Pair up some old-time-radio sound effects with some Jeff Beck Wired-era whammy effects, toss in a satirical approach to the great American songsmiths, and rekindle the Japanese infatuation with the supergroup, and you too can make standards sound less standard—alien, almost. Such is the undertaking of keyboardist Hiromi Uehara and her side project Sonicbloom, a quartet of fusionistas in Deep Purple mode.
Hard-rock fans love this kind of act: Beck, Bogert & Appice, Cream, Zeppelin. Virtuoso players with some extent of classical credibility, serious musicians who serve up riff after riff, and occasionally quote Peer Gynt in the solos. Sonicbloom is somewhat more understated, even if Martin Valihora embarks on an Ian Paice-type solo on the cover of “Caravan,” an antithetical response to the bass-samba passage that brings the warhorse back to life. The tempos are almost always taken fast, comically so, in some cases, which has the advantage of introducing some wit into the proceedings. Rather than being scared off by Coltrane in covering “My Favorite Things,” the band sends it up, playing with the arrangement so that it resembles a rehearsal take of another song composed of a bunch of fragments, the familiar melody occasionally asserting itself, as though a student-composer was unable to shake free of his influences in writing a new piece. As an effect, it’s wonderfully controlled, if not exactly epiphanic—more of an experiment in form, which is the unifying concept of Beyond Standard. Theorem without release, for those who prefer such exercises.