Ultraviolet Hippopotamus CD Release Party wsg Consider the Source
Bell's Back Room, Kalamazoo
Oct. 5, 9:30 p.m.
bellsbeer.com, (269) 382-2338
This is what progressive rock sounds like in the second decade of the New Millennium: A mélange of ear-electrifying, genre-spanning styles, funky backbeats, ever-changing time signatures, and dizzyingly stunning instrumental jams.
To say that Grand Rapids' Ultraviolet Hippopotamus has reinvented prog-rock on its latest, much buzzed-about new studio album, Translate, may actually sell the project short. Recorded over many months at two different West Michigan studios – Grand Rapids' River City Studios and Grand Haven's Redwall North Studios – with dial-spinning contributions by some of the area's most highly respected sound-meisters (Bill Chrysler, Joe Sturgill, Roy Wallace, Al McAvoy), the jam band that's grown in stature nationally even takes contemporary jazz, funk, reggae and pop in psychedelic new directions on its fulllength follow-up to 2011's Square Pegs Round Holes.
The album's 10 tracks resonate with the sort of joyful camaraderie that comes from talented musicians hitting their stride. As guitarist and singer Russell James puts it, the recording process "was one of the more enjoyable musical and artistic experiences we've ever had," allowing "the creative juices to flow."
That creativity pours out like an ultra-tasty Michigan ale, with James and bandmates Brian Samuels, Joe Phillion, Dave Sanders, Casey Butts distilling traces of everything from Frank Zappa to Lotus to Bruce Hornsby to Steely Dan to something resembling early 20 all done seamlessly, from the opening, rhythmic salvo of "LaMarea" to the delectable groove of the final track, "Verlander." Yes, the boys of UV Hippo may be having fun but they certainly aren't just fooling around.
As for the album title, it references "the process of stories being put into musical form and then being interpreted by the listener," said James. When you think about it, listening to music is very much like trying to translate from one person's language to your own."
In this case, how about wunderbar, magnifique, fabuloso? No translation necessary.