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Monobody - Comma CD (album) cover




Jazz Rock/Fusion

4.11 | 32 ratings

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5 stars Five virtuosi hailing from Chicago are back with their third album, this one a little shorter than the previous two, and having diverged even further from the Post Rock/Math Rock roots they began with. Where 2018's Raytracing showed a clear propensity for exploring a more jazz direction, this album, Comma, completes the commitment: Monobody are playing complex, melodic, virtuosic jazz-rock fusion compositions that are on a level with anything the Pat Metheny Group ever made.

1. "Eighty Eight" (4:38) with an opening using a complex time signature compatible with a Pat Metheny Group or Toe song, Monobody announce from the get-go their jazz-rock fusion preferences. Piano, basses, drums, and the dextrous WES MONTGOMERY-like guitar fingering style of Conor Mackey all weave their individual magic into a wonderfully impressive and, at the same time, engaging song. (9.5/10)

2. "Sylphina" (4:23) opening with a flurry--like a Jazz Crusaders' song--the piano, bass, and keyboard interplay is exquisite and intricate. In the second minute things smooth down into a dreamy, pastoral passage with a greater synth-keyboard presence than we're used to hearing from the band. Collin Clauson and Al Costis are trying their hands at being the band's Chick Corea and/or Lyle Mays! There's even quite a little STEELY DAN here, as well. (9/10)

3. "Cloudless Sulphur" (5:53) opening with a synth-wash bleed-in from the previous song, guitar and keys duet delicately to open. At 0:55 a TOE-like bass-and-guitar combine to great effect as the synth and drums support from the background. Then at 2:43, a flange-funked bass line takes over with the drummer and OZRIC TENTACLES-like space-synth sounds filling space as the guitar feels his way around in the in-between. At 4:05 we break again, into a cool four-part weave--drums, synth, guitar, and bass all feeling as if they are exploring their own pathways--until they all come back together at 4:42 (with increased distortion and amperage to the two-tracked riffing guitar). Cool journey--almost psychedelic. (8.75/10)

4. "Atala" (3:20) the most straightforward jazz song on the album thus far--possibly made so by the dominant piano jazz chord play throughout. It's fast, intricate, and complex. Pat and Lyle would be quite proud!. (9/10)

5. "Mimic" (4:15) opens as if a Tony Levin class étude. More intricate jazziness, fast multiple instrumental runs and soli (bass, George Benson-like jazz guitar, Donald Fagen-like Fender Rhodes). Cool JAN AKKERMAN-like guitar chord sequence 2:30-2:45! More chordal and melodic reminders of Steely Dan in that fourth minute. (9/10)

6. "Harvester" (3:53) more sensitive, slow-tempoed arpeggiated jazz chord work in both the sparse passages and the full-band sections. Again, I am somehow reminded of the melodic and atmospheric genius of the Japanese band TOE here. As horn-like synths join and build their presence in the third minute I am reminded of NuJazz band JAGA JAZZIST. Nice! (9/10)

7. "Phaon Crescent" (6:40) probably the most impressive-sounding song on the album--and most mature--despite the fact the band seem to be pandering for a melodic "hook" from the very opening notes--one that is established by the guitarist by the end of the first minute before going off into a very Pat Metheny Group-like passage for the bulk of the second minute. It's great music--and great musicianship--jazz-rock at its very highest--and it's followed up with some more subtle Donald Fagen-isms in the third minute (from the piano, of course)--which is great--and then developing into the Lyle and Pat show for the fourth--I just want my Monobody to be more distinctively themselves. Great, great passage from 3:45 to 4:30! (9.5/10)

Total Time 33:02

I've figured out that the feelings of "disappointment" I've been having as I listen to this album are caused by the fact that, for the first time, I am hearing lots of similarities to other bands and other influences, whereas on Monobody and Raytracing I was being completely blown away by the utterly unique sound and stylings I was hearing. Maybe these influences and styles were present and I was not hearing them, but now they are quite obvious to me. Don't get me wrong: I LOVE this album--and I love the direction/evolution the band are choosing; I do not like the fact that hearing some of these songs out of context--i.e. in a random playlist--I will at times be thinking I'm listening to a song by Pat Metheny & Lyle mays, Toe, or even Steely Dan or Unaka Prong--none of which are a bad thing (I love all of the music of the afore-mentioned bands) but not exclusively unique to MONOBODY.

A-/five stars; a minor masterpiece of jazz-rock fusion--and in the hunt for Album the Year honors as my favorite album that I've heard, so far.

BrufordFreak | 5/5 |


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