Monkey Riding God – The Breakbeast (reviewed by T. Bebedor)

A few years ago, in a small bar in a town called Imagination, the members of Red Hot Chili Peppers, Rage Against The Machine, Muerte and Moon Hooch all sat down for some antipasti and beer and decided to put their collective musical powers into a blender. The result was something that was powerful, energetic, brassy, aggressive and – that most difficult of ingredients to locate – exciting!

The three-piece (yes, only three people create the chaos that is going on here) Italian band are made up of saxophonist Sergio Pomante, drummer Alessandro Vagnoni and bassist/vocalist Mario di Battista and the music is a blend of jazz, industrial, post-punk, hip hop with Beastie Boy style vocals thrown in and the final product is brilliant.

Anything jazz-driven is going to have a good foundation, jazz still remains one of the few musical genres where the music is constantly pushed and artist-led rather than the stereotypical idea of a greedy man in a brown leather swivel chair, chomping on a cigar telling his minions to repeatedly pump out the same stuff because the music business is all about ‘shifting units’. 

The official promotional blurb talks about “apocalyptic vision,” of “untamed joy” and “identities shall be set free from the chains of prejudice”, but the truth is that this Italian three-piece have done something rather brave and have made an album of accessible, enjoyable songs that are difficult to categorise.

The sound of the band is, unsurprisingly, driven by the saxophone, but behind it is a soundscape of distortion (imagine a kazoo turned up to eleven!) and shifting rhythms that start out simple enough, but soon twist and evolve into something else. This happens on ‘Depeengo’ to great effect using a looped distorted strum. A similar thing happens later in the album where the music pulses leaving open spaces to allow the sax a window to move the music elsewhere.

Overall, it’s a fine example of what can be achieved when the borders of music is allowed to merge and bend, and musicians are given free rein to explore the limits of their instruments.

Perhaps more bands should visit Imagination.

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