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Hectic Watermelon - The Great American Road Trip CD (album) cover


Hectic Watermelon


Jazz Rock/Fusion

4.27 | 8 ratings

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Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
4 stars Ten years down the road, one Czajkowski album

The debut album of Hectic Watermelon makes me hope for many more to come. I just hope it doesn't take band leader John Czajkowski another 10 years to get out a second album. The oldest track on this 2006 album was written already in 1996, and it doesn't sound dated at all. Nor can it, the mix of different genres that this band borrows from makes the music timeless in every sense. A different take on this, and indicative of the crazy amount of time signatures this band goes through, is this note from a music score published on the band's web site: "Drum solo (sense of time and barlines disintegrate further)". That score and a few others proof that band contiously cruises through time signatures like 4/4, 6/4, 10/4, 8/8, 6/8, 12/4 and 3/4 in various orders. Stop counting, just believe it or you'll go crazy.

The album is about travel, and the music is a journey through different stuyles in itself. From the opener Sacred Watershed, which is a pretty relaxed jazz rock tune right down to closing track Bullets, Dice and 30 Megabytes.

The opening tune is part of a movement of four tracks, consisting of the hectic (no other word seems to fit) Third Derivative of James Brown. A great track, full of bits and pieces of various styles. There's hip hop yells in there, funky bass, but also a riff that sounds very much like the one in Black Sabbath's Sweet Leaf. The title is probably related to the jazz rock math metal commando style the band claims to have invented.

Bionic Hillbilly is, relative to other tracks on this album, the 'happy tune'. It starts like quite relaxed, but quickly explodes into something that jumps in all directions, and somehow swings like crazy. I never thought I'd use the word swing in a prog review, but it definitely applies here. F Street Fulano closes the first movement, and it has all the sounds of a busy street, but without a single synthisized sound or sample. Guest musician Jerry Goodman (guest is relative, he plays on 9 tracks) is having a very good time with his electric violin here.

A second movement of four tracks is opened by Dreams of Concrete Jungles. It doesn't contain any guitars, which I only realised after reading it in another review. It does however contain an Elephantophone, and John Czajkowski explained in the forums on how he made it himself with Home Depot materials. Go search for it if your curious.

Subterranean Rapid Transit is one of my favourite tracks on te album. I really like tracks like this, that remind you of exactly what they're supposed to represent without having to read liner notes first. It's about trains, and it sounds like trains (rolling, engine sounds and whisles), but like F Street Fulano, this is all due done with real instruments. Another fitting description might be a battle between violin and guitar, but that's form, not function. After getting of the train, we can relax - close our eyes and lay down in on the floor of a hut in Hamemet (Tunesia). Too bad the hut is next to a busy road and cars drive by every 3 seconds (samples this time). A relaxing intermezzo, before the Asian influenced Stray Dogs Messaging Project. According to Czajkowski, a mix influenced by between visiting an Asian exhibition in San Fransisco and travel experiences in Asia. The intro of Passage to Bangkok is childs play compared to this...

The final movement contains two tributes. One is Steve's Stunt Double, a guitar oriented track dedicated to Steve Morse. This one is followed by 21st Century Visigoth, which has no relation to King Crimson, but contains some really well done vocals. It's almost like having a voice solo rather than a guitar solo. Closing track Bullets, Dice and 30 Megabytes is a majestic, full sounding rock/fusion track that is dedicated to the band's drummer. It's inspired by a remark once made by Czajkowski - "if I ever need to rob banks to get money for new band equipment, you will be my partner". Oh well... the track may be a lot better than the story, if you weren't part of it.

This is one of the Jazz Rock/Fusion albums that really got me hooked on the jazz and fusion related subgenres listed on A sonic journey through a mix of many different musical styles, yet with a feeling for atmosphere in each track. As Czajkowski probably intended with this travel inspired album, if I close my eyes, I can travel to a different place in the world with each track, from the bands home town of San Fransisco to Tunesia, or way down to Asia. If this album won't stand the test of time, I will have to revisit this review, but for now, after over 20 listens - it's simply a solid 5 stars.

Angelo | 4/5 |


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