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Sonic Fiction is a Sydney, Australia based unit and quoting from the press release ".... Changing With The Times reflects the band's meshing of new western art music, jazz and rock with geographical musical threads from Ghana, South India and Java."
A fair summarization indeed; although, to their credit, Sonic Fiction incorporates some of the finer elements of the jazz-fusion movement sans the at times, glossy pyrotechnic gyrations and predictable chop fests. Basically, Sonic Fiction's debut is extremely impressive and offers many thrills and unexpected or somewhat startling surprises comparable to someone dumping a bucket of ice water on your head. Needless to state, these fellows get to the point rather quickly!
The opener, "Finlayson St." commences with a bluesy-swing motif, which frequently changes gears resulting in complex unison runs between the superb vibraphonist Daryl Pratt and young (phenom) guitarist James Muller. From here on in it doesn't take too long to realize what this band is all about which includes mesmerizing yet meaningful solos, fully realized well-conceived compositions and alluring arrangements. The powerhouse rhythm section consisting of bassist Adam Armstrong and whirlwind drummer Andrew Gander provide significant impact throughout the entire recording. The music is demanding yet the overall flow is seamless and loaded with the appropriate dynamics as in the title track, "Changing With The Times." Here, guitarist James Muller opens with slick picking and gorgeous phrasing over an odd-meter funk backbeat. Comparisons? Perhaps 1970's Steps Ahead for one, yet Sonic Fiction maintains a fresh outlook and positive vibe as they have ostensibly learned or absorbed the lessons of the past.... "Ringing Changes" is an all out scorcher! Here, Pratt utilizes his midi-vibes to good effect, as Muller's illuminating guitar work would make Scofield and Coryell proud! "Mind Games" opens with a deliberate, driving rock beat and evolves into a "free" excursion followed by a mid-tempo swing motif. Again, Muller's articulate phrasing and crafty use of harmonics is imaginatively conveyed through complex exchanges with fellow soloist Pratt. "Remember"is a somber, somewhat dreamy ballad featuring a soulful and expertly performed acoustic bass solo by Adam Armstrong.
The final tracks, "Tower" and "Street Scene" are climactic in nature as the band displays boundless creativity taking the listener on a journey consisting of shifting tempos, precise unison passages and understated melodies. On "Street Scene," Gander takes a killer polyrhythmic drum solo which just heightens the intensity level from a compositional standpoint. Let it be stated that these compositions have quite a bit to offer as the soloing and hot shot ensemble work adhere to the frameworks or foundations of the thematic construction. Special acclamation is also bestowed to Phil South who provides the organic tonal coloration through various percussion instruments and marimba.
Changing With The Times is mesmerizing yet enduringly gratifying. These guys play with conviction and it shows in glowing fashion as they sustain a high degree of interest yet play close attention to compositional form! Changing With The Times is a musical rubix cube! It's vividly real .... perhaps brain-food for the adventurous or inquisitive as Sonic Fiction offer a refreshing slant on music that may mimic or feign Deja Vu; which in this case makes for a rather inviting listening experience............* * * * *
Jazz is a continuing revelation. The best show I ever attended was the
Roots Picnic at Penn's Landing in Philadelphia, or was it Robert
Glasper's Experiment at Lincoln Center, or was it Chick Corea with
Brian Blade at Oberlin College? Most of all I enjoy playing guitar and
composing beats with my Brooklyn-based group Space Captain.