1/ Rapid Fire (Naked Truth) 3.47 2/ Lazy Elephant (Naked Truth) 4.57 3/ Trap Door (Naked Truth) 4.14 4/ Tense Shaman (Naked Truth) 9.21 5/ Avian Thug (Naked Truth) 6.16 6/ Day Two At Bedlam (Naked Truth) 6.28 7/ Moon At Noon (Naked Truth) 13.02 Recorded 2013 at Yellowfish Studios, East Sussex, UK Additional recording at Pat's Worm Hole, Dripping Springs, USA Mixed by Bill Laswell at Orange Studios, NJ Produced by Lorenzo Feliciati and Bill Laswell Executive Producer for RreNoise Records: Giacomo Bruzzo Mastered by Mike Fossenkemper at TurtleTone Studios, NYCGraham Haynes: trumpet and electronics; Lorenzo Feliciati: basses, guitars, keys; Ray Powell: electric keyboards, analog synths, organ, prepared piano; Pat Mastelotto: acoustic and electric drums and percussion.
2016 - RareNoise Records (UK), RNR057 (Vinyl) 2016 - RareNoise Records (UK), RNR057 (CD)Note: Bill Laswell does not play on this album.
While Feliciati is the leader, there's a lot a democracy happening on Avian Thug, and the record is better for it. The group composed all seven compositions together, and no one member dominates: it's an ego-less undertaking among a collection of very strong musical personalities, a rare feat that makes possible a rare treat.
The sub-five minutes shorter songs are front-loaded. I would even assert that "Rapid Fire" is too short, because Rapid Fire is so damned smokin' only to be extinguished before it reached the four minute mark. Powell's opening fractured organ lines get increasingly agitated over Mastelotto's swing-to-rock bash. Haynes enters just as things get funky to conjure up visions of Miles at the Fillmore.
As Feliciati's electric bass is usually found at the core of each performance, his less-is-more approach ends up making his contribution more impactful because of the wide intervals he often allows between his figures; you tend to notice him more because he's not present at every beat. That's lent an diffused air to grooves like the one he creates with Mastelotto for "Lazy Elephant," a lumbering beat and sticky bass working in a perfect communion for this groove construction. Powell occupies the other end of this sonic spectrum with his prepared piano and otherworldly sonorities, and Haynes' cornet makes lonely stabs into the dark ambiance.
A blast kicks off a multi-rhythmic motion on "Trap Door," which seems to pull in cultures from all corners of the world. Haynes' overdubbed cornet evokes Decoy-era Miles and behind him things open up when Feliciati pulls out and Mastelotto attacks his cymbals. A distorted extreme bottom bass line crawls on the floor of "Tense Shaman" while Haynes floats way up high above it. Powell's fragile electric piano dissolves into a void as the band collects itself and reboots the beat but with a different chord pattern. "Avian Thug" announces itself with a muscular rock beat, and Powell's alien analog synth solo leads a ghoulish noise until Haynes' subdued cornet arrives to keep the wickedness at bay.
Grooves get overtaken by arid sonic contours for the final two tracks, for the most part. An unsettled ambient mood pervades "Day Two At Bedlam," set by sampled strings, a flowing prepared piano and murmuring bass over sometimes dissonant chords. Haynes' electro-assisted horn harmonics over a spare piano on "Moon At Noon" is a nod to Jon Hassell and Nils Petter Molvær. A start-stop thump enters around 5:45, Mastelotto closely following and accenting Feliciati's shuffling bass line long after Feliciati bows out. Eventually, the groove dies out only to be resuscitated as the performance winds down.
I don't know if it's Bill Laswell's involvement in this, or this is just a band of members getting more confident and more comfortable with each other, but Avian Thug sounds like the best thing they've made so far, and Naked Truth had already gotten off to a nice start with their first two projects. Now, they have reached cruising altitude.
