While collaborative improvisation serves as the ethos of the jazz idiom, the projects that soar beyond the tradition are rare indeed. They are even more rare when an artist gives creative reign to a producer to imagine and construct evocative soundscapes from source material. Think Miles Davis and Teo Macero circa Bitches Brew and On the Corner. In that same spirit 30 years later arrives Floratone, a brilliant, groove-heavy album by a four-member collective of the same name that features the instrumental teamwork of drummer Matt Chamberlain (Tori Amos, Critters Buggin) and guitarist Bill Frisell with producers Tucker Martine (The Decemberists, Laura Veirs) and Lee Townsend serving as equally significant imaginative forces.
The Floratone sound is, in the words of Townsend, "futuristic roots music," at turns jazz-vibed, swamp-funky, intensely rocking, ambiently grooved. The genesis of the project came when Frisell hooked up to jam with Chamberlain and let the tapes rolling to lay down free improvisations of their musical conversations. They, then, turned the tapes over to Townsend and Martine, who took the raw material and sculpted songs. There's an aesthetic of euphoric journey as well as a nasty get-down-and-move sensibility on this 11-song collection of original soundscapes. While steeped in the past, Floratone is cutting-edge, teeming with rhythmically charged music for the now. The album also spotlights Frisell's multifarious guitar voice that ranges from straight jazz on "Swamped," to the spiky metallic rock of "The Future" and the sound-washed atmospherics on "The Wanderer". The album is the musical expression of the group's democratic decision-making process and listeners get to decide for themselves what the sounds are saying to them personally.