Listen Up: Wednesday, July 2, 2003
A D V E R T I S E M E N T
A D V E R T I S E M E N T
Garage-a-Trois

Emphasizer (Tone Cool Records)

By John Weyand

Cuica. Suona Horn. Pandeiro. You’re forgiven for not knowing what these instruments sound like (let alone look like). Just trust that funkmasters Garage-a-Trois know how to use these tools and use them well.

Emphasizer, their first full-length studio album, is somewhat of an instrumental genre variety show, going from blues and straight-ahead jazz all the way to outright snake-charming (hence the suona horn).

Traditional instruments make appearances, too, although not without getting Garage-a-Trois-ized: A saxophone is run through a distortion pedal, and the result is expectedly bizarre. Yet this kind of creativity and strangeness is exactly what makes GaT enjoyable. Sure, percussionists Stanton Hunter and Mike Dillon can knock grooving beats flat on the floor and keep perfect time with whatever abnormal style is called for. Sure, guitarist Charlie Hunter plays 8-string guitar as if he had 12 fingers. But what makes this band worth a spin is the listener’s ability to say, “Gee, I could really stand to go from this oriental-sounding vibing to some Afro-Cuban sax and cymbal work,” then do so by hitting the “next track” button. Variety, people. The spice of life and all.

Of course, inventiveness is what GaT is all about. Their 1999 debut Mysteryfunk, released only on vinyl, was live and wholly improvised. Emphasizer isn’t a bad start to a traditional recording career (which isn’t to say the band is “traditional”; they’re as adventurous as ever). The guitar strumming in tandem with the tight percussion work weaves a strong rhythmic fabric for most of the songs, a hammock for saxophonist Sherik to rest on easily. Sherik may be the weak link, though — his tendency to growl matches well enough with the band’s style, but it gets tiresome. Additionally, his baritone solos too often climax with altissimo squawking for the sound to be novel.

Otherwise, Garage-a-Trois’ boundless style and infectious beats from every outlandish arena of music are more than enough to carry this first effort.


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