Fat Freddy's Drop: Bays (Rhythmethod)

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Fat Freddy's Drop: Novak
Fat Freddy's Drop: Bays (Rhythmethod)

  There are concept albums and live albums, but this new album from a band which has juggled studio and live releases sound pleasingly close to a studio-created concept of a live album.

It opens slow and stakes out its ground with some fairly familiar Freddy grooves on  Wairunga Blues, their archetypal rolling reggae groove on Slings and Arrows (which devolves into a natty, dub-echoed trombone section) and the skunk of 10 Feet Tall (for which the word "below" was coined.

So far so familiar for the most part, but then around the mid-point -- starting with Wheels which opens with a trickle of electronica and synth-repetition and the increasing pulse of Razor -- things take a slightly more interesting turn. It's as if they decided to shrug off the old Freddy and try on a new set of clothes . . . and given it's such an interesting step it lifts this album just when you thought it might be a retread of past glories.

The dark heart of Razor -- behind those relentless synth grooves there is some discreetly menacing guitar -- isn't a profound shift for them but certainly signals an unease which is welcome from a band which has most often parlayed a pleasant stoner groove.

From there on the horns come back into play (but are much more playful on Fish in the Sea where singer Dallas Tamaira sounds deliberately world weary and the 10 minute groove becomes is a trip to a different part of the Caribbean or Latin America) and by this time you might be feeling Freddy's have just taken you on a vaguely conceptual journey in sound with all the astuteness of a well programed live set.

If there's a reservation to be had -- and longtime fans will simply relish the familiar while accepting the more innovative tracks -- it's that these tangents woven so skillfully into the album around the middle might have appeared earlier.

Maybe a more confident band would have done that?

But there is of course utter confidence here in what they are doing and you wouldn't argue with it if they played it start-to-finish in concert.  

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