Straight to Your Head must've been a tricky album to record. Box Wine Trio wanted the album to sound as close as possible to one of their live shows. To that end, little overdubbing and correction was used in the recording process. That sounds less hard than easy, until you consider that each track required an indefinite number of takes to replicate that live energy, both its chaos and its control.
So we have a studio album run through a live filter. It sounds sparse in that the instruments seem to occupy musical spaces divided from each other. When you hear a song you are hearing its sum of parts but not the whole piece. It can take some time getting used to but once you're fully immersed in the world of Box Wine Trio, it can be tough to get out.
Not that you would want to. Straight to Your Head is an instrumental album with a constantly shifting sonic soundscape. Loose beats slap against sinister funk grooves in one track and then the next will feature skittish riffs and rhythms that disregard standard time signatures. Trying to memorize anything akin to melody is futile. Several moments, however, are quite memorable whether for the technical skill involved or the structure of the moment.
There is the trade-off from guitar to bass in "4567." The tropicalia-inspired drumming on "Cold Sharks" ushers in a wipeout of string-based noises. Horns are used to great affect in "4x4" as they rise and fall with a simple drum-and-bass combo. There isn't a weak cut from the album, and even the loose ends sound tight. The closer "For the Children" appears at first indecisive, with all the instrumental cut-offs in the beginning rhythms, but those moments underscore the eventual flow the band finds at the end. Then there are the usual instances of "did they mean to do this?" Could be a guitar note too many, a missed beat, and then you remember that they're trying to capture the ephemeral life of a live show and it becomes tantalizing to think what's a mistake and what's intentional. It's a fun mystery with taut chords and clattering drum rolls.
Throwing on any album as background music is a discredit to the creative process behind it (I still do it, make no mistake), but especially for albums like Straight to Your Head , which rely on a tight grip of both musical dynamics and aesthetics. This is a fine fusion of rock that focuses in on what the band can do mathily, funkily and jazzily. It's an engaging listen that warms you up even as it's putting you off with the sudden rhythmic redirection.
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