Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Duff Review: The Dendrites - Mountain Standard Time

Megalith Records

God save The Dendrites! What with the music industry in shambles (thanks, in large part, to illegal file sharing), a fragmented American ska scene (still licking its wounds from the crash of the late 90s), and scattershot coverage of the music by bloggers and podcasters, they decide to drop this superb album of instrumental ska on the world now? In a different time (say 1997, when they would have been compared to The Scofflaws, New York Ska Jazz Ensemble, Skavoovie and the Epitones, and Dr. Ring Ding & the Senior Allstars) or place (Europe, Japan, South America, where they are not as rigid in their tastes--anywhere but here), The Dendrites' Mountain Standard Time would be hailed and celebrated by the ska masses--it's that good.

Ostensibly a vintage ska band in The Skatalites mold, The Dendrites (based in Denver, CO) take it all to the next plane, in a manner that reminds one of an act like the Tokyo Ska Paradise Orchestra, as The Dendrites' music is influenced by a wide array of genres (surf, latin jazz, soul, reggae/dub, 2 Tone, 1960s movie soundtracks). And there is a wonderful fluidity between these musical styles that brings a complex texture to The Dendrites' songs, as they often take many unexpected turns (see the Dick Dale surf guitar break in "Murder Mystery Weekend," the Eric Dolphy-ish jazz flute riff in "MMGF Dub," or the funky soul intro to "Street Walkin'"). There is also a surprising dreadness--not typically found in the ska-jazz genre--to some of their bass-heavy and dub cuts, like "Head Game" and "Interplanetary Space Sex," that are in a similar vein as those on Dub is a Weapon's powerful Armed and Dangerous EP.

The songwriting, performances, and production captured on Mountain Standard Time are uniformly excellent--there isn't a bum cut on this album (make sure to catch the bonus track at the end, the gorgeously melancholy "Trouble," that features vocals!). While a record brimming with instrumental songs may not to be every ska fan's tastes (I'm looking at you ska-punkers), those who are open to this style of ska will find much to love here.

The Duff Guide to Ska Grade: A-

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