Mount Florida

Arrived Phoenix (Matador Records)

Blame Blood, Sweat and Tears and Spyro Gyra (not to mention nouvelle cuisine) for ruining the word fusion; since the heyday of those groups, uttering the word brings thoughts of endless wank-offery, followed by the image of some dude soloing with a stupid just-lost-a-pinkie-to-his-hedge-clippers look on his face. However, if you erase the word's association with the misguided late-'60s/early-'70s jazz-rock genre, the idea of "fusion" seems only natural -- and downright welcome -- in times when genres have become stale and often unremarkable.

Arrived Phoenix is a fusion record in the best sense of the word in that it jumps around in many directions, merging and mingling, drawing on inspirations both coy and in-your-face, ignoring distinctions and exploring sounds both new and outdated. Traces of Gang of Four, Aphex Twin, Killing Joke, King Tubby, and Massive Attack can be heard on it, and if you melt the aforementioned artists into a single essence, you'll find what's at the heart of Mount Florida: heavy bass and loads of percussion.

Mount Florida, hailing from Glasgow, Scotland, has released three stellar EPs (Stealth, Storm, and Strut) in the past year. On them the duo sampled Iggy Pop and the Stooges and Eric Satie; referenced Muslimgauze, Charles Bukowski, and Kurt Vonnegut in song titles; and created beat-infested rock songs and rock-infested beat songs. Beneath the loudest and hardest of these tracks -- "Roc the Bukowski" and a remix of that piece, "Roc the Vonnegut" -- lurked a teeth-grinding intensity that seemed endless; both sampled the glorious, set-you-free riff of the Stooges' "1970" and fused it with a monster beat and Iggy screaming "Look out!" at the top of his lungs.

Like all interesting musicians, Mount Florida's members practice restraint and understand that power can be achieved through the use of quiet tones as well as eardrum busters; they understand that texture and depth are at the heart of aural beauty and that variation plus surprise equals drama. On Arrived Phoenix, surprise is the rule: Sounds arrive from all over the map; the string quartet that sounds like Kronos; the itsy female vocalist who sneaks into "Space, Echoes" is none other than Frances McKee, formerly of the Vaselines; and the 11-minute workout "Celebration" is some freaky combination of blippy techno, strummed-out rock, and drone-on space exploration.

Mount Florida's songs walk the line between synthetic computer and analog rock-out; it's hard to tell when the group is sampling to make music that sounds like a live band and when it's actually strapping on its guitars to be a live band; hard to tell whether any riff is stolen or strummed, whether any beat is live or Memorex. But ultimately who cares how the band does it? It's a record, after all, not a live performance, and if the new confusion caused by digital recording¯and-sample culture causes purists in one camp or the other to scratch their heads and wonder if they "should" be liking the music and if its method of creation resides in the world they understand, that's a good thing, serving to slap around snobs who shouldn't be bothering with such pointless exercises.

 
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