The Motet's Self Titled Album
Words by Brad Yeakel (Opti Mystic Outlooks)
A few weeks ago I attended The Motet's cd release party, and the band seemed really excited about their latest effort. I hadn't had a chance to listen to it until today. Right from the first track their decade-blending funk machine was rolling. It pulled out of the driveway, turned on 80's Synth Drive and headed straight for Funkytown. The funky bottom of Garrett Sayers' bass immediately established the tone, and I knew it would remain a constant motivator for the subsequent grooves. When Ryan Jalbert's clean tone guitar made an appearance, "Like We Own It" became a little more contemporary and Joey Porter's synth moved from 80's to the future like Michael J. Fox in one of the greatest sequels of all time. The horns added that traditional New Orleans brass timbre that rounded out their sound. I felt the first track quickly set the tone for an upbeat album and exemplified the type of music I've come to expect from the band.
"123" hit next with the funkadelic keys that were straight from Bernie Worrell's play book. With lyrics that addressed their heavily Coloradan fan-base, the song was easy enough to recognize as one that they played at the release party. Vocalist Jans Ingber led the group with his signature soul. They sounded dialed in, comfortable, confident and in prime form. That energy continued into the next tune, "Rynodub." It had a bass line that reminded me of level two in Super Mario Bros. before the robots arrived and carried the tune away to space. With Jalbert and the horns weaving intricate melodies, I was reminded of Krasno and the Shady Horns work in the funk powerhouse, Lettuce. This was balanced against a psychedelic landscape that was part Pink Floyd and part Beck. This track was begging to go in my rotation from the jump. Straight bumpin'.
"Closed Mouth Don't Get Fed" burst through the door with horns that would put a dip in even grandma's artificial hip. The tune was more of the classic James Brown-style funk than the other tracks. The ensemble singing worked well with Ingber's lead. Joey Porter's organ laid the springboard for the horn section to spit fire. "Extraordinary High" sounded like a new Jamiroquai track. Dave Watts and Garrett Sayers dropped disco-leaning beats while Ryan Jalbert wah'd the day away. It was fun, light, funky and a great contrast to the beginning of the next track.
"Rich in People" came out of the gate like it was going to be aggressive, but quickly broke down into a groove that would have sounded at home in a Kyle Hollingsworth song... Not surprising since Watts and Sayers are both members of Hollingsworth's solo project. Porter laid in some beautiful keys throughout this song, while the background vocals added to this tune's character with enriching harmonies. "The Fountain" showcased Sayers' talents as most of the song revolved around his endlessly entertaining bass lines. About halfway into the song, things got tribal, electronic and experimental. There is a (very unique) song by Cake called "Conroy" that had a similar vibe to the interlude. Ultimately, the funk resurfaced and Sayers' bass once again led the band on through another round of solos.
"Knock It Down," seemed to get back to the quintessential Motet sound. Joey and Ryan peppered in staccato rhythms as Ingber crooned. The chorus reminded me of the Red Hot Chili Peppers' hit "Rollercoaster." Once again, the groove broke down to just Jalbert, Watts and Porter. Sayers crept back in with the low end and they were back to retro-funk which gave way to a distorted, reverb cloud of echoes and feedback.
To close the album, "Keep On Don't Stoppin'" moved back to the energetic funk that drew on multiple decades of funky influences simultaneously, and also happened to be one of the tunes I recall them playing at the release. Once again, Sayers' bass worms found their way in my ears and nestled into my brain. Porter's keys and the horns built to a crescendo that dropped into a celebratory disco-infused verse. From beginning to end, this album is chocked full of all the best things about the Motet. They said they were proud of this effort at the release party and I have seen why. This album finally gave their fans a quality recording to help spread the word. The songwriting, playing and production all came together to make this the Motet's best effort to date.