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Sex Mob: Sexotica

Troy Collins By

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Sex Mob, a riotous avant party band, dedicates its fourth album to the father of exotica, Martin Denny. The group dabbled in subtle electronic production techniques with renowned hip-hop producer Scotty Hard on 2003's Dime Store Grind (Ropeadope). Assisted by the production team of GoodandEvil (Danny Blume and Chris Castagno), Sex Mob travels further afield here into electro-acoustic soundscapes.

While plumbing the depths of exotica for inspiration may seem a bit passé—the mid-1990s were the high point of retro-lounge nostalgia—Sex Mob's interpretation of Denny's music and exotica in general is wholly original. The group's deviant take on his mysterious island moods and jungle rhythms is one of noir atmosphere, dramatic tension and squalling fervor, with clamorous horns sailing over ominous, pulsating bass and surging trance rhythms. This is not your father's desert island.

Founder, writer, arranger and slide trumpet virtuoso Steven Bernstein leads his longstanding quartet through this mysterious journey. Saxophonist Briggan Krauss has the capacity to peel paint with his acidic tone and kinetic phrasing, but rather than spewing out circuitous blast furnace lullabies, this album generally finds him sputtering dissonant, minimal phrases for GoodandEvil to loop and process into riffs and breaks. Bassist Tony Scherr and drummer Kenny Wollesen drive the bottom end with solid, dense grooves and pummeling vamps. Scherr's fat bass tone dominates, while Wollesen's drum set, miked like a rock kit, adds punch to the heavyweight rhythms.

A number of pop music conventions are embraced here; horns are run through layers of reverb, while the whole ensemble is sampled, cut and pasted into its own performance. Bernstein's excellent arranging and boisterous horn charts provide an organic focal point in this post-production-heavy environment. Dominated by studio manipulation, these tunes are often relegated to theme and variation-based grooves; only on "Dick Contino's Blues" do the band members really get a chance to let loose and solo at length.

Bernstein, the principal soloist, tends to play short melodic variations without ever veering too far from the main melody. Less improvisational than Sex Mob's past efforts and more concerned with atmosphere, mood and groove, Sexotica is first and foremost a party record. Granted, it is likely the most meticulously arranged and composed party album to come along in quite some time, but that's still what it is. Put it on at your next luau ... or fetish party.


Track Listing: Pygmy Suite; Martin Denny; Exotique; Luvin Blume; Quiet; Oakland; Dick Contino's Blues; Kid Rock Deluxe; 7 Bars.

Personnel: Steven Bernstein: slide trumpet, mellophones, vocals; Briggan Krauss: alto saxophone, baritone saxophone; Tony Scherr: acoustic bass, acoustic guitar, vocals; Kenny Wollesen: drums, percussion, bird whistles, vibraphone; Mike Dillon: tablas; Good and Evil (Danny Blume and Chris Kelly): programming hijinks.

Title: Sexotica | Year Released: 2006 | Record Label: Thirsty Ear Recordings

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