Upbeat, bright, positive..
Upbeat, bright, positive...these are just a few words that come to mind when listening to Burst, the debut album from world/jam/prog/fusion band The Flux. Hailing from Oakland California, the band fuses West African and Caribbean rhythmic sensibilities with a funky, jazzy sound reminiscent, oddly, of a mix of funk and the Grateful Dead. Pleasant folky vocal harmonies and insistent, betcha-you-can’t-not-dance-to-it beats are the menu du jour across 10 tracks and just over 61 minutes of music.
Two percussionists allow for some pretty interesting and occasionally complex polyrhythms. While Brian Huston handles traditional kit drumming, Matt Smith’s hand percussion (congas and other instruments) adds flavour and a touch of soul to the always busy rhythm section.
“Picture of a Postcard,” with its quick beat and distinct Latin flair, is a perfect example of The Flux’s modus operandi, with dense layers of shifting beats, bright and funky guitar, and warm organ. Lead vocals are bright and, dare I say, happy in their delivery, flitting playfully over the jazzy, danceable song. “Aloft” leans more toward a proggier, fusion based sound, with interlocking guitars repeating gamelan inspired phrases over bopping kit drum and Latin percussion. Quiet bursts of piano and deft tempo changes are certain to keep the listener attentive and interested. Harmony vocals are the strongest bit of evidence pointing toward a Grateful Dead influence, and add another layer of musical flair to the mix.
“Feed” verges on ska tempos, and is only missing the big brass section to achieve true ska status. Loads of upbeat chopped rhythm guitar and a brisk rhythm compete with quick but clean vocal delivery before the song breaks down to a slower section with loads of horns (ahh, there are the horns!). A little bit of Beatles influence, along with a heaping helping of old time dancehall feel, are fused together on “The Sorcerers of Funk,” which features humourously dramatic vocals and a fun, skipping piano line. The song is incredibly dynamic, shifting mood and tempo with ease.
The Flux is a band that should appeal to a wide range of listeners. Jam band fans will likely find a lot to enjoy here. While the band is not entirely based in world music, fans of that genre will likely appreciate their appropriation and deft use of complex polyrhythms and percussion. Burst is a fun album to listen to, and might just be the right prescription for the dreary winter days those of us living on the East Coast have been subjected to of late.