Garaj Mahal, More Mr. Nice Guy, Owl Studios

Garaj Mahal and Fareed Haque, Discovery: Present the Moog Guitar, Moog Music

The latest releases from modern groove fusion alchemists Garaj Mahal give us a pair of premieres—one man, the other machine. First, the man, new drummer/vocalist/songwriter and occasional rhythm guitarist Sean Rickman makes his impressive debut on More Mr. Nice Guy. For those playing along at home, you did read that right: “vocalist” was no mistake. In the past, vocals in Garaj Mahal have mostly been limited to inspired scatting and the like, so with this new drummer comes some new avenues for the band to explore.

Rickman’s vocals appear on the two songs he wrote for the album, “Today” and “What My Friends Say,” with the former drenched in a sort of neo-soul, jazz-rock vibe that fits surprisingly seamlessly into the overall GM sound.

The second premiere, the machine, is the ear-bending, mind-expanding Moog Guitar. While the Moog Guitar does appear on several tunes on More Mr. Nice Guy, it is the star of Discovery, where the album serves specifically as an introduction to what this fascinating new instrument can do. Despite Fareed Haque’s seemingly instant mastery of the instrument and the various soundscapes he creates with it, one still can’t escape the feeling that this is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of what the Moog Guitar is truly capable of. But if anybody out there is going to tame this beast and find out what it’s really made of, you better believe it’ll be Haque. Tthe sounds he channels will rearrange some brains. Attempting to describe the sonic capabilities of this new synth/guitar hybrid with words is undoubtedly futile, so if you have any interest in Garaj Mahal, or new musical instruments in general, don’t hesitate to pick up a copy.

For the most part, besides the addition of vocals, More Mr. Nice Guy stays in Garaj Mahal’s comfort zone. Then again, their zone is easily three to four times as wide as most bands playing today, so there’s certainly nothing wrong with that. Previously content to genre hop throughout their albums, GM now seem to be have brought that practice into individual songs more than ever before, especially on tunes like “Tachyonics” and “Frankly Frankie Ford.” In particular, “Frankly Frankie Ford” displays the glorious diversity of this group, as it starts off with acoustic guitar, banjo, hand claps and an overall very organic vibe. After exploring some spacey territory when Fareed picks up the Moog Guitar they eventually find their way into a killer sinister-sounding riff. At that point it seems like they could bust right into some blazing epic prog-metal at any second, but instead they drop into a quick little jazz run to end the song, keeping the listener on their tip-toes as always.

Kudos to the band as a whole, because when faced with the departure of the inimitable Alan Hertz, rather than looking for a replacement that would pick up where Hertz left off, they chose a very different, but incredibly talented drummer in Sean Rickman, who is bound to inspire exciting new musical territory for the group. Add to that Haque’s new arsenal of musical mind bombs in the form of the Moog Guitar, and there’s truly no telling where these cats will end up next, but you just know it’s gonna be good.