Slobber Pup – Black Aces (2013)

What if early Soft Machine had a serious blues bent and hired an ace guitarist? Slobber Pup.

What if Last Exit had swapped Peter Brötzmann for Larry Young? Slobber Pup.

What if the Band of Gypsies had been strictly an instrumental outlet for Jimi Hendrix’s burgeoning fusion leanings? Slobber Pup.

Slobber Pup is a supergroup of sorts, banded together by the need to stretch out, plug in and jam on loose, blues-based forms. Like other Rare Noise Projects, band members are culled from the Rare Noise family of artists: both the band’s leader Jamie Saft (organ, keyboards) and Balazs Pandi (drums) were together on the most excellent Metallic Taste of Blood project from last year (they also played for Merzbow). And then they add Trevor Dunn on bass (Broken Arm Trio, Mr. Bungle, The Melvins, John Zorn’s Electric Masada) and arguably the king of free jazz guitar and prior band mate of Saft’s, Joe Morris.

There admittedly isn’t a whole lot a variation from tune to tune and even less within each song. It’s loud, it’s real jam-my, lots of single-line noodling and chord changes requires acts of Congress. But these are top-shelf improvisers, and within this simple, organic framework, they ply their trade like top-shelf improvisers. The songs were made up on the spot by the band, but if I didn’t tell you that, your own ears would have.

There are just five tracks, four if you toss out the sub-three minute drum explosion excursion “Basalt,” but you shouldn’t, because everyone is playing their asses off even in this brief moment. The rest are finger blister-inducing lengths, and none more so than the nearly half-hour acid blues jam “Accuser.” On here, Morris never sounded more…err, tonal. As it turns out, he’s an excellent blues improviser on the level of his unique improvisation skills in the out-jazz realm. After playing hard for nearly a quarter hour, everyone holds their place in the middle of the song, giving Morris a breather, but he soon uncorks another blizzard of notes amidst Dunn’s thunderous bass, Saft’s unrelenting organ and Pandi’s booming thwack. A group improv of the purest form with nary a trace of jazz anywhere. Except, perhaps, in spirit.

Morris’ microtonal expressions against an elusive root chord makes “Black Aces” the closest to avant jazz of the bunch, but Dunn’s searching, high-register bass lines puts the song on the experimental rock side of exotic. When Saft swoops in with thick slabs of organ going up against Pandi’s thrashing about, it conjures up more than a passing resemblance to the original Tony Williams Lifetime band. “Suffrage” springs from Pandi’s funky beat with a filthy bass line, dense organ, and an agitated guitar. What starts “Taint Of Satan” as a cloud of thick, sonic smoke ends with a singular, lumbering, feedback-laden monster.

This music has been described as metal, hardcore and grindcore at the core. For all I know though, Black Aces could have been recorded at the Fillmore in 1970, except that most of the members of the band probably weren’t even born yet. That matters none, because they managed to capture the essence of a time when lines between rock, blues, funk and jazz were blurry and musicians were good enough to tackle it all at once. Slobber Pup is more than good enough.

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Black Aces will become available on Rare Noise Records on June 11.

S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron is an SQL demon for a Fortune 100 company by day, music opinion-maker at night. His musings are strewn out across the interwebs on jazz.com, AllAboutJazz.com, a football discussion board and some inchoate customer reviews of records from the late 1990s on Amazon under a pseudonym that will never be revealed. E-mail him at svaaron@somethingelsereviews .com or follow him on Twitter at https://twitter.com/SVictorAaron
S. Victor Aaron

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