The world seems to wake-up after being in hibernation for far too long, slowly getting back on our feet hungry to make up for lost time. The first concerts and festivals are lining-up and I can’t wait for that first drum roll to send shivers down my spine. I will have to keep my patience for just a little bit as everything I got tickets for was delayed and pushed back. The first live event coming up for me is Curtis Harding on the 9th of March.
Do you have any concerts lining up? Let me know in the comment section below!
Nothing comes closer to a live recording than Vinyl, so here is a warm-up to the return of live music. Still Echo by Mute Beat will definitely resonate with you and has been bouncing off many walls from it’s birth in the late 80’s. With good hopes of finding a copy during my trips to Japan and the USA I unfortunately wasn’t able to track down a copy. However, my luck turn around and I recently got hold of an original copy. Still Echo varies from heavy roots that will challenge both your speakers as the neighbours tolerance, dreamy Digi Dub to revisiting the Ska days on more than one occasion. The musicianship is utterly brilliant and the virtuosity of the players of instrument is testament to their commitment to develop an unique sound. Cited by many as a fore runner to Acid-Jazz and the Trip-Hop scene. The influence of Mute Beat within and outside Japan, much like a echo, can still be heard.
A fitting name to open the album and shake off any last doubts, ready for the sun to pierce through the grey. The Vinyl release has fewer tracks and in a slightly different order instead opening the album with this piece of Digi Dub. The individual keys of the drum machine fall down like heavy raindrops gathered by the leaves overnight. The melodramatics of the piano and cello together with elegantly placed synths play into the sentiment of a misty morning with the promise of sunshine on the horizon.
With a horn salvo that makes you sit straight-up before being catapulted into orbit, Coffia sounds lively and frenetic as Mute Beat plays tribute to the days of Ska. Their deep fascination for Ska and the Skatalites in particular is no secret. Their enthusiasm is spilling over, following one solo after the other like a bunch of young cats trying to do outdo each other. In between, there is enough room left for that gorgeous upright bass to be heard while the drums keep pushing forward never missing a single beat.
From the light-footed Coffia, Organ’s Melody comes in hard with a fat bassline and some solid work on the drum machine. Shaped after the early Dancehall sound ushered by producers like Gussie Clarke or the than still uncrowned Prince Jammy. I just love the way those drum rolls sound. Backed by some major chords on the keys to create a vacuum for the rhythm to return with a vengeance after the cymbals come crashing down. The horn section breaks away from the dancehall aesthetics inserting the majestic sound that is featured on so many of Reggae’s classic recordings.
The introduction pulls you right into a scene of a Spaghetti western where time appears to have no influence. Kazufumi Kadoma’s Trumpet does most of the talking, filtered through a mute on the solo to deliver that distinctive Jazz sound. 31 seconds in, Takayoshi Matsunaga hits the scene turning the whole show into a Mexican stand-off between bass and trumpet while all around seems to be frozen in time.
Although Still Echo is “all killer, no filler” if have to say that this track stands tall like a snow covered mountain peak dwarfing all others in sight. With little to no light, only the bright flickering neon sign on the back of the stage reflecting off Kadoma’s brass instrument and the occasional burning of a cigarette tip shed some light on what is about to come. Hypnotizing the audience much like a snake charmer would, the organ moves from slow funk to gospel followed by some contemplating chords on piano while Kadoma’s smokey solo under dim light continues. If the opening doesn’t catch your attention the big drop of the rhythm will surely make your head spiral. Propelled by a colossal bassline coupled with a flat drum pattern which creates a muffled sound against the crystal clear horn section riding high. Half-way through, Mute Beat’s live Dub mixer Izumi Miyazaki adds his magic. Stripping the rhythm to it’s bare bones moving from the back alley club to an industrial hall with soundwaves clashing against the walls before it reaches your ears. Trombone and Trumpet drive up the tempo and the rhythm kicks in high gear with drum roll after drum roll signaling the last summit before it all comes crashing down.
After sitting down in awe on the previous tune everyone is invited to stand-up and dance on this one, bringing us a piece of Ska that has both flair and attitude. The melody could have come straight from an unreleased Skatalites recording. This is nothing but a complement seeing the adoration Mute Beat seems to have for this highly influential group of musicians. The deep sound of the Trombone pulls you in even more while the Trumpet floats above, free of all rules. The percussive drive double tracking the drums give if that funky vibe, making for an uncontrollable tapping of you feet. Try to keep them still!
Deep and heavy vibrations on this one rightfully earning the album’s title, Still Echo. The horn section turn to their royal selves once again providing this gorgeous repeating riff. 10 seconds in, you have already come to rely on that snare drum to fall down, pounding away and keeping everything together. Once the bassline gets room to breathe you start to fully appreciate the heaviness it brings keeping things grounded like only gravity can. The hauntingly beautiful synths painted against this thick wall of Drum and Bass briefly overcoming this relentless beat ascending to a higher meditation.
Mute Beat deserves far more attention and with Still Echo has delivered an groundbreaking album that has reach cult status among aficionados and collectors over the years. There is still a wide audience that hasn’t discovered this gem yet. All the more reason to hit the play button.