Polyrhythmics are a band that I first connected live perform during a scintillating set at Suwannee Hulaween 2019 in Live Oak, Florida. That set was transcendent and many who saw it said it was the best of the fest. The eight-piece group with impossibly tight grooves and virtuosic musicianship. Back in May 2020 I reviewed their fifth studio album, Man From The Future.
“Fondue Party” is a concept record of tracks recorded during the Man from the Future sessions, but deliberately saved for this EP. Polyrhythmics already play a wide range of styles from Afro-beat (their origin) to funk, soul, psychedelic rock, R&B and progressive jazz so I was particularly looking forward to this release. This collection of songs explores the group’s downtempo, chilled-out side with heavy dub influence. While past releases mirror the group’s live performances with diverse and dynamic sets taking you on a journey with lots of twists and turns along the way, Fondue Party fits a vibe of its own and is intentionally different than past releases.The EP also commemorates the band’s 10th anniversary and serves as a special treat to longtime fans while making ears perk up for new listeners. Here’s my track-by-track rundown.
Fondue Party: This one opens with a classic Ben Bloom guitar riff and cruises along with a nice jam until nearly halfway through when Art Brown makes a sharp entrance on flute on top of the main melody. The flute solo rolls along up to a short dub like ending. It’s a short palate wetting opener.
Cosimo: Karl Olson starts off on bongos before some reverb synth from Nathan Spicer and Bloom pops in third on electric guitar. This tune sounds like what would happen if another favorite band of mine, Lotus, played Afro-beat. Art Brown comes in with another. nice solo before the full horn section with Scott Morning, (trumpet) and Elijah Clark (trombone) playing simultaneously for the first time on the disc. Jason Gray lays down some deep bass tracks and the full group plays the chorus. Brown blows another funky sesh and the full band chorus comes back up to the close. It’s a great tune and really shines for the horns and the percussion.
Cracked Pepper: Cracked sounds like one of those western gunfighter songs like In The Trees from “Man from the Future.” There’s a chill horn chorus before Nathan comes back with a very trippy synth section. Art Brown has another flute ride and he and Ben on guitar have a short duel before Ben takes another hip trip. The main theme is led to the end by Ben and Nathan.
Zion: Jason Gray leads off with some funky bass before the percussion/drum/synth trio starts taking us into orbit. There’s some intergalactic sounds that Bernie Worrell might have enjoyed. It’s great to hear the guitar on the left channel, synth on the right and then horns and synth full center. The spacey signals fly over left to right. When the synth comes back it sounds a little like chanting. When the horn section comes in midway I was actually a little surprised at first but then we really hit weightlessness. This one is exceptionally nice with noise cancelling headphones and eyes closed. Very Trekky.
Fondeaux: Here’s a strong reggae opening 2020 style with spacey reverb synth some odd sounding block percussion and some deep space exploration with Nathan. It’s the expanded Rasta version of the Fondue Party opening. The synth sounds like it comes at you from a deep in a cave and takes over solo midway before a the reggae groove comes back. Then we roll out some primordial percussion.
Fondue Party is a fine offering from the Polyrhythmics — between their two 2020 releases, they’re on rotation with me a lot. In a crappy year for live music they’ve made a great contribution to the parade of great releases that have been released.
Ben Bloom, Guitars
Grant Schroff, Drums
Nathan Spicer, Keys
Karl Olson, Percussion
Jason Gray, Bass
Scott Morning, Trumpet
Elijah Clark, Trombone
Art Brown, Sax and Flute