regard, at least it has a lot in common with the rest of this programit cooks very nicely.
Track Listing: Illusion; Rangoon Creeper; Attila; Spanish Sun; Crunch Cake; Mr. M's Picture; Frog; Attila; Spanish Sun; Lily Kong; Edorian; Golden Section; Illusion.
Personnel: Gary Boyle: guitar; Laurence Scott: keyboards; Hugh Hopper: bass; Nigel Morris: drums; Aureo de Souza: percussion (1-6).