Rich with bold brass and hypnotic percussion, Polyrhythmics’ latest album, Caldera, showcases the instrumental eight-piece’s impossibly tight grooves and virtuosic musicianship as they tear through a singular blend of funk, soul, psychedelic rock, R&B, progressive jazz, and Afrobeat. Calling to mind
everything from Antibalas and the Dap-Kings to The Meters and Fela Kuti, it’s without a doubt their strongest work to date, merging the infectious power of their live show with a sleek and nuanced studio sophistication.
Named for the smoldering crater left after a volcanic eruption, Caldera was written during a band retreat to rural Oregon, where Polyrhythmics embraced truly collaborative songwriting for the first time during a marathon session in the shadow of Mt. Hood (itself an active volcano). The resulting album is a blistering declaration from a band that’s progressed beyond the sum of its influences to come fully into its own. From the downtempo, Afrobeat trance of “Stargazer” to the triumphantly anthemic, high-octane pump-up funk of “Marshmallow Man,” Caldera is instrumental music at its best: emotional, evocative, mesmerizing. On “Cactus Blossoms,” Polyrhythmics craft an eerie, retro gem straight out of a 70’s film score, while the trippy effects and wah-wah guitar of “Goldie’s Road” suggest a psychedelic journey (or perhaps a bad trip), and the shuffling “Vodka For My Goat” draws on Stax soul while hinting at BB King’s merger of the blues and jazz. It’s an eclectic collection, tied together by the melding of eight distinct musical voices coming together as a cohesive whole.