I know right from the moment I put a CD on my old portable CD player from the RareNoise label, I can expect some amazing “holy shit!” moments that will take me to another scenario. And believe me, this is a label that has been on my map since 2016 and thanks to Sid Smith’s Podcasts from the Yellow Room that have opened my eyes more to the label. One of those bands is Mumpbeak.
This is their second album released this year entitled Tooth. It is their follow up to their sole self-titled debut album which was unleashed back in 2013. Roy Powell is the brainchild behind Mumpbeak. He had studied piano and avant-garde composition at the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester, England. He released his debut album back 23 years ago with A Big Sky.
He moved to Norway and worked with Terje Gewelt and Jarle Vespestad with the release of Holus which was an album of free improvisational music back in 1999. Now I’m very new to Powell’s music and along with Mumpbeak, but Tooth is one of the most challenging albums I’ve embarked on from start to finish. With Naked Truth bassist Lorenzo Feliciati and taking over Stick Men and King Crimson drummer Pat Mastelotto is Elephant9 and Shining drummer Torstein Lofthus.
There is some sonic and eruptive compositions that will take you on a journey towards the light. I was completely blown away by not just Roy’s keyboards and not just because he’s a killer musician, but he’s very much like a conductor and giving both Lorenzo and Torstein some ideas and where to come in and where to come out. For example like going to Point A to Point B.
The first 4 minutes of Caboose is arrangement between Roy and Lorenzo as it becomes this electronic Vangelis-sque 1980s atmosphere. You can imagine yourself walking across the wastelands and hearing some deafening alarms thanks to the Synths that Powell does. It then, suddenly changes with some intense bass lines and Torstein’s drumming along with Roy’s clavinet chords following each of the ghost-town hallways and no sign of life to be found.
The reverb heavenly clavinet improvisation, brings to mind a cross-over as if George Gershwin had teamed up with Gentle Giant’s Kerry Minnear as if they did an album together during the In a Glass House sessions. Torstein for me, is like rapid machine gun fire that is sweating bullets. It’s shown on Saw as he goes all around the kit including the tom-toms and snare. Roy and Lorenzo follow suit as Powell goes into uncharted waters with a fuzztone wah-wah tightrope.
His textures are in a way by reigning the essence of Mike Ratledge as if he is in awe of his insane but mind-blowing work on the keyboards. At times, when he plays the clavinet, it sounds like powder-keg riffs before he and Torstein go into a climatic end as it abruptly comes to a halt. Opener, Boot brings to mind a film-noir-sque score that Mumpbeak does knowing that the killer is still on the loose.
I love how Roy goes to the Moog Little Phatty improvisation that he does and it shows that the clues the detectives found just got even challenging, bigger, and difficult to know the killer left ginormous tracks for them to follow. They go from one door to another closing it off with a tidal wave ending crescendo.
Stone, which closes the album, sees Roy heading towards the Hammond Organ. It begins with a Koto-sque intro and bass lines before the wah-wah door comes open and the intense groove between Lorenzo, Roy, and Torstein is like jet engines ready for take-off all around the room. There at times stop-and-go moments as the Organ is rising from the grave. I always imagine Lorenzo brings the goods and carry the torch for both Jaco Pastorius and Geddy Lee into one giant blender.
It this little nod to CAN’s Vernal Equinox and then the finale comes right in as Mumpbeak delve into the waters of Van Der Graaf Generator’s The Least We Can Do Is Wave to Each Other-era for an alarming crescendo climatic finale that brings everything into a gigantic circle.
I’ve been waiting for something like this to come out. RareNoise Records have scored another home run for me with Tooth. I hope one day to discover more of Roy Powell’s music, but this here’s a start with their second album. They are on my watch list to see what they’ll come up with next. Little advice, play this mo-fo up to a notch!