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Album review: Jorge Arana Trio - Mapache

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Album review: Jorge Arana Trio - Mapache

Mapache, the debut full-length release from the Jorge Arana Trio, is both a throwback and forward-gazing: its simple blue-and-black-washed cover art hearkens to classic Blue Note albums of yore and its narrative thematic structure pays homage to the great concept albums of the past. The trio’s modern influences and distinctive voice carves out new territory of its own.

Leading the expedition are erstwhile members of Kansas City’s beloved experimental rockers Pixel Panda: Jorge Arana (guitar/keys) and Joshua Enyart (drums), joined by Jason Nash (bass).

These three adventurous fellows use their musical wanderlust to carve up twelve short sketches that cover free jazz, fusion, prog-jazz, metal, noise rock, and pretty much anything they deem necessary to move the story forward. Mapache, like its Spanish namesake, is a musical raccoon with its paws all over a number of genres, filching whatever and whenever it pleases.

“Bitter Era” opens the album demonstrating just this, embarking on a jazz odyssey with frenetic rhythms, dissonant plunking on the keys, and a grungy guitar before settling into a staccato groove that turns aggressive in the driving “Snake in the Grass.” A chorus of tribal voices lends a sinister air of foreboding before erupting in a hard rock finale.

Tracks such as “Nightly Stroll,” “Confrontation!”, and the playfully sinister “Short & Evil” make up a trilogy that heightens the sense of high stakes drama. The bulk of the album is packed densely with similar battle-music suites, highlighted by the aptly-titled “Catching Bullets with Your Teeth” and the bendy buzz-saw guitars propelling “Thieves Among Us.”

Early track “I’m an Omnivore” and the penultimate “Baptize Your Dinner” provide nice, contemplative free jazz reprieves from the cacophony. The album finale, “Ether,” returns us to the loose, improvisational spirit of the album’s opener before settling into an ambling, drunken strut, littered with loose keys, scratchy guitar strings and scattershot percussive asides.

There’s a strong sense of storytelling throughout Mapache, an orchestrated chaos. Stanley Kubrick’s Apocalypse Now didn’t improve upon Joseph Campbell’s Heart of Darkness so much as tweak its slow-burn descent into madness with psychedelia, machine gunfire, and stylistic bursts of dramatic flair. Jorge Arana Trio does the same here for the experimental jazz canon.

The clever and calculated Mapache stops just short of an uncontrolled acid jazz freak-out. Instead, it’s an invitation to embark upon a cinematic romp through a treacherous sonic wilderness, just beyond the safety of civilization--one that doesn’t promise to show you the way home.
Tomorrow marks the album release for Mapache. Join the Trio along with Quirk and Ruckus, Ambulants, and Mr.Marco's V7 at Coda tomorrow, October 26, at 9:00 pm. Facebook event pageMapache will be available in cassette or download form. 
--Vi Tran 

Vi Tran is currently acting in Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson at the Unicorn Theatre through November 4. He's also in Vi Tran Band and Hot Caution.


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