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Soule Monde: Soule Monde (2012)

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Soule Monde: Soule Monde How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.

Soule Monde was borne from a musical partnership between percussionist Russ Lawton and keyboardist Pay Paczkowski, that blossomed as both were co-members of Phish guitarist Trey Anastasio's solo band. Staples of the Burlington, Vermont music scene, both Lawton and Paczkowski kept busy with their various individual projects while playing live improv shows as a duo for months prior to formalizing their original pieces into compositions that make up this, their first recorded collaboration.

In both conception and execution, Soule Monde is deliciously simple from start ("Bernard") to finish ("Whassat"). Tightly locked as the two are on "Slide B," and, in fact, throughout the record, it's clear that the twosome, while loosely rooted in the jazz organ sound of the fifties, is hardly confined by that tradition. Rather, Lawton and Paczkowski choose to honor its conventions by means of transcending its structure, thereby creating music that is as spooky ("Lasisi) as it is soulful ("Tango"). Lawton is nothing if not an assertive drummer, so as he hammers away on "Miss Miriam," his partner Pazkowski bounces in around and through those rhythms, creating his own beats in counterpoint.

Since there are only two musicians, who chose to eschew much overdubbing, Soule Monde's is a sound that is simultaneously dense, open and spacious. Because both are well-versed in playing a number of styles—Lawton has drummed for jamband Strangefolk as well as TAB, while Paczkowski is a charter member of the open-ended Vermont trio Vorcza—they can and do adjust their instrumental approach in their arranging to avoid both monotony and predictability. Lawton's quick runs allow him to skid right along during "The Story," for instance, without colliding with his partner, even as Paczkowski's combination of Hammond organ (from which come the bass tones that give their sound so much body) and clavinet squeezes out sparks in turn ignited by the duo's interplay.

With the individual eight cuts proceeding so economically and in quick succession, the debut of Soule Monde sounds regrettably short at forty-two minutes plus. Nevertheless, this eponymous debut is accessible enough to enjoy on first listening and promises to remain sufficiently durable to invite repeated hearings, in part because mastering engineer Ben Collette enhances producer Bennett Shapiro's mix during tracks such "Bootsy Bonham." Fiery and full, the audio quality of this album captures the subtlety as well as the expanse of Russ Lawton and Pay Paczkowski's instrumental collaboration.

Track Listing: Bernard; Miss Miriam; Bootsy Bonham; Lasisi; The Story; Tango; Slide B; Whassit.

Personnel: Russ Lawton: drums; Ray Pazkowski: keyboards.

Record Label: Cornmeal Records


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