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Frogg Cafe - Bateless Edge CD (album) cover

BATELESS EDGE

Frogg Cafe

 

Jazz Rock/Fusion

3.93 | 187 ratings

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Conor Fynes
Prog Reviewer
5 stars 'Bateless Edge' - Frogg Cafe (9/10)

'Eclectic' would be one word to describe this vast album from the American fusion quintet Frogg Cafe. Closing in on being nearly eighty minutes in length, 'Bateless Edge' is certainly a long and ambitious effort, coming from a band who started off as little more than a Frank Zappa tribute group. Well suffice to say. Frogg Cafe has moved far beyond a tribute to any other artist here; over the course of their career, they have fostered a fresh sound for jazz fusion that often drags in other sounds to keep things fresh and exciting. 'Bateless Edge' may be my first experience with the music of Frogg Cafe, but already I am greatly impressed by the band, and although I can agree somewhat with the opinions of detractors saying that the album is a little too drawn out, the sheer quality of the ideas that are here make the album a masterpiece for me. Although it is no small bite to chew for the sake of musical digestion, the album's depth is worth returning to many times.

Although Frogg Cafe have since moved on to much greater things, their roots as a tribute to Frank Zappa can still be heard, particularly in the playful way they use the marimba and xylophone. Besides that, Frogg Cafe really incorporates a surprising amount of different sounds and surprises into the jazz fusion foundation they lay out, including Indian raga music (as can be heard in the opening minutes of the record), or even avant-garde neoclassical music, as is heard in the Magma-influenced 'Pasta Fazeuhl'.One thing that stays constant throughout this musical journey however is that the music is performed with great class and charm, even when Frogg Cafe are expanding outside their typical boundaries. Warm vocals are also sometimes used, although for the most part, 'Bateless Edge' is an instrumental effort. The songs are generally quite long, and while I usually find that instrumental music can get boring, the music here is always filled with new ideas, sometimes greatly melodic and beautiful.

After the first few listens, 'Bateless Edge' did seem like a little too much at once; a record with such variety paired with length can make for a challenging listen at first, but especially with the vocal moments that pop up every now and then, Frogg Cafe gives the listener enough hooks to grab a hold of, and from that, it becomes easier to dig into the less inviting aspects of the material. Even so, the only time when the music here becomes particularly challenging or 'out there' is in 'Pasta Fazeuhl', where the band drops their quirky jazz fusion for a brooding brand of classical music, led onward by a somewhat unsettling violin and background groove that gets more eerie upon repetition. Having an uncharacteristically sombre piece of music followed by a track that sounds undeniably playful with its dark atmosphere followed by warm ballads and charming jam sections is possibly what can hurt the album the most. Although every song here is incredible with the music, I do get the feeling that 'Bateless Edge' lacks a bit of binding identity, although the variety does tend to keep things fresh. Especially with so long a record to deal with, it does seem preferable to have many different things to experience here rather than overall cohesion, so 'Bateless Edge' can still be considered a masterpiece in my eyes, although its inherent scattered feeling can make for an underwhelming experience at first.

Conor Fynes | 5/5 |

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