Friday, 15 September 2017

HyperViolet by Johnny Butler - Brilliant Review by Brian Morton in The Wire 404

Saxophonist Johnny Butler comes from a planet (well, Seattle) where genre is unknown and the inhabitants groove happily to a mash-up of jazz, dance and ecstatic pop. He's a bit of a utopian, who knows that dreams of conflict-free living usually have to play out against a background of devastation, and 'Crake's Dream' is one of the most thoughtful cuts on this slow-evolving debut.
The title comes from Margaret Atwood's Oryx and Crake, not so much a dystopian novel as one that searches the wreckage for saving graces. Butler's imagination is like that of a survivalist after the apocalypse, picking up useable bits and pieces of sound, making chance encounters with fellow survivors. They include rapper Kassa Overall, violinist Todd Reynolds and singers Tecla and Bridget Davis, together with old bandmates Jackson and Arleigh Kincheloe from Sister Sparrow & the Dirty Birds. I don't remember any Butler credits on SS&DB joints, but 'Flipper Wants Out' here could easily have fitted into their book.
The album took some time to come together, but sounds deceptively relaxed and unfussed, with bits and pieces of verite - like vocalist Tecla drinking olive oil out of a liquor bottle - that somehow remind me of Scott Walker waiting for exactly the right sound before the song's complete. There are moments though when the provenance drifts closer to PM Dawn or 1970s soul jazz. Butler's saxophone sound - slow, processed, spiralling - certainly comes out of the latter and Dov Manski's keyboard sometimes recalls Joe Zawinul's overdriven Rhodes sound on the first Weather Report record. The main group with Jeff Miles on guitar, JJ Byars on alto and drummer Bram Kincheloe, along with Manski sound just fine, but it's Daddy Kev's mastering that pulls the sound together.
Butler might come from Seattle, but this could be Brooklyn music: self-starting, a little apart without being antagonistic, a melting pot without the melting pot rhetoric.
Butler's the real deal - he arranged for Beyoncé for God's sake - and HyperViolet is just about the freshest thing you'll hear all year.

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