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Defying distinct categorization, The Softest Touch, the newest release by the Denver-based Sons of Armageddon, combines a dense layering of electronic, electro-acoustic, electronically altered, and "live acoustic sounds in an artistically compelling musical patchwork. Upon an initial listen you may dismiss it as just another "paint by numbers electronica recording. Subsequent spins will raise it above any common categorization, and what you will discover is that the various samples, loops, and other electronically generated sounds serve a real artistic purpose other than merely providing a complex, repetitive, and mind-numbing rhythmic matrix.
The group draws upon numerous exotic musical resources that grab and hold your attention and create a textural weave. The trumpet playing (in particular) of Kirk Knuffke and sax playing of Dav Poli Hoof wind their improvised threads of musical thought as both soloists and parts of the overall texture.
In many ways what you hear on The Softest Touch is a compendium of jazz influenced by electronics going back to the work of Miles Davis and Weather Report of the 1970s, through the acid jazz and jazz-house styles of the 1990s, and into the 21st Century. Reggae, dub, and hip-hop beats and bass lines are also thrown into the mix. All eight of the compositions on the CD are interesting, but two selections stand out: the opening cut, "Ripe Watermelon, and "The Diddler. "Ripe Watermelon is an excellent opening number with strong drumming by Cameron "Slammy Thompson and wonderfully "weird vocal and spoken sounds, all creating a background behind Knuffke's trumpet. The "Diddler also features a fine Knuffke trumpet solo; Tim Hochman also pulls off an excellent Jaco Pastorious-influenced bass feature backed by relatively thin-textured percussion and electric piano accompaniment.
Jazz aficionados who enjoy opening themselves to new and different sonic experiencesespecially those that incorporate steady heavy beats and bass lines with creative uses of electronic sounds and improvisationwill find The Softest Touch a welcome listening experience.
Track Listing: Ripe Watermelon, Hoels, E.S. Smothered, Shambles Factory, Wall Street Colonel, Dubya, The Diddler, A Thousand Kisses Deep
Personnel: Mark Prather, samples, percussion, machines, G4 and production; Lewis DJ Lewps Keller, turn table, laptop, theremin, synths, melodica, production; Tim Hochman, bass; Cameron "Slammy" Thompson, drums; Kirk Knuffke, trumpet; Dav Poli Hoof, alto saxophone, vocals, electronics; David Devine, guitar, prepared guitar, electronics