Working at a book store, putting books in their appropriate categories on the sales floor--programming languages, algebra, biology, etc., I can usually tell where a book belongs by its title. Sometimes I'm not sure, and that's when the suggestions on the back covers that say "Shelve in _______" come in handy. Listening to Uri Cane/Bedrock's album Shelf-life, I started wishing I had that text on the back cover of the CD case. Is it jazz? Funk? Electronic? Or maybe even 70s TV theme song music? The answer is, "Yes, it's all of these, and it's all fantastic too."
The first three tracks set the mood for the album. First up, SteakJacket Prelude, features fantastic, energizing drum work by Arto Tunçboyaciyan, and jazzy, punctuated keyboards by Uri Cane, complimented nicely by Tim Lefebvre's mellow bass. The track gets my head nodding, and my foot tapping. It puts a smile on my face, but you wouldn't expect what comes next.
As the album moves seamlessly to the next track, SteakJacket, all instruments drop out and in their place, a glitchy, electronic beat starts, quickly followed by an unsynchronized, syncopated percussion intro by Zack Danziger. The beats sync up and the track really kicks into high gear with fast paced drumming, heavy, pounding bass, and clicking electronics, reminiscent of some of Squarepusher's jazzier tunes off of 'Hard Normal Daddy' or 'Feed me Weird Things.'
The third track, Defenstration, sets Shelf-life thoroughly apart from Squarepusher or Aphex Twin. Cane demonstrates a real sense of humor with this and other similar tracks on the album. Retro-futuristic keyboards, Latin percussion, and a bouncy bass present a most hilarious tongue-in-cheek song that reminds me of the theme song from The Price is Right.
Shelf-life maintains a sense of humor throughout. Even the song titles, some political in nature, make you laugh--Wolfowitz in Sheep's Clothing, and Strom's Theremin--as does the bright pink album packaging, with an image of three pairs of legs in mid-jump, playing volleyball.
Other songs of note include Blakey, and Strom's Theremin, two more tracks that sound like 70s TV theme songs. Strom's Theremin features truly incredible musicianship from Cane, Tunçboyaciyan, Danziger, and Lefebvre, who demonstrates wonderful bass playing. The band is tight, blasting through odd time signature tricks and solos like they were standards. Oder features the fast paced, jazzy trumpet of Ralph Alessi, and leads into Murray--a cool, blue sounding song with Alessi's crying trumpet and Bootsie Barnes' raspy saxophone. Sweat, the last track on the album, is a funky, idiosyncratic song, featuring the soulful vocals of Bunny Sigler and Barbara Walker. With significantly less electronic parts, the track sounds much more organic, a deviation from the rest of the album.
Bottom line, this album will appeal to you whether you're a hardcore jazz fan or an electronic music buff. Uri Cane/Bedrock strikes a good balance between "real" instruments and electronics, and the result is an impressive and well-crafted album. I strongly recommend you check out Shelf-life.