Neslort – mystical scam, cd review
If you are a Deadhead, February 23, 1993 (Mardi Gras), Oakland Coliseum, The Grateful Dead featuring Ornette Coleman is one of those special shows you share with your friends. And after they listen, your friends ask, “why did the Dead not have a horn player, seems an injustice?” Indeed, if you ever heard Branford Marsalis play with the Grateful Dead (MSG) or even the Jerry Garcia side project, Reconstruction Band, you will think all this hippie music is more New Orleans and less California. And you would be right.
Oh. And vice versa too. The whole British Invasion was a celebration of American Blues. And the psychedelic music of the 60s and 70s was mostly American Country Music all spaced out. Everybody has a favorite Grateful Dead song that is actually a Dylan tune. And that theme carries right on through to modern day jam bands like Widespread Panic, who sneak J.J. Cale and Robert Johnson tunes by their audiences night in and night out. So New Orleans bands, as original as we are we, are perfectly allowed to take whatever they want from whatever kind of music they like and make it New Orleans battered, fried and covered with rémoulade.
And so we have Neslort (Trolsen spelled backwards), a powerful New Orleans band that needs its own niche, its own funky, artsy neighborhood inside the music genre. It is about never that we compare any New Orleans band to something like the Grateful Dead, but what the “no one does what we do so we are the best at what we do” attitude they held true to is carried on by our expansive, creative, robust and talented local musicians in New Orleans 2012. The Dead tended to take an organized song and disassemble it. Likewise, they often took the “drums – space” improvisational portion of their show and turned it into an organized song, after a few minutes.
When I first heard the track, The Picture, off of Neslort’s cd, Mystical Scam, I immediately pictured a scene similar to the Grateful Dead’s Standing OnThe Moon, with Jerry Garcia hammering away at his heartfelt, peaceful warrior lyrics about the worlds’ struggles before letting loose on a mind bending guitar attack, beautifully utilizing his only available weapon against injustice. The Picture will grab you, assault you and then make it all better. The guitar playing of Tim Robertson will grip your mind and tear it apart. You do not expect such timely, explosive and just pleasing guitar solos in and amongst the high level trombone playing of Rick Trolsen. But time and time again on Mystical Scam, Robertson delivers.
The pocket of neslort is the real reason that players like Trolsen and Robertson are constantly popping their bearings on this record. On the track, The Noise, drummer Boyanna Trayanova and bass/tuba player Matt Perrine bring it hard and show where this band is coming from, the marching streets of the Crescent. The Noise is stamped New Orleans like a water meter cover, it really moves. And the moves do no stop with The Yoga Rope Rag. Oh man, you will drift away to this track and start inventing new dances. And whether you 2nd line it down the street or do your best Lyuba Ranevsky dance through the Cherry Orchard, it will feel as if you are making this music your own. You are now a Neslort head.
Frank Zappa was another music pioneer who went looking in his own direction. Most neslort fans will feel and hear the Zappa influences from the start, with tracks like March of the Native Alien, Blues for Man’s Extinction and Mystical Scam. These tunes are seriously funky, but they are born of mayhem and chaos, dripping with social commentary and questions like “are you losing your mind”? The track, I Found You, still sounds Zappa influenced, but I prefer to think of it as Black Sabbath with horns. I Found You goes from heavy metal to cobblestone shoulder bends behind the brass band, and back again.
Neslort is going places. Whether you want to enjoy them as a New Orleans band that automatically takes advantage of the top notch players within and just jams. Or if you want to see them as breaking new / old ground, get the tattoo, the bumper sticker and go all in, it is Amerika and it is still your choice. But remember, “security breeds insecurity” so I suggest going all in.