Fontanelle - Vitamin F

by Rich Morris Rating:9 Release Date:2012-10-22

Sexy cosmic jazz! Just what the freaky space doctor ordered! This album is released on Southern Lord, a label generally known for its bludgeoning, monolithic noise output. Yet, while Fontanelle's guitarist Rex Ritter has played with Sunn O))), the music on Vitamin F is spacey and out-there in a totally different way from that outfit's droning doom-rock.

To form Fontanelle, Ritter has assembled a troope of noted horn-blowers (including ones who've played with Earth and Jackie-O Motherfucker) and directed them to create an ever-expanding sound-world that's trippy, strutting and soulful. Presumably the 'F' of the title is funk, something we could all do with an injection of when winter rolls around.

Opener 'Watermelon Hands' is a psychedelic jazz par excellence, recalling at various points, Miles Davis' seminal 'Bitches Brew', Piper at the Gates of Dawn-era Pink Floyd, prime Gong acid freak-out, 60s sci-fi scores, as well as Ornette Coleman and, inevitably, the king of whacked-out space-jazz, Sun Ra. It also manages to stay just the right side of cheesy. The following 'The Adjacent Possible' mixes Henry Mancini's Pink Panther theme, Radiophonic Workshop otherness and smooth 70s soul to create something that's minimalist, sensual, effortlessly cool and slightly bonkers in equal measure.

The title track is shorter, funkier, and more troubled, with a syncopated, fiendishly complex drum-beat worthy of Can's Jaki Liebezeit (there is no higher praise one can give a drummer). This is music as pure energy, surging forward, onwards forever towards the horizon. Eventually, the drumming becomes so frenzied it fades to a white-noise blur, over which dreaming, weeping horns mourn the end of their autobahn dream.

The following ''Traumaturge' and 'When the Fire Hits the Forest' are groovier, throwing in some vintage acid-rock guitar heroics and mighty riffs. You can practically see Carlos Santana sweating it out on-stage at some early-70s free festival. This is music so joyful at its very existence, its creation, that it's impossible not to be swept up and along for the ride. You just feel so glad that it's here.

The final two tracks slow things down a smidge. 'Ataxia' starts off like The Doors at their most jazzy before evolving into a chunky-arsed funk workout which spot-lights some virtuoso sax playing. 'Reassimilated', meanwhile, mixes lachrymose brass, heavily distorted guitar, ghostly New Orleans trumpet, shimmering electronica and African percussion to create something as arrestingly beautiful as it is fucking odd; one of those all-too rare moments where you genuinely wonder how a band arrived at a particular sound.

Often, records like this can fall into two categories: either they're too worthy, exercises in recreating the precise sounds of visionary musicians, or they just sound like they were more enjoyable to make then to listen to. Vitamin F is neither. It's just loads of fun, made by musicians at the top of their game. It sounds authentic, but you don't have to be an aficionado of this kind of music to enjoy this album. Just approach with an open mind, maaaaan.

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