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Nubdug Ensemble — Volume 2: Blame
(Bandcamp Pest Colors 42.NE2, 2021, CD / DL)

by Peter Thelen, Published 2022-02-02

Volume 2: Blame Cover art

It seems it’s always right before the end of the year when new surprises from Nubdug Ensemble tend to appear, and December 2021 was certainly no different in that respect. Volume 2: Blame is their latest installment of masterful and witty tuneage, not to mention concise and unpredictable, that the group had been working on since February, possibly longer. The album contains seven tracks, each title beginning with a word beginning with “Bl...” roughly split between instrumentals and vocal tunes, the latter pieces featuring new singer Jill Rogers. The group’s leader, conductor and primary composer is Jason Berry, who also provides keyboards, electronics and additional instrumentation, and joining him again following the first album Volume One: The Machines of Zeno are keyboardist / synthesist Amanda Chaudhary, bassist Brett Warren, drummer G. Calvin Weston, and guitarist Myles Boisen. Steve Adams (woodwinds) returns from the final Vacuum Tree Head album Rhizomique, and they are all joined by trumpeter Chris Grady. The set launches with “Blues,” a powerfully percolating jazz tune with hints of Zappa and lyrics concerning the purchase of silver ingots, and Adams’ multi-layered sax solo is definitely the icing on the cake, and it all goes down in under three minutes! “Bluff” offers an even busier paced endeavor with Weston and Boisen at the helm, again with a beautifully arranged horn section and cryptic lyrics delivered by Rogers. A brilliant instrumental composition, “Bloom” is at once heavy and bright, with essential arrangements for every member of the band, all in just over a minute and a half. The keyboard driven “Bleep” thrusts forward with an intense and busy groove, punctuated by the guitar and horn section, and lyrics seemingly strange as ever, no comparison to anything. A bit reminiscent of mid-period Soft Machine, “Blood” has the whole instrumental septet firing on all cylinders. Opening a bit like a group improvisation. “Blaze” makes interesting and effective use of electronics, the horns joining later in a tight instrumental arrangement. “Block” is the groove driven funk piece bolstered by popping fretless bass that closes the album, the lyrics only accounting for about thirty seconds of its five minutes, it’s a showcase for tight band arrangements throughout. While the total playing time of Volume 2: Blame only amounts to something just shy of twenty minutes, not a second is wasted anywhere, rife with superb and precise arrangements, making it seem much longer than it really is.

Filed under: New releases, 2021 releases

Related artist(s): Vacuum Tree Head / Nubdug Ensemble, Amanda Chaudhary, Grant Calvin Weston

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