From the trailblazing San Pedro, California-based trios the Minutemen and fIREHOSE to the reunited Iggy and the Stooges, bassist Mike Watt has made indelible marks on the underground rock landscape over 40 years. He’s also been ensconced in the jazz world, having played with guitar visionaries Nels Cline and, more recently, Mike Baggetta. Now he furthers his outsider-jazz cred in Three-Layer Cake, a cooperative trio he shares with a pair of New York veterans: guitarist/banjoist Brandon Seabrook and drummer Mike Pride. Their debut stands as a computer-based miracle of sorts; the entire recording was cut, pasted, spliced, and diced through file-sharing, without the three ever being in the same room together due to the pandemic lockdown.
Stove Top shows a band firing on all creative cylinders. Otherworldly noodling, cosmic Americana, damaged funk, throbbing dub-tinged jazziness, and full-blast rockers alike are pieced together with stunning cohesion. As Watt holds down the rhythmic foundation with meaty, big and bouncy grooves and abrasive plucking, Pride and Seabrook have free rein to go wild.
Pride’s strengths go way beyond his bionic prowess on drums, and here he probes deeper into his experiments with marimba, glockenspiel, bells, and organ. That multi-instrumental dynamic, juxtaposed with Seabrook’s banjo shredding, leads to standouts such as “Beatified, Bedraggled and Bombed” and “Tiller.” Seabrook dials down his typical chaotic riffage, popping off epic licks informed by both Eddie Van Halen and Watt’s beloved Minutemen bandmate, the late great D. Boon. “Big Burner” features arguably the most straightforward, arena-rock-ready licks Seabrook’s ever unleashed, while on “Luminous Range – Anxious Valve,” he channels the jazz-inspired punk-funk of the Minutemen. When these three musicians find themselves in the same place at the same time once again, the possibilities will be endless.