AMN Reviews: M’lumbo – Popular Science (2013)

a0889226532_2Strange recording, this. M’lumbo, as far as I can tell, is a New York based collective of about nine musicians playing far-reaching covers of popular songs and classic TV show themes. This double CD, released about a year ago, also features Jane Ira Bloom, Page Hamilton, and Gary Lucas in guest roles. While incorporating a big-band jazz feel, often in the psychedelic space-rock vein, M’lumbo also includes spoken word samples, sometimes synchronized with or related to the music, often not.

For instance, Popular Science starts off with an 11-minute version of the theme song to Hawaii Five-0. While it is unrecognizable as such at first, there are plenty of diversions. About 90 seconds in, the group changes over to a funky, almost-reggae riff on the theme.  This multi-horn attack goes on for another four minutes or so until they switch again to a guitar led jam featuring spoken word samples galore. Then the main theme returns.  In a similar, fashion, The James Bond Theme is deconstructed. With heavy guitars and horns leading the way, this morphs into a trumpet solo followed by a spacey improv, keyboard noodlings, and then a return to the theme.

Also receiving the M’lumbo treatment are Michael Jackson’s Beat It, Rock Around the Clock, and TV themes from Peter Gunn, The Pink Panther, Andy Griffith and Sesame Street. Somehow this approach never gets old, probably because M’lumbo takes each cover in a twisted and unexpected direction.  While the first CD was recorded in the studio, the second was recorded live, and features performances of several of the same tracks, as well as a handful of different pieces.

I hear more than my share of weird and wonderful recordings these days, but M’lumbo stands alone. Unclassifiable, quirky, and pure fun, Popular Science is two hours of mind-altering goodness.  Highly recommended.

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