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DRKWAV: The Purge

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DRKWAV, the trio of keyboardist John Medeski, drummer Adam Deitch and saxophonist Skerik, is a vibe band. There is little in the way of harmony, melody or arrangement on The Purge, its debut album. Instead, there is the way the music feels: bleak, foreboding. And there is groove. Lots of it. Deitch, in fact, is best known for his work with a pair of funk ensembles, Lettuce and John Scofield’s Überjam group. So The Purge is a work of weirdness and experimentalism but also of searing beats, an “out” record that never really goes there rhythmically. There’s a unique tension on The Purge, a fascinating dissonance.

Brilliantly, though, the band more or less abandons its own concept on the last two tracks. “Gazzelloni,” an Eric Dolphy tune, has a catchy, unforgettable melody. And Skerik’s “Shmeeans Kuti,” an Afrobeat piece, gets pretty riffy. It’s not a better or worse path, but an alternate vision, a different way of looking at the same picture. Creative musicians know there’s more than one way to travel through the dark.

The standout track is Medeski’s epic “Datura,” and one stretch from that piece is particularly memorable. Near the halfway point of the track, things have gotten loud, but then Skerik cuts through the volume with a heroic but levelheaded tenor saxophone solo. Then, soon after, the drums cut out, Medeski switches to acoustic piano, and we’re in a spiritual situation. It’s an optimistic moment in the middle of the night.

Originally Published