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Super Hi-Fi: Super Hi Fi Plays Nirvana

Chris M. Slawecki By

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Super Hi-Fi founder and bassist Ezra Gale established his cassette-and download-only label Very Special Recordings to give his compatriots and their fans the chance to take a chance. "The fact that cassettes are cheap to manufacture and to buy is huge, because we can take chances and just put out things we love, which we wouldn't be able to do if they cost as much as records," he explains. "And people who see something that's only five or six bucks can take a chance on discovering new music." The label's first two releases explore the music of two rock 'n' roll icons, Led Zeppelin and Nirvana, in brand new musical light.

The members of Brooklyn's Super Hi-Fi have backed up stylists ranging from Donavan to Bill Frisell to Beyonce, and released Super Hi Fi Plays Nirvana to coincide with the twenty-fifth anniversary of Nirvana's commercial breakout Nevermind. Years ago, Gale was in a college band that opened for the Seattle trio and he's wanted to stew Nirvana's crunchy power-pop in Super Hi-Fi's dubstyle reggae ever since. "I hate cover versions that just sound like the original," he says. "So with Nirvana, it seemed interesting to make something new out of something so familiar." Remixers Victor Rice (from Brazil), Doctor Sub (Italy) and Brooklyn homeboy Prince Polo stir their own unique spices into this thick dub stew.

"Heart Shaped Box (9 Lives Dub)" remains true to one of Nirvana's most famous compositions and Hi-Fi's dub, sounding both familiar and new. Trombone "sings" the lead vocal with a second horn in harmony; lead guitar wrenches away the second verse into an angry, squealing fuzztoned blues, then the horns return for the final verse, all chugging up and down that inscrutable dub reggae rhythm. "Verse Chorus Verse (Doctor Sub Remix)" churns upon industrial grunge guitar which evaporates into thick clouds of dub, and (somehow) darkly illuminates the blues or at least the melancholy and hurt within Kurt Cobain's compositions.

Super Hi Fi Plays Nirvana also takes on two of Nirvana's favorite outside compositions: "Love Buzz (Doctor Sub Remix)," written by Shocking Blue (the Dutch group best known for their '60s pop paean to the goddess "Venus"), whips up a sandstorm of swirling electric guitar rage. "Where Did You Sleep Last Night? (9 Lives Dub)" gets even crazier, refracting Leadbelly's primal blues through Nirvana's rock 'n' roll, then reflected in dubstyle. It's one hell of a way to play the blues.

Track Listing: Verse Chorus Verse (Doctor Sub Remix); Polly (Prince Polo Dub); Heart Shaped Box (9 Lives Dub); Something In the Way (Prince Polo Dub); Space Needle (Victor Rice Dub); Love Buzz (Doctor Sub Remix); Where Did You Sleep Last Night? (9 Lives Dub); Space Needle (Victor Rice "Jerry Lewis Dub").

Personnel: Rick Parker: trombone; Jon Lipscomb: guitar; Ezra Gale: bass; Madhu Siddappa: drums; Curtis Fowlkes: trombone ("Verse Chorus Verse"); Robert Stringer: trombone ("Polly," "Heart Shaped Box," "Space Needle," "Where Did You Sleep Last Night?"); Alex Asher: trombone ("Something in the Way," "Love Buzz").

Title: Super Hi Fi Plays Nirvana | Year Released: 2017 | Record Label: Very Special Recordings

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