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Boat Dares - Borscht Belt Volume 1 - Ode To Pasqually CD (album) cover


Boat Dares



3.05 | 3 ratings

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3 stars "Boat Dares" is a RIO/Avant Prog band from Portland, Maine. The band consists of a duo and was formed by them in 2017 and since then have released three albums. The duo consists of Sean Ahern on accordion, synthesizer, marimba, bouzouki, glockenspiel and various other instruments; and Dylan Jarrell on drums. They have also enlisted Tony Gagnon who occasionally furnishes some saxophone.

This review concerns the album released in February of 2019 called "Borscht Belt Volume 1: Ode to Pasqually". The 2nd volume of this series was released in May of 2019. Volume 1 consists of 7 tracks, 5 of which are long and 2 of which are very short. The music is mostly improvised and can be quite quirky and crazy.

In case you didn't know, the Borscht Belt, otherwise known as the Jewish Alps, was a nickname for a chain of summer resorts that were popular in the Catskills in New York between the 1920s and 1970s. The resorts hosted a lot of Jewish entertainers. Many of the resorts have closed, but the Jewish influence is still present and some of the resorts are still operating. Pasqually can be either one of two things: it is either Martinez de Pasqually, the originator of the philosophy called "Martinism" or the animatronic character called Pasqually from Chuck E. Cheese. My guess is the former, but then, Part Two of this series refers to a mouse, so who knows.

The album starts with "Pickles & Pierogies (In the Privy)". We start off with a mysterious subdued drone and a fuzzy accordion supported by rumbling cymbals. Soon the accordion slips into a polka sounding melody with an echo effect. The drum starts to warm up to the rhythm, but comes in a bit hesitantly like it's not sure where this is going yet. Finally after about 5 minutes of this, the sound gets brassy and fuzzier and the percussion has pretty much figured it will just go where it wants, but the main melody has pretty much kept the same rhythm, but morphed to a mid-Eastern style. This drags on for over 7 minutes total.

"Large Government, Small Fries" begins with the drums establishing a rhythm and the accordion comes along to take advantage of it, huffing along. It would be easy for the drums to just fall into a basic rhythm, but it doesn't. It embellishes the accordion with crazy riffs and fills while the accordion continues to improvise. About halfway through, the sax comes squealing in and takes over the improvisation while the accordion and drums support it. Tooting and honking along, the tempo fluctuates, speeding up and slowing down while the sax drives everything along with crazy melodies and riffs. That fuzzy sounding instrument (I can't quite place what it is) starts to do counter improvisation with the sax and things get a bit chaotic when things slow down quite a bit and the accordion almost becomes drone-like as the sax churns out a slower melody with more sustained notes and a few flourishes. After that, things chug along to the finish at over 10 minutes total.

A short ditty called "A Mouse Without a Home" follows performed by a synth and a fuzzy effect playing a stately theme. A 12 minute track called "There Might Be Ghouls in There" follows. An accordion announces the beginning, the drums come in and synths and glockenspiel follow along. The main improvisation changes from one instrument to another. The speed picks up slowly, as in a the traditional Jewish dance style. The instruments starting swirling crazily along and the drums pound along striving to keep from going into any kind of established pattern. After 7 minutes, the drums drop out as the fuzzy synths pull everything along slowly, then the drums come back with a much slower rhythm. The Jewish influences continue through this track as they do through most of the track, and soon you hear the rhythm pick up tempo again.

The next track is mostly drums and accordion improvising along in a track called "This Ain't Spaghetti". This pretty much meanders along at a moderate tempo for almost 7 minutes. During the last minute, things suddenly go completely out of control as the drums go crazy. A short, crazy mish mash of sounds led by a tortured sax follows called "Damn the Fish". The last track nears 10 minutes and is named "The Wizard Needs Ingredients". This one uses the sax as the main improvisational instrument again and it is supported by synths, accordion and drums. This one strays around with varying tempos and styles, just having fun with never really settling on anything. What you come up with is a strange avant-garde Jewish Jazz or something. It's actually pretty cool and the sax gets pretty crazy as other instruments come in to try to take over. Things quickly slow to a standstill during the last minute of the track.

This is definitely an interesting album, all instrumental, with the accordion being the main instrument most of the time, except for when the saxophone is utilized. In the tracks where only the accordion and drums are used, things can get a bit long winded and hard to sit through, but when other instruments are utilized and added in to the core sound, it gets much better. As per the title of the album, this music is very much influenced by traditional Jewish music, and that is mostly what you will hear. But be warned that things can also get quite chaotic and crazy at times, which is why this is considered Avant-prog. There is a bit of experimentalism and a lot of improvisation, and a few times this tends to meander along, but at other times, it really pays off. No doubt there is a lot of humor thrown in to the music and that is reflected by the amusing track titles. I am quite impressed with the level of ingenuity here, but turned off a bit by the long, meandering sections. The best parts are when more instruments are brought in and things venture to the more avant-prog side of things. I would probably have to go with 3 stars here however, it is a good effort, but not quite an excellent effort. I will be looking forward to hearing Part Two to see where the music goes from here.

TCat | 3/5 |


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