Album reviews

Marc Ribot’s Ceramic Dog – ‘Connection’

Marc Ribot’s Ceramic DogConnection
(Enja Yellowbird. Album review by Jon Turney)

Marc Ribot’s heavily rhythmic, slightly distorted electric guitar sound is rooted in rock and the bluesier end of Americana as much as jazz, and the first half of this assertive set from his long-running trio leans towards the rock elements of his style. The opener, and title track, is a rousing statement of intent: Ribot intones his own lyric, with some echo on the vocal channel, over a steady beat and a two-note guitar riff, if two notes count as a riff. There’s a brief guitar excursion towards the end but that’s basically it: simple, declarative, striking.

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Declarative is too weak for the next one up, Subsidiary, which is a heavy rock rant, Ribot delivering stream of consciousness vocals which aren’t entirely clear, though there’s definitely a strong anti-capitalist sentiment being aired. And on through Soldiers in the Army of Love, an upbeat re-working of the Declaration of Independence over churning rhythm from Ribot and trio mates Shahzad Ismaily on synths and Ches Smith on drums, before easing off the throttle for Ecstasy, an artistic-cum-political credo with a vocal delivery reminiscent of Frank Zappa.

Then an abrupt switch into an improv instrumental maelstrom on the enigmatically titled Swan, with Ribot channeling Sonny Sharrock and James Brandon Lewis contributing scalding tenor sax, in a piece that closes in calmer waters with an extended guitar rumination. Lewis also features on the punkish Heart Attack, and Oscar Noriega on clarinet, Greg Lewis on Hammond organ, and Antony Coleman on farfisa organ add other new voices on the later tracks.

The changing mix continues, and concludes with a jaunty instrumental, Crumbia, a latin romp which sounds a little tongue-in-cheek but probably isn’t. It’s a long way in mood and style from the beginning, rounding off a CD that offers considerable variety while reminding one that someone recently dubbed Marc Ribot’s music – with a different ensemble – dystopian disco. That tag seems to fit here, too. Most folks will find some tracks bear more repeats than others, but if you want an album where you can enjoy not quite knowing what’s going to happen next, this is a set worth exploring.

Jon Turney writes about jazz, and other things, from Bristol: website and Twitter

LINK: Connection on Bandcamp

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