The Epic Botanical Beat Suite aims to blow your mind. Its songs are named after the resin of cannabis (“Charas”), and hallucinogens that you eat (the cactus “Hikuli”) and rub into your scalp (“Kwa-shi”). Its liner notes feature a quote from Tommy Chong, of the baked comedy duo Cheech & Chong: “When you hit a groove, it’s not you; it’s the spirit world.”
The spiritually intoxicating grooves of Hu Vibrational are the brainchild of Adam Rudolph, who calls them “Boonghee Music”-a cascade of world-inspired beats from Africa, Asia and South America, mixed with jazz, hip-hop and electronica. Rudolph initiated Hu Vibrational with his fellow percussionist Hamid Drake and producer Carlos Niño for a couple of albums beginning in 2002, but this fourth Hu outing, the first in nine years, has him as the lone original member of an 11-piece band. The rhythmic fulcrum comes from Rudolph and the six other percussionists borrowed from his 36-piece Go: Organic Orchestra, yet the beats from this hefty contingent are restrained in their speed and density in favor of an evolving arc of texture and contrast. Along with the usual array of percussion, there are drums shaped like goblets, boxes and picture frames, the cowbell-like gankogui, the seeds-in-a-basket caxixi and, most prominent, the bottom-toned resonance of udu clay pots played by all seven percussionists. Among those helping to put the “epic” in these botanical beats are intrepid electric bassist Bill Laswell and his longtime arranger James Dellatacoma, the Norwegian electric guitar maestro Eivind Aarset, Alex Marcelo on Fender Rhodes and Steve Gorn on bansuri flutes.
The result is music that thrives on the balance of simultaneously reaching backwards and forwards in time. It soothes and reorients, yet feels like the opposite of somnambulant new-age massage tapes. It’s a holiday in hedonism.