S. Victor Aaron (courtesy of the Something Else! website)
What a crazy collage of sonic imagination this is. The last recording of the Naked Truth quartet of trumpeter Graham Haynes, guitarist & bassist Lorenzo Feliciati, keyboardist Roy Powell and drummer Pat Mastelotto was not exactly a passive event… huge doses of electronics and effects were a landscape of fire that the musicians either soared high above or fanned the flames of intensity. We're talking 1970's psych-jazz-rock fusion but one more interdimensional than interstellar. There's some space jazz action, but Naked Truth works things more at the molecular level. Their sound isn't made of stars, but from the soil, and consists of elements not found here on Planet Earth. Those are the ingredients they work with, but on their newest, Avian Thug, the way they go about shaping these same raw elements into distinguishable forms is more than a little bit different and more than a little bit cool.
Opening track "Rapid Fire" is immediate proof of the change with its curious crosshatch of Jimmy Smith organ trio groove and Beastie Boys staggered cadence. It's the stuff of the future openly displaying the seeds of its past. Title-track "Avian Thug" also digs into a groove, but in this case, it stays close to the ground and utilizes a low center of gravity to build momentum to feed an increasingly obtuse melody. And the structure the song exhibits adds so blessedly much to the song, especially as the quartet goes about stretching it in every possible direction.
"Lazy Elephant" works an ever-changing permutation of the melody with a series of ascensions and descents. Of especial interest are the fascinating piano lines swirling about like refracted light captured by the thick mist of electronic effects. It's a completely different effect with "Trap Door" and its punches-in-bunches approach to tempo and melody. On the other hand, "Tense Shaman" gets to the heart of early Naked Truth music, back when Cuong Vu was adding his trumpet to the mix and creating oddly fused constructions of atmospheric melodic incursions and tattooed rhythms.
The album ends with the airy "Moon at Noon," with its syncopated drone and a melodic fluttering, light as a feather. It's a lovely ending to the album. However, it's a perfect example of the before-and-after differentiation of previous work when it's preceded by the glittering dissonance of "Day Two at Bedlam," a tune that twitters with life while sending out droplets of sound like a melody liquefied into falling rain. And beneath all of that enchanting pitter-patter is an undercurrent of tension from a rapidly pulsing keyboard and percussion. It's one of the best things Naked Truth has ever done, and the way they are able to create something so different from what's come before without actually deviating very much at all from what's come before, it goes a long way to showing how this quartet with such a huge sound also possesses the talent to manipulate the details in ways to get them to resonate as strongly as the bolder, louder elements of their music. It also shows how their music is evolving, finding new ways to frame it even as they experiment with new ways to unleash it.
It's a dizzying array of sound this quartet creates, but not to get lost in its description is that this is also supremely fun music.
Dave Sumner (courtesy of the Bird Is the Worm website)
Avian Thug is this multinational quartet's third release and was recorded in England after the completion of a 2013 tour and offers more of the band's explorative powers, intimating similes of treks into mysterious galactic corridors. Comparisons to the electric Miles Davis era and so on are in order, but this unit gels to heavyweight cadences amid electric trumpeter Graham Haynes' stark pronouncements; brisk modern jazz flurries and succinctly stated melodic choruses. No doubt, they straddle a contemporary electronics-induced jazz rock domain, abetted by keyboard wiz Roy Powell's resourceful bag of tricks, steeped within his use of analog synths, organ and prepared piano implementations. It's a multihued presentation, featuring the highly respected rhythm section of drummer Pat Mastelotto and Naked Truth founder, bassist Lorenzo Feliciati.
The band paints a foreboding but thoroughly happening musical vista. On "Trap Door" Haynes' flickering notes and echoing EFX-based treatments augment a mid-tempo bustling groove with a touch of frantic momentum, as the musicians sound like troops aligning for battle. "Avian Thug," commences with Powell's synth lines that seemingly mimic a bunch of laughing gremlins. Moreover, the keyboardist and Haynes dish out blitzing unison choruses with fluid developments, tinted with bizarre regions of sound and jazzy escapades. The final and lengthiest track "Moon at Noon," transitions the listener to a blissful ambient-electronica vibe, formed with minimalism and the trumpeter's reverberating parts, followed by the bassist's supple underpinnings and the drummer's potent backbeats. Nonetheless, Naked Truth's multidimensional mosaics combine power, grace, and yet another visit into an indescribable netherworld.
Glenn Astarita (courtesy of the All About Jazz website)