Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Quick Review: The Flecktones’ The Hidden Land

Bela Fleck, brothers Victor & Roy Wooten, and Jeff Coffin took a 2005 hiatus from touring as the Flecktones but have rewarded their fans going through withdrawl with their first effort since the 3-disc juggernaught Little Worlds.  The Hidden Land was billed as a return to the band’s original focus to create musical art without studio magic, and it lives up to that billing.  No lyrics are to be found, no guest artists, and no potential singles.  Unlike many jamband cousins, this quartet fiercely resists commercial pressures and has remained remarkably creative and true to themselves over the years.  

Hidden Land is clearly meant to be a single piece of work, with many of the songs leading into one another almost seamlessly.  The album kicks off with a rendition of Bach’s Fugue No.20 (Bela Fleck often indulges in classical music guilty pleasures) that is interwoven into the subsequent P’lod in the House.  Couch Potato was seemingly developed to be a vehicle for the band’s live showmanship, driftng into nearly absurd tangents before suddenly snapping back its central hook.  Weedwacker and Misunderstood punctuate the Flecktone’s uncanny ability to make musical pieces of art rather than simple melodies.  The music reaches its height when the 4 members sacrifice their individual jazz virtuosity and become a completely blended unit in tracks such as Labyrinth, Subterfuge, the Whistle Song, and at an apex with the Persian-tinged Chennai.    

A strong effort from the highly underappreciated Flecktones.


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