- by Jeff Penczak Rating:8 Release Date:2016-09-30 Label: SlowBurn Records
Number Three Combo is a product of the versatile Tucson indie scene, with members previously recording in Black Sun Ensemble, Bread and Circus, and Cobracalia. Last year’s debut was the relaxing, contemplative trip Retrofitting, but the trio have eschewed guitars altogether to focus on electronic and keyboard-driven creations that still maintain the eastern-flavoured grooves of the debut, while upping the festive atmosphere with more strident percussion. Opener ‘Banana Seat’ sounds like Deep Purple-gone Bollywood, with Eric Johnson’s organ and Joe E. Furno’s electronically-treated flutework serpentining through Carl Hall’s flamboyant drum loops straight out of John Kongos’ solo work (‘He’s Gonna Step On You Again’, ‘Tokoloshe Man’).
‘Strangers & Enemies’ is even more festive, an electro synth dancefloor magnet that reminds of Billy Idol let loose at the Green Man Festival. In fact the whole album was originally commissioned for Number Three Combo’s performance at the 2014 All Soul’s Procession in Tucson, which saw the band supplement their basic sound with belly dancers, and fellow poets, musicians, and artists, thereby transforming the whole experience into a multi-media event. That same energy oozes from every groove of Solarium – you simply can’t sit down and listen to this happy foot request party!
As in the past, the trio revisits classic Black Sun Ensemble material, this time breathing some electronic life into the golden nugget ‘Arabic Satori’, retaining the eastern-flavoured template, but adding an energetic synth swash throughout that is as uplifting as its precursor was self-reflective.
‘Vlad’ will appeal to the psychedelic electronic work of Porcupine Tree (particularly Voyage 34) and psychedelic shaman Terence McKenna’s albums with The Shamen and Spacetime Continuum, while ‘Dive’ relaxes a bit – like Bowie fronting OMD. Of course, the Future Sound of London freaks will need no further nudging to dig ‘The Future Sounds of Tucson’ (particularly if Amorphous Androgynous’ Monstrous Psychedelic Bubble Exploding In Your Mind trilogy sits at the top of your dream mix), and ‘The New Kingdom’ is almost cinematic in its expansive exploration of electro psych possibilities. This could sit quite comfortably on a Bollywood soundtrack. Finally, I enjoyed the ambient about face of ‘The Grand Sky’ – a gentle mix of sound effects (cue Roger Waters’ ‘Grantchester Meadows’), floating atmospherics a la Tangerine Dream, and hypnotic, drum-circley percussives all mixed into a heady hippie gumbo.
The digital version includes 11 bonus tracks, comprised of alternate mixes, outtakes, and live-in-the-studio demos to enhance your trip.