No Curb Ahead
Drummer/composer Vic Stevens turns in another great collection of accessible and artfully hip sci-fi soundscapes with No Curb Ahead (Lolo Records 011-2; 51:05). From the tongue-in-cheek, raucous revolving piano lines of "Useless Humans" to the sad, fuzzy blue notes of "Answers," Stevens and his band, Mistaken Identities, craft compositions which combine extreme levels of musicianship, sonic special effects wizardry, and emotional power. This longtime Bon Lozaga collaborator not only builds moods, but also imprints memorable melodies on tracks like the spacey, bass-walking "No Curb Ahead" and the creepy, stirring "By the Way." Throughout, Stevens utilizes contrasting styles to work out his musical themes, and great supporting musicians like bassist Percy Jones to carry the messages home. One of the album's highlights-"I Travel Alone"-is a complex timing piece, with a classic blue piano and soprano sax progression laid across an impossibly fast clicking percussion element. The contrasting times and spatial elements wordlessly illustrate travel, speed, longing and loss. This type of inventive composition cuts across genre barriers to strike a common emotional chord-and it's what makes Stevens' work so special.