Inter-galactric space porno music on an acid trip during some trippy part of the late 60s…this was my initial thought when I heard the debut record from Thank God For Science. Then I realized that a phrase like that would undermine the sheer brilliance of its musicality. There is, of course, a bass heavy flow to the music contained within the dozen tracks on this collection. It is after all the brain child of one of the finest bass players the Northeast has to offer in Jeremy Moses Curtis. And, of course, the music does take you on a trip, but it’s not a psychedelic-induced one. It’s more of a roadtrip through a variety of musical landscapes of instrumental tunes whose emotions and influences ebb and flow across far more than just one genre or feeling. Ones that hit on that soul and funk vibe that remains prominent throughout, but also spanning hints of rock n’ roll, jazz, reggae and blues. It is eclectic and fluid, but feels like a comprehensive work where everything belongs.
“Bassage” takes on a spoken word poetry air as a leisurely reggae rhythm hovers effortlessly in the background. It’s five minute and forty-two second run time is a slow burn of never ending, monotoned poem, but remains engaging all the while.
“Jasper” hits on a bit more of a classical kind of vibe with country weeping guitar…and a little British rock piano flair peeking through the blinds. It’s beautiful and sad and evocative. I think that is what I find so intriguing and striking about this collection of Jeremy Moses Curtis’s arrangements, they hit on some many human emotions and can do so over the course of one track…and without having to actually speak a word. Even the collection of clips contained within the track “Answer Me This” manage to elicit some form of chaos and confusion that is stirring and strange. It leaves me uneasy in a way, but in a way that fascinates me in how it manages to do so.
The self titled release from Thank God For Science will be released on June 5 at The Armory just outside of Davis Square in Somerville, MA. The band has shows all around New England from CT to Vermont over the next few weeks as well, so be sure to check in on their website and get on out to experience this stuff live.
This was originally supposed to be a #50WordReview, but there’s no way in hell that’s happening.
Even trying to sum up thoughts about this album took way more than 50 words. So here we are. Buckle in for a short—and likely incomplete—review of the debut (mostly instrumental) album from Thank God for Science.
What do you get when you combine seven of the Northeast’s top musicians and set them loose to do whatever the hell they want? Well… you get an album who’s songs are as varied as the artists in the room, with the only constants being expert craftsmanship (even in a free-form sense) and top-line musicianship.
This is no schtick. This is legit.
Let’s put it this way…
If you were walking in on someone listening to this album, you’d might think they were listening to Medeski Martin & Wood, Pink Floyd, Baz Luhrmann, Gorillaz, one of the jazz greats, or a hidden track on the Beverly Hills Cop soundtrack. And if you perceived any of those things, you’d be dead on. It all depends on the moment you tuned in.
Of course there are more influences that could be thrown into that paragraph, but you get the idea.
I could go on for days trying to explain what this album is and why you should listen, but I’m not sure I could ever really do it justice. Red Line Roots did as good a job as anyone could trying to sum it up, but quite honestly, this album is what you want it to be.
I recently read an article about how music helps us get shit done.
What kind of music helps you be the best you can be? Well it appears to be music that’s “ambient” enough to not pull your thoughts away from the task at hand, but (and this I would think is especially true for creative endeavors) not so ambient that it puts you to sleep. You want that music to also be able to lead you and transform the thought or moment as it passes.
And THAT folks is exactly what this album can do. I’m telling you this from personal experience. No two tracks are the same, yet they seem to blend perfectly together as you go about whatever is occupying your mind. Taking you from an energy filled moment of victory to one that puts you in a field on a weekend enjoying the sun, to hanging out with Hunter Thompson in dirty biker bar in a matter of minutes. Maybe this is where I should have put that line about this album being what you want it to be.
Random thought: we should probably start a #CoolShitMadeWhileListeningToThankGodForScience hashtag.
To call this album inspiring would be a severe understatement. Even for a guy like me who mainly lives and breathes on the lyrical aspect of the songs that make up my day, these songs have proved a to be part of my daily habit. Get behind Thank God For Science and what they’re doing. And literally put TGfS behind what you’re doing.
By Steve Benoit – May 25, 2016
Holy mackerel! I got a message from Jeremy Moses Curtis the other day and I almost fell out of my chair! Curtis, you may remember, was a driving force behind the East Coast’s The Curtis Mayflower, a band which floored me with its congruence of psyche, blues and soul about, what, fifty years ago? It was only a few, but it feels like fifty. I can’t remember what I wrote about their album Everything Beautiful Is Under Attack, but it must have been something like the psych and jamming side of the Bay Area’s Linn County meets the blues and soul of the seventies. You remember Linn County, don’t you? What? You don’t even remember The Curtis Mayflower?! Well, they probably have not been around long enough to be remembered. And you call yourself a music fan.
It was one of my picks, not that it made a difference. Enough people found it but not enough for me. Falling in love with underdogs (underdogs of consequence) has pretty much been my life.
Curtis, when he messaged, asked if I would be willing to listen to his latest effort, a band he calls Thank God For Science. It is different than the Mayflower, he said, but it is something I felt compelled to do. He was right. It is different. And I understand the compulsion.
I am not certain that Curtis is the wheel this band was wound around but it certainly would not surprise me. The man has drive and the biggest cheerleader the band has. Just the other day I asked him if he sang lead on any of the Mayflower songs and he pointed enthusiastically toward Craig Rawding, claiming him “a f**king force.” Which was why I asked. Rawding has the voice which puts the band over the top. The thing is, there is not a member in the band who is dispensable. Without one, the sound would be somehow different, maybe missing something.
If Curtis did put Thank God For Science together, he decided to not rely on what he already had. He put together a band of equal ability, though he uses none of the Mayflower players, and the direction is quite different. Again, every band member belongs here.
