Rubblebucket Orchestra’s self-titled sophomore full-length, Rubblebucket, is a conglomeration of genres resulting in a euphoric 52-minute sojourn infused with intricate Afro-Cuban polyrhythms, vigorous horn arrangements, incessant and diverse percussion, rock and roll breakdowns and minimalist guitar and bass riffs. The Vermont group’s lineup often rotates but currently consists of an eight-piece fronted by Alex Toth and vocalist/saxophonist Kalmia Traver, and featuring Craig Myers, recently of Mike Gordon’s band.
Some quick horn blasts launch the album into an upbeat, dance party rhythm laced with Traver’s ethereal vocals on “November.” A perpetual, multi-layered progression evolves into a chaotic peppering of horns and distortion, reminiscent of an ‘80s-style prog-rock crescendo, getting things started with high-energy that infrequently subsides.
An African string instrument called an n’goni (played by Myers) makes an appearance on several tracks including “Ba Donso, We Did This,” which also features a clunking bass and crunchy guitar juxtaposed against the worldly sound of the n’goni, giving the tune more of a rock and roll feeling than some of the bands other material. The first single, “Bikes,” kicks off with a catchy vocal array of “La la’s” before a sweeping horn arrangement chimes in to harmonize. Traver displays her scatting chops before a trombone solo by Dotson meanders between chorus sections.
A mostly instrumental cut called “540 Groove” is the longest track on Rubblebucket. Swirling horn melodies lead steadfast percussion playing and a swift guitar and keyboard backing that drop out about halfway through the track opening a space for Wolf to solo. The only lyrics come at the end when Traver showcases her powerful vocal ability, seductively wailing “Take me home, ah,” over the dance-rock outro.
To classify the music on Rubblebucket would be pigeonholing the dynamic mesh of contemporary and world influences that give the band its eclectic, intriguing nature.