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Melting Mergers

Melting Mergers

Review by Larry Toering

Melting Mergers is an album that fuses EDM, electronica, funk and world samples together by keyboardist/composer David Lee Bassett, drummer/percussionist Vinnie Bargas, and dancer Emily Paris. In addition to those featured artists in this act,  the album contains an A-list of players who collaborated on the tracks recorded in the Pacific Northwest. There’s no struggling between the genres, and it is all very modern sounding. Still, the classic appeal of it also holds it together.

This is evidenced by two covers: the first by Pink Floyd and the second by John Coltrane, among what are otherwise a lot of amazingly original compositions. And that is why it gets a more prog than not tag at MSJ.

It comes recommended for there being nothing quite like it to come along in some time, probably since David Lee Bassett himself last recorded (but that’s another story). What it boils down to is that you don’t hear something like this every day in either genre presented.  To top it off, Emily Paris is a professional belly dancer and she performs with the band. It’s a clean (more progressive than not) album with horns playing a distinctively jazzy role without being hardcore jazz music.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2018  Volume 1 at lulu.com/strangesound.
Track by Track Review
I.C.U.

The opener kicks off with interplay between an Egyptian female vocal sampled phrase and the electric/acoustic bass of Brendon Keenan. The intro draws you in before a drum break and a series of horn bursts by Joel Riddell take it over the top. You can’t wait for each time they catch fire as the percussion cooks in the meantime on what is a jubilant delivery by all.

The Other Side
This track features the cello of Skip Von Kuske, and it falls somewhere between chamber, eastern and gypsy music, with some of the most hypnotic tones you’ll hear. That is a commodity of which the album is actually chock full. They get away with a multitude of fusion here that is perfectly suited for the dance.
Dawn Patrol

Inspired by Pink Floyd’s “Money” (another prog factor) combined with a lift for the title, from Steely Dan’s “Night By Night” are worth noting on this sublime track which also starts with an Egyptian female vocal sample. The dark atmosphere is driven by the beat of the drummer’s trap set and by Bassett's keyboards.

A Fork In The Road
It only proves to get better as it goes, with this track knocking things completely out of the ball park. The credit goes from the selection of musician choices which includes the likes of Brendon Keenan on (electric/acoustic) bass, plus the outstanding guest tenor-sax work of (right down to the last note), Renato Caronto. This is where it starts to get undeniably awesome.
Us And Them
This is a Pink Floyd cover of colossal proportion you’d never expect. It comes with a deep drone bass and a modified electric piano sound which steals the original vocal melody for all it’s worth, leaving the title repeated with a drone effect and no other vocals applied. This is simply a fantastic modern version of the song. They earn top marks for this killer feat.
Those Pesky Drones
Drones seem to be a theme with this band, and this is a super groovy piece with synth bass, guest Skip Von Kuske on cello, Joel Riddell on trumpet and flugelhorn and much more synth applied by Bassett. It’s like a trip to the stratosphere and back.
Saz You
This is a song using a sample that was processed to create a strumming Saz, which is a middle-eastern guitar. Adding to that, once again, is guest Skip Von Kuske on cello and mandolin. The acoustic drums and percussion by Vinnie Bargas (with that big synth bass added) provide the monster groove that doesn’t quit for days on this full-on epic number.
Rush Hour Fools
A track dedicated to unsafe highways, this is not an easy one to explain how it came together. That involved the title and an old friend/musician from the area, Floyd Cruse (RIP). Fused together samples of his voice (which cannot be heard as his voice) played like a drum machine with many wild effects added, might describe some of it. It’s another sublime number which features all kinds of coolness, with Joel Riddell on trumpet and Von Kuske (once again) on cello.
Phone Waves
This track involves waves at the Oregon coast which were recorded onto an iPhone and sampled for the song/ To that is added a hypnotic sounding Fender Rhodes piano. There is not one second where this album loses any steam as it rolls along and comes down this, the penultimate tune. The enjoyment just never stops, as it almost plays like a visit to the live cinema.
Naima
The album closes by maybe even saving the best for last, with this absolutely-remarkable version of John Coltrane’s classic. This is not to be missed, with an effort that will whisk you off your feet (especially if you like reworked jazz). It also has a sad but true back story that nearly kept the song from the album because of a studio fire. Long story short it’s a lucky thing it made the cut on this truly artistically commanding, long awaited release.

 
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