You can tell right off with what I would call the intro to the album, “Breaking Channels,” one-minute and twenty-one seconds of what I used to label experimental kitsch— a collage of narration, ambience of a somewhat intriguing nature mixed with electronics and the occasional beat. One-minute and twenty-one minutes which is springboard to a beat-heavy semi-funk instrumental straight out of the mid-seventies, smooth and jazzy, to be replaced by “Ahoy Palloil,” a romantic jazz poem of sorts. “Hook Line and Sinker” makes me laugh on the inside but only because I ran projector in a porn theater in Los Angeles during those very same seventies and swear I could have been listening to the track while soft-focused bodies bumped uglies on the screen— I mean the music fits thye format, you know? Nice stuff, regardless. “Bass Age” lays out more of that kitcsh, the voice sounding straight out of a jazz poetry album of unknown origin, and “Pops” reminds me of the movies— the music they played for kids to dance to in the teen B-movies of the day. I can see them frugging and swimming themselves into a frenzy right now. “Jasper” is a musical landscape with an Americana base, impressive with its use of strings and pedal steel.
You see where I’m going here? The band has taken the music of the past and weaved/wove/woven a new pattern, all instrumental, and would be very pleasant except that these guys are all on the same page and really know how to play! Not only that, it is sequenced beautifully, the songs flowing in and out as if the music was meant to be written exactly that way.
Players are going to appreciate this— the way it sounds, the way it was put together. One of my favorite adventurous musicians, John Orsi, would love it too, may he rest in peace. He experimented with music much in the same way with his various bands, Knitting In Twilight and the others, hoping to capture those moments in time, and he did. So does Thank God For Science.
I think I need a beer. Maybe more than one. This is the kind of album I like to put on at a low volume so it doesn’t interfere with the sipping.
Guess what? You can too. Just click on this link, pop a cold one and lay back. Yup, it’s streaming. But you need to buy one if you like it. I don’t want to see this little experiment end for some time.
By: Frank Gutch Jr. – June 5, 2016
There is no way to easily encapsulate “Thank God For Science: Volume 1,” the mostly instrumental album by bassist Jeremy Moses Curtis and a diverse roster of talented musicians. You end up saying something along the lines of, “this is what would happen if William S. Burroughs and Negativeland teamed up to make a jazz album,” but even that’s not quite right. To put it bluntly, this album is weird. It’s also overwhelmingly beautiful at points, and massively unpredictable.
What is instantly apparent on the album is that Curtis and company have thrown out the rulebook on structure and genre. Curtis — a veteran of the New England music scene who will perform as part of the Curtis Mayflower at 9 p.m. June 18 at Vincent’s in Worcester — is no stranger to genre blending, but this album doesn’t so much blend musical styles so much as it reinvents them from scratch. And that’s not an easy thing.
The album begins with a sampling of CB radio chatter, discussing how truckers have taken over a channel to discuss road conditions. The song, “Breaking Channels,” is backed by electronic and mechanical sounds, an ominous gloom that dissolved into the more upbeat bit of jazz-rock “Spaceman Mike.” The guitar-driven piece is driven by a bright, ’70s-style syncopation that gives it a certain familiarity, a feeling of being ripped straight from another era. Likewise, the subsequent song, “Ahoy Palloi!,” feels of that same ilk, but then distinguishes itself with strange bits of electronic noise and Laura Smolowitz playing flute in one of the album’s standout performances. The dichotomies within the song are striking, and the beauty of the flute creates such a sharp contrast to everything we’ve seen before that it’s almost jarring.
It’s about here that we see a breakaway from traditional rock structures, and with the next song, “Hook Line and Sinker,” the addition of strings to more traditional rock arrangements makes a more pronounced impact. It’s not that strings or flute have never mingled with rock before, but there’s something particularly confrontational about the synthesis here, something that forces it from being a rock song with accoutrements to being something else entirely. The song ends in a flurry of beauty, before giving away to the tripped-out “Bass Age,” which feels like the aforementioned “Naked Lunch” author Burroughs has barged his way into a session to drop a little spoken word, by way of Asa Brebner’s vocals. The effect is paranoid-making and hallucinatory, and it signals that we’re well off the road more traveled. Even the joyful and upbeat instrumental “Pops” can’t shake the resultant trance-like state. Indeed, the song’s sheer, unbridled joy seems even weirder coming out of that haze. It’s a space where joy is almost terrifying. But even still, it’s hard to resist the heat of the song’s horns.
This is where the album brings us: Terror from joy, and then, with “Jasper,” viola playing by Laurence Scudder that’s so beautiful it’s painful. It’s emotional whiplash, and it leaves the listener with no idea as to where this is all going. When Curtis’ bass and Peter MacLean’s percussion hit in “Walking the Beach,” it almost feels like solid ground. It’s only an oasis, though. Things begin to escalate again with the jazzy “Stop Sign,” and then return to the abstract again with “Answer Me This,” which samples answering machine messages against something that sounds like the faded voices of ghost choruses. It’s through this paranormal state that we enter “Drone Bee,” with Brebner returning with talk of natural psychic abilities.
This, ultimately, is what this album does: It pulls you between the familiar world of music, that place where rock and jazz are easily identifiable, to a world that’s still familiar but entirely composed of emotion, and finally into a sort of musical “Twilight Zone,” where none of the rules apply. It’s in this “Twilight Zone” that Curtis and his cohorts leave the listener, with “The Application of Love,” a strange piece of music that continues the album’s surreal trend counterpointed with a coda of beauty, and amid the disembodiment of the acid trip finish, that small burst of beauty seems to be the only real thing there is, and maybe that was the point all along.
By: Victor Infante – June 16, 2016