How does a deplorable basket of jazz- and classically-trained musicians liberate themselves from all sense of responsibility to the tyranny of tradition, seriousness and taste? For Smoov Badger, the route back to the root of all that is good in music–its fun, feverishness, and freedom–is through an unexpected porthole: to the nearly-forgotten world of Exotica, a bachelor-pad jazz-pop subgenre from mid-century and blatantly inauthentic Worldbeat forerunner that writhed with Don Draper-esque sexual privilege and unexamined colonial assumption.
Between bouts of reading heavy Situationist theory, keyboardist Phil Bowden led the charge by scratching off a slew of these grooves, which he then brought to this team of crack improvisers with the initial goal of starting a party band which was to energize the deterritorialization of bodies and space through good-times-having. Then, of course, when the music actually started to happen, the inventiveness and personality of the musicians inevitably began to befoul and enrich the schematic riffs, as when Drew Allen’s sousaphone spews Wagnerian gravitas and loose-lipped flatulence atop Tyler Eaton’s stylishly idiomatic bass lines. Some of the tracks still emit a mellow retro leer, but, in the hands of relentless experimentalists suckled on Xenakis et al, some of the vamps get pretty sharply de-vamped (see the coarsely partisan protest-metal of “Planet Earth”).
In a neat inversion of the turgid sonic imperialism of their source material, Smoov Badger turns its exoticizing gaze out beyond the Earth to explore a series of other “planets,” each depicted, a la Jodorowsky’s , as a kind of distillate or tincture of some weird facet of our own. Interspersed is a disturbing subplot whose lyrics the relentless pursuit of the evidently unbearably desirable Cindy. But vocalist Bobby Digital is evidently not merely a fully sexualized stalker and space explorer: In the SNL-intro-evocative saxophone workout “Planet TedX”, Digital crows clichéd affirmations like a Tony Robbins-influenced brand strategy guru, whilst saxophonist Drew Ceccato overheats and then singes the stock phraseology of tenor sax transcendence: preparedness pays, but the spirit moves in mysterious ways. In one joke and then out another, Smoov Badger inscribe Cindy, the exotica, the whole sci-fi thing, into the book of the ancient alchemist: by composting the shit out of the queasiest corner of middlebrow popular culture, they fertilize anew the worn-out fields of Eros–the same drive Freud linked to the urge to create, innovate, explore, and invent: a plea for love in the time of Accelerationism.
–The Risky Forager
Drew (#2) Allen – tuba
Phil Bowden – keys
Leah Bowden – drums
Drew (#1) Ceccato – sax/flute/EVI/didgeridoo
Tyler Eaton – bass
Issac Garcia-Munoz – pan pipes, auxiliary percussion
Bobby Digital Pierzak – vocals
Artwork – Inferno Productionz
Production Phil Bowden and Bob Pierzak
Recorded in Studio A UCSD
Recording engineer Scott Worthington
Mixing Bob Pierzak
Mastering Richard Hunter Rivera
Risky Forager Records (c) RFR007