A CD Review of Mashed Buddha's 'Zen Conspiracy'
- From: sounni ali <sounni@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
- Date: Wed, 7 May 2008 09:01:43 -0700 (PDT)
By Mark Kirby, MusicDish e-Journal
When we last left John Corda, in the guise of drum 'n' bass superhero
Mashed Buddha, on his full-length CD subdue your mind, he was adding
elements, musical elements, to a genre that doesn't go much past
mechanical repetition in rhythm and bleating electro sounds for tunes.
To this, he added ideas such as composing songs - with themes that are
developed, different levels of sound density, build ups and break
downs - and adding elements of funk, rare groove, and heavy bass.
Mashed Buddha conceives of his songs and his entire records in
compositional terms. In other words, on Zen Conspiracy he keeps things
moving like in any good story.
The title track has a stately intro and then the jungle groove kicks
in like the opening credit sequence of the coolest noir romance. The
relentless, ecstatic drum beat undergirds soulful piano, skittering
synth sounds, and deep bass that rumbles with syncopation like dub
reggae on ecstasy. The break down adds the earthiness of Afro-Cuban
drums and percussion and Latin piano loops that evoke noir mystery.
The song's elements mix, match, swoop down and buildup to unexpected
plateaus of resolution. Like his preview EP Four Keys to Zen, this
record brings in the element of jazz improvisation. Corda plays a solo
that jazzes out but in the soul/blues styles of Ramsey Lewis or Stevie
Wonder. This organic, earthbound element offers a nice contrast to the
electronica, pumping more blood into the music.
Simplicity returns with the brief interlude "Laz" . Based on a simple
funky lick and clocking in at about 90 seconds, it still has a verse
and chorus, played on rich sounding keyboards and a skittish
percussive track over a phat drum beat, which makes this an actual
song. This leads to the next cut, "Temptation" . This song has an easy
groove that invites sampling for a rapper, but only one that is having
an early '90s flashback. The multiple tracks of clavinet-sounding
keyboards are simply fresh. Corda's solo has an unfettered joy in its
tap dancing rhythms and dense melodic runs. The shifting harmonies
keep the music from getting static, and the orchestration of the
various melodies and sounds, all building off of one simple riff, are
a lesson is how to write a killer track. The keyboard runs drop out,
multiply, layer over, and move away from each other. Mashed Buddha
always has something happening in his songs.
"Hype" shows how much nuanced feeling can be communicated through
electronica. The beat, a bouncy soul rock groove that is mixed with a
recurring sound of reverse echoes or a camera shutter - hype, ya
heard? - and low end synth licks, is perfect for the psychedelic
vogueing that is going on... in my mind. Over top of this rolling
river of sound are mysterioso vocals of a self-help nature by the mind-
bender Uri Geller; who mutters phrases like, "part three stay
positive, relaxed and confident" and "part one clearing your mind"
that also cleverly herald another instrumental layer or counter melody
from the keyboard. Each element added is not only complementary, but
of a different texture. After the break down, previously heard parts
of the song - Fender Rhodes chords, wailing synthesizers - come back,
but in a developed or altered state. The synth gets edgier, the hype
shutter sound gets denser, the low end blasts forth with a nasty
Just when you thought he would wane a bit from the killin' ideas and
playing, he picks up the pace and not only gets more intense, but
weirder. "Tryst" is perhaps the quintessential song on the CD. The
beat is jungle drum 'n' bass at its most frenzied. The keyboard lick
is a combination of chords and melody filtered through the densest
white noise. The drum beat is mixed with percussive ghosts of sound
that flit around like insects. A counter melody plays with a sound
like the spectral organ of Mike Ratledge of the Soft Machine. The
piece builds like a hiker climbing a slope to the level peak, resting,
then climbing the next hill. In the middle of the song, there is the
almost traditional electronica break down. But unlike the cliched
break with a bleating mechanoid pulse or a wannabe Latin keyboard
riff, here the song rolls into a swirling tsunami of electronic and
percussive sounds. The crashing of the waves slides into a heavenly
cloud of soulful jazz. Here, Corda takes a piano solo that rocks one
soulful statement after the other, bringing that old time freedom jazz
feeling to end of the musical journey.
"Arcane Persuasion" ends the CD with a slow, stately, Gothic finale. A
pipe organ opens, then the bleating mechanoid sound I dissed earlier
comes in, but morphs in and out of demented glockenspiel notes and
fuzzy tubular bells.
Let's be clear: I wouldn't say I'm an electronica fan by any stretch.
Most of it is boring and soulless and uninspired. It says a lot about
an artist when he can take parts of a style of music one hates and
make music one likes. It's like turning s%$t into gold. His next
record should be called The Alchemist.
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