As idiosyncratic as Mike Dillon's work has been with Critters Buggin' and Garage a Trois, it's well-nigh impossible not to fall under the spell of the music he creates all by himself on Functioning Broke. A deep dream-like quality emanates from his musicianship, most resonant in the warm glow of vibes that open "Half Right" and continues virtually unabated for the course of this unfortunately abbreviated (thirty-five minutes plus), right down to the similarly insinuating sounds of Indian percussion on the wryly titled "Tabla Goodnight."
Along the way, tracks such as "The Enchanted Sea" underscore the hint of majesty of the opener, largely by the expanse of sound Dillon produced himself and co-mixed with engineer Rick G. Nelson. The result of their work, warm as it is, fills the room on "Alameda," among other cuts, and remains inviting even with the often ornate detail (mirrored in the J. Del Deo cover artwork) within tracks like "Single File."
That in itself is no small accomplishment because Mike Dillon played all the instruments here himself, a total of eleven according to the credits. Nevertheless, he restrains himself from becoming too busy on a number like "Christian Brothers:" by the self-discipline that allows the ethereal tones of vibes, marimba, xylophone and bells, among others, to sustain and hang in the air until followed by the next instrumental sound. Which isn't to say it's all dream-like: one of the six(!) Elliot Smith cover's here, "Independence Day," has a choppy rhythm that reminds Dillon's a percussionist.
Even so, by the time his cover of Neil Young's "The Needle and The Damage Done" rolls around, near mid-point of these dozen cuts, the musicianship evinces the fluidity usually reserved for the best group. "Bachelor Pad" and the cryptically-titled "Chimp and Flower," pass in similarly quick succession, so as much as Functioning Brokesuspends the passage of time for those who hear the album, it'd seem Mike Dillon too is caught up in the spirit of the moment(s),
Half Right; The Enchanted Sea; Alameda; Christian Brothers; Single File; Needle and the Damage Done; Independence Day; Between the Bars; Friendship; Bachelor Pad; Chimp and Flower; Tabla Goodnight.
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