If you caught my last post, I went on about a talented young bassist by the name of Julie Slick who plays bass in the Adrian Belew Power Trio. For this young lady to be able to handle parts by bassists of such renown as Tony Levin, Les Claypool and others, as well as converting parts played on the Chapman Stick and Warr Guitar, is an ambitious feat in itself. So it was of little surprise to me that she could conjure up a series of songs to compile a solo disc. What was surprising was the depth and imaginativeness as well as the maturity and depth of composition this young artist has displayed. Again, if you are looking for Katy Perry, Lada Yada, or other pop divas of that ilk, this ain’t it. This is the direction of progressive music of the female gender. Artists like Tori Amos, Nina Hagen, even some instrumental Laurie Anderson come to mind. Slick professes not to be a vocalist, but I’d love to comprise this line-up: Amos on keyboards and vocals, Anderson on keyboards, violin, electronics and vocals, Slick on bass and electronics, and Maureen Tucker of Velvet Underground (Anderson’s husband Lou Reed’s former bandmate) on percussion and anything else she wants.
GoGo’s my gluteus maximus (and at my age, it is maximus)…
Having met Slick at the World Café show mentioned in the Power Trio DVD review, as well as befriending her mother, the infamous to this blog, Birdwoman, on Facebook, both ladies are charming, affable and most importantly (to me anyway) intelligent. Slick stars off her disc in a most unexpected way for a young bassist, with the tune “Mela” containing some disharmonies and an almost trombone synth sample and a whacked out arpeggios on the synth line, her bass quickly emerges and plays along with arpeggio line.
I told you she was good.
The whole ensemble kicks in and quickly produces a quirky melody with many Zappa-esque parts coming together. Guess she gets it through Adrian osmosis.
We break down to the arpeggio but bring back full instrumentation quickly to a catchier, less dissonant structure after a while. With brother Eric on drums and Matt Rothstein on guitar and an actual sax player in Jon Braun.
There is some good stuff coming here.
“Many Laughs” is up with Marco Minnemann on drums. He was the drummer for the Adrian Belew Power Trio V2. A more “commercial” effort (if I can use that word in this review). Having witnessed Slick use her upper neck register like a lead guitar, I can imagine the lead lines coming from her trusty bass with the help of her ever present Roland effects pedals. This track is hook after hook with appropriate but tasteful flourishes by both Slick and Minnemann. Synth bells, lead bass lines all build up each part, from the sparse bass and drums intro to the pot boiler end, you can pretty much picture her broad smile framed by her wavy black mane, laughing at her own antics.
It could be argued this is a very simplistic arrangement and construction until they break at around 1:50 in, then the obligatory blow out comes in with pitches so high, my cats are curious!
Nice! Music for cats!
She returns to the “simplistic” verse but it is full out right to the snap drum and tight ending bass pluck. Cool!
Bass harmonics start “February” and when the string lines come in, Slick proves she can conjure up images with music. The keyboards, (some played by brother Eric) make you feel like you are in the middle of winter in Philadelphia. Trust me, I’ve been in Philadelphia in the middle of winter.
This is a slower depiction of snow and cold, but the music makes you feel it. A pretty major achievement on a hot August day.
Bass chords and reversed scraping synths build a flurry. An elegant piano line breaks the mood, but the chill remains. The music makes you envision snow dancing as it falls around you.
We break back to the harmonics for the ending.
Slick heats things back up with “Mora”. A particular favorite of mine from this disc, with taped vocals and Michael Bernier on Chapman Stick. The bass strum remains prominent until harmonized Stick takes the lead. If these really are the noises inside her head, as the tape vocal suggests, I wanna be in there. Granted, the stiff beat box pales in comparison to some of the drummers on this disc, but these are the noises…
What sounds like violin takes over at about 2:40. Could be the Stick as it is a versatile instrument. I hear some white noise type bleats in there, sounding more like nomads on this disc. The beat box does tie things up nicely.
The funky “Aphrodite” is next and features contributions by King Crimson’s Pat Mastelotto and Andre Cholmandeley on what is labeled as VG-99 acoustic guitar. The VG-99 being one of her cherished Roland pedals. After a brief introduction, which turns out to be a variation on the verse structure, a single note chorus inserts itself inbetween. A break for the third verse features the VG-99 guitar. Not to be outdone, bass comes front and center over Mastelotto’s syncopation. He is also credited with production, so there could be drum programming which was his specialty during his tenure with King Crimson. But top billing goes to Slick’s bass solo.
At around 2:40 thing trip up in a good way and back to the chorus/verse structures of before. This could be classified as another “simplistic” track. But the parts won’t be covered by any garage band any time soon. We end this track with an inverted snare hit.
Up next is the first tune on the disc to be performed in its entirety by Slick. “Baron Aloha” starts with a more complex beat box and melodic bass and a distorted bass overdub comes in immediately. Another overdub of harmony bass.
Bass o’ plenty.
Things build as Slick solos on bass. They then break down just as quickly, rebuilding with exaggerated flanged bass. Manic solo notes spring forth before the modulation and demodulation. Lead flange bass returns as it is all built on one basic riff, but it is so interesting it doesn’t seem like it. A hold note on bass and beat box close it out.
It looks like this is another complicated musical outpouring I have chosen in a fit of suicidal madness to dissect. I feel like a monkey performing neurosurgery…
A lovely delayed bass and perhaps Bernier’s Chapman Stick are featured before the full structure of “Nothing To Be Done” begins. Beat box and big, heavy keys (or bass) fill the speakers. A melancholy piece; How much life has this 23 year-old lived?
