Music Review: Drums & Tuba

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Drums & Tuba

Mostly Ape

[Righteous Babe]

Why bother with a clumsy, inconvenient bass guitar when you could do the same thing with a lightweight, compact tuba? It's a question that every band asks to itself at some point, but the members of this eclectic New York trio have not only done something about it, they've made it part of their name.

Drums & Tuba, disciples of indie queen Ani DiFranco and a recent addition to her Righteous Babe record label, specialize in lush, danceable instrumentals that don't quite grab hold of the ears on first listen but have definite lasting power.

On Mostly Ape, the trio's second album for the label and seventh overall, the cold yet strangely lush rhythms merge with the dynamics of the music to create a sound reminiscent of Talking Heads or Robert Fripp's sonic experiments with King Crimson in the early '80s. The fractured guitar line that drives "The Metrics" particularly makes me want to drag out the giant suit and lamppost and dance like David Byrne.

The aforementioned tuba, however, remains the central focus of the group's unique sound. Brian Wolff's able playing gives each song a deep, elephantine backing, imposing whoopie-cushion-like blankets of sound where a more conservative band would have put a bassline. The tuba even takes on a stomping, percussive tone during the closing minutes of the opener "Brain Liaters," turning that song into a definite highlight.

While the band's sound could be seen as gimmicky, it manages to be traditional and to transcend the stigma of "fusion for fusion's sake" at the same time, something which ensures that it holds appeal for rock aficionados and indie kids alike.

Rich Bunnell


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