echno and jazz. On the face of it, it’s two genres of music that have little to do with one another. But ever since techno emerged out of Detroit in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s, artists have been trying to combine the two. Carl Craig’s Innerzone Orchestra project featured Francisco Mora, Craig Taborn, and Rodney Whitaker to name but a few, while Underground Resistance has proffered the idea of Hitech Jazz as their update on the form. To these ears, however, it’s always been hit and miss (with the focus on the latter). There’s something inherently awkward about grafting genres onto one another—and when it’s done properly it usually ends up being called something else entirely.
So leave it to three white Canadians to do it right, eh? Mathew Jonson, Danuel Tate, and Tyger Dhula are childhood friends from Vancouver, who have seemingly figured out what’s eluded producers for years—how to mix improvisatory live elements with a booming four-to-the-floor beat. It’s simple, apparently. Take filtered synth basslines, a few mutable elements that work within an easy harmonic framework, and a steady drum to wrap it all around.
Those mutable elements are usually what each track lives and dies on: for “W” the trio works with a vocoder and a percolating synth line, while “Lime in Da Coconut” utilizes a rapidly evolving melody that sounds like the aural equivalent of a “Stars” Windows 3.1 screensaver. “Slap the Back” and “23 Seconds,” however, repeat past success to diminishing effect near the album’s end. It’s a tightrope: the frequently employed vocoder that makes “Peace Offering” sing weighs down “Change Your Apesuit” and the indelible groove of “Saturday Night” is almost entirely absent from “Hired Touch.”
As a long-time fan, it’s hard not to count 23 Seconds as a bit of a disappointment. The trio’s singles on Wagon Repair have been of such high quality that anything less than excellence seems unthinkable. When the trio find an uninspiring theme to work around for seven or eight (very long) minutes or so, it’s a taste issue, rather than a talent one. Cobblestone, as you might expect from the lengthy songs and minimal amount of elements to each, are a powerful live experience and that’s still the way they’re best heard. 23 Seconds is just a reminder—and a handy collection for those who still fear vinyl and mp3s.
Reviewed by: Nina Phillips
Reviewed on: 2007-10-09