If the personnel of Contra Ville doesn't give you pause in your musical discoveries, I'm not sure how exciting your music collection is. Reed-man, Brendan Caroll (saxophone, clarinet) and pianist Kevin McAndrews lend variation to guitarist/vocalist Mitch Waldman and a rhythm section of drummer Greg Brock and bassist Matt Miller's rock musings in an experiment of jazz-infused rock. Now, if you think you know that 'fusion' of styles, think again. Conta Ville's latest release, Electric Ecletic, does as it says, says as it does with taught harmonies and indelible melodies, voracious vocals and hard-edged swings.
Waldman comments on the differences between past releases. "For this record, we were hoping to achieve a more mature and diverse sound. As the name of album suggests, we are an eclectic band and we wanted that to show through the new tunes, but moreover, we wanted to simply sound better."
While there is a dark presence on much of the album, taking form on dark swaggering tracks like "Before" and "Slyde" which showcase Waldman's Jeff Buckley-like vocals, the early tracks like "Bombastic Child" are piano rock songs, with a slight appeal of a late seventies, pop track. "Sand" washes over the listener, ending in and almost beatnik, spoken-word, rhyme-scheme. The variations don't stop there.
The band's jazz influences are unmistakable at times, as well. Tracks like the Dave Brubeck-esque "Contra Villian" and the slow boil of "Oliver Twist," volley between a sulking slow swing and an irascible convulsions, like the dark seas under an angry moon. "Oh Honey!" flirts with swing revivalist territory, as the Cab Calloway feel of "Like Everybody Else" puts an up-tempo, up-spirited exclamation point on an album that leaves listeners anticipating even more.
Waldman continues, "Overall, we met our aim to make an eclectic, mature new album. That isn't too say we are all completely satisfied; on the contrary, this album has only made us more determined to write more solidly. We've been moving more towards collaborating at the inception of songs and as the fundamentals of a song are being composed.""
Consequently, Electric Eclectic is peppered with surprising musical treats, through and through; from the slight production tweaks to the twists in tempo and instrumentation. It's a rollercoaster of styles and predilections, ranging in extremes from light to dark, delivered in a delectable package of charts that seemingly re-write ideas of fusion and rock for the San Jose scene.