Sons of Armageddon The Softest Touch

15 years ago, jazz heads wouldn’t be caught dead admitting a love for dub. Then came a new appreciation for Miles Davis’ ’70s electric period, and things started to change. Grooves without changes and electronics woven into improvised strategies started to gain newfound credence. Now there are at least a couple of generations of bands who have refined the aesthetic even further, and taken it to parts previously unknown — such as Denver, the home of Sons of Armaggedon. Kirk Knuffke’s trumpet is front and centre as a presence, either played straight, or achieving Cuong Vu-like smears — it’s an effective voice throughout. The jazz/electro/dub matrix is well balanced with a light touch in the production to keep the scratches and vocal samples distinct and mutated throughout. Songs are never less than suite-like, they move from one theme to another. "Ripe Watermelon,” the album’s opener, is a sprightly dancehall bounce that turns into something more sinister and jazzy about four minutes in, complemented by some Jaco-like bass. Lead bass solos are deployed throughout the disc, and threaten to become tiresome, but never detract fully from the groove. Familiar themes are also played with, such as the Isley Brothers’ "It’s Your Thing” thrown into the junkyard groove of "Shambles Factory,” but even that turns down a dark alley part way through. This is a good disc, but a little more menace would suit them well. (Independent)