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Transcendental Psychology: Redefinition

Chris May By

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There's something winningly old school and unreconstructed about Chris Lockett's Transcendental Psychology amongst the studied artifice and self-conscious cool of the jam band scene. Not that it's a jam band under the letter of the FDA regulations—but it will be bracketed as one, sure as night follows day.

Trans Psych's scope is both narrower and deeper than your typical jam band. These players focus on straight-ahead group interplay and improv within a basically post bop-rock/funk context, with added hip-hop drum and percussion flavours; they like to develop and play with an idea over seven or eight minutes, rather than fast cutting into something else after two or three; there's no DJ in the lineup; there's no sampling and precious little pre-programming or electronica, aside from Lockett's sparingly used synthesiser; and there's been no big post-production number.

The whole thing sounds like it was recorded live in some sweaty neighbourhood bar, albeit one with excellent acoustics, somewhere in the East End of London. (Actually, of course, it was recorded in Mix-O-Lydian studios in rural northwest New Jersey). In themselves, the often riff-based tunes are unremarkable, but they serve as good jumping off points for improv and development. This is the band's second album, with Dan Landis replacing founding saxophonist Jacques Taylor following the group's eponymous '01 debut.

At its core the music offers raw and uncompromising—and mostly upbeat and fiery—tenor sax and guitar improv over a rhythm section which lays down solid rock/funk grooves but doesn't beat them to death, moving things around and freeing them up in response to what's going on in the front line. Dan Landis sounds a bit like Boots Randolph might have if he'd taken lessons from Archie Shepp (that's meant as a compliment). Lockett can turn in single note solos a la Jimmy Raney and rock/funk solos free of the usual cliches; he can slide out some greasy Hammond soul jazz too, as he does on "Sticks And Ropes." Brian Lee can both walk the bass and get on the one in Funkadelic style (though happily he only employs Bootsy Collins' slap style on one track); F. Carter Hoodless moves convincingly through rock, funky backbeats, hip-hop, and post bop.

This isn't the most sophisticated music on the planet, and doesn't pretend to be, but it has integrity and substance. It's engaging and extroverted, and it has a good time.

There are, by the way, several parallels with London's Partisans, and anyone enjoying Redefinition will probably enjoy that band's (admittedly a tad more demanding) Max.

Visit Transcendental Psychology on the web.


Track Listing: The Burning Question; Spider Tree; Apparitions; Sticks And Ropes; Island Of Lost Souls; Crooked Wisdom; Pollen; Thought Distortion; In That Skin.

Personnel: Chris Lockett: guitar, melodica, organ, electric piano, synthesizers; Dan Landis: tenor and soprano saxophones; Brian Lee: electric and acoustic basses; F. Carter Hoodless: drums and Roland HC-6; Jonathan Mele: percussion on "The Burning Question," "Apparitions" and "Island Of Lost Souls."

Title: Redefinition | Year Released: 2005 | Record Label: Chromium Recordings

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