We go back to the delay bass and pitch up for “verse two”. Backwarding leads join, but things are not entirely morose. A change up at around 2:30 with string swells and a change of chord structure and melody.
This beautiful change takes us to the finger scrape ending. The sounds of our times. A loop type sound swells and takes over to the end.
On this next track, Slick does something few artists can manage. Positive permission from Robert Fripp to sample his work. While I was able to trace one of the pieces she sampled (more amazing is the fact that she was granted permission to use multiple pieces to sample) the piece on Slick’s track, “Choke” features the Soundscape ‘Scanning II’. I was not able to find this on any album.
Sid Smith, if you’re reading this, HELP!!!
The tune itself is spooky with a fat brass and panning voice at first, giving way to a manic track. Slick’s bass picks up a melody for a minute or two, then gives it back to the voice.
The track just fades away to a murky distortion of the voice. Gone in less than two minutes. But this track was so cool, I feel gypped!
Bright guitars up front start off “Awoke” featuring the guitar work of Alex Schmidt. After one go-round of the chord structure, some Belew-like screeches come in. To compliment the Belew screeches, there are some Fripp style arpeggios into sustained notes, which give way to the solo.
Now it’s guitars o’ plenty.
This gal’s got it all!
Another of the more “simplistic” structures MAYBE a REALLY GOOD garage band MIGHT be able to cover this. But as tasty as the chord progression is, it’s over at three minutes. Tease.
Now for Slick’s “Shadow Trip”, I was able to trace the Fripp Soundscape ‘Sometimes God Hides’ to the Pie Jesu EP, although according to DGM, it is available on another Fripp CD reissue. Head on over to DGMLive.com and check them out.
Along with the 5.1 remixes of selected King Crimson albums and Fridge magnets! I am woefully behind on collecting the fridge magnets…
A fat beat box starts off and is joined by bells and trebly bass. Seemingly stagnant, the track builds and I hear faint strains of string sounds in the background, which may or may not be the Soundscape. Slick disguises it well. Bells join in. I may have to pop in Pie Jesu to figure this out.
A descending break with quick arpeggios and more bells brings us around to the eventual singe note break down with chirping leads and building chorus string timbre-wave, which disappears and builds again. Clever!
Quite funky overall, it makes me wonder if Slick has ever used a bass tremolo arm system, similar to the ones made by Kahler, Bigsby or Hipshot?
No time to wonder as a white-noise type sound pans back and forth and comes up to end the tune like a demented carnival ride.
“Spice Trade” also features the ‘Sometimes God Hides’ Soundscape as well as another untraceable Soundscape ‘2006’ (Sid Smith, please?). Like “Shadow Trip”, the Soundscapes are the only assistance Slick utilizes.
Woeful bass harmonies and assumed Soundscape manipulations bring in strings and beat box marching to the procession durge.
Then manic hell breaks loose and only the strings and ethereal Soundscapes remain until a speeding syncopated ‘cuckoo clock’ type break rejoin the ‘hell breaks loose’ structure.
Then a double-time part takes over. Eventually al parts converge together and a few new notes are thrown in until a four note ascend/descend riff gives way to a solo trebly distorted bass ending. I’ll be damned if I can spot the Soundscape.
Spot the Soundscape, brought to you by Whizzo Butter…
With apologies to Monty Python.
We pick back up with “The Rivalry” which includes Mastelotto again and Eric Slick trto ying his hand at VB-99 guitar (not to be confused with VG-99 guitar, I’m confused).
So, and for the record here, the Slick siblings can play all the instruments themselves? OK, somebody has to bankroll THAT album…
A lively, trebly bass kicks off before the guests come in. The whole ensemble is peppy and breaks only to rejoin the structure. For the most part, with the proper words and vocals, these could be pop songs to be reckoned with. A sustained guitar parts kicks the song in a new direction, only to be guided into harmonic guitar lines. At 2:28 some keyboard melody comes in to keep thing moving before the electronic drums get out of control in a good way, and yield to Slick’s manipulated bass loop.
A touch of techno at the end. Proving once and for all, Eminem was wrong, people do still listen to techno.
From the title alone, I anticipate this next track to be fast paced, hyper and all over the place. The intro beat box proves me right.
As well the bass and keys of “Cage Match” don’t betray me either. This does sounds like an angry tune. Right through the bass break, it maintains it anger and speedy pace. We take a breather at around 1:40 but it’s quickly back to the sparring and the lead bass doesn’t hurt matters until the reverb drone end.
And the winner is… the listener!
Finally, and to my dismay, is “Blood Blisters”. Rarely do artists record songs in order as they appear on the disc. But after Slick’s constant work with the Adrian Belew Power Trio, Paper Cat, her solo work, I am sure she has had her share of blood blisters, calluses too. And if she’s not careful with those bare feet, the odd stage splinter!
But this track starts off with bloody, distorted guitars, some provided by Jordan Del Rosario. A big, thick bass comes in and beat box joins last. A more meditative piece to end the disc. Layer after layer, one might imagine being by the sea. Until the ominous break part comes in around 1:40. Some very nice slide guitar soloing rounds out this short, contemplative piece.
I listen to this disc and simply marvel at the ingenuity and creativity Slick has displayed at her tender age. I know for a fact she is working on more solo music which I cannot wait to get my hands on. I once recommended this disc as ‘driving music’, music to operate a motor vehicle to.
I am not responsible for any speeding tickets or accidents that may occur while driving and listening to this disc.
Up next, and hopefully sooner than the time between this review and the last, will be Angelfire featuring ex-Dixie Dreg and Deep Purple guitar legend Steve Morse, as well as the youthful infusion of one Ms. Sarah Specer. Keep reading!
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