Talibam!, the madcap avant-jazz duo of Kevin Shea (drums) and Matt Mottel (synth), has teamed up with trombonist Sam Kulik to produce a spoken-word ‘opera’. Discover AtlantASS is available on a compact disc that comes bundled with a perfect-bound comic, illustrated by James Clapham, courtesy of Belly Kids, purveyors of “records, books and ill formed prose”.
You can get a flavour of Clapham’s way with ink from the panels illustrated below. (All the same, his Flickr photostream is worth a look.) So what about the music? Well, there’s no Wilkinson. AtlantASS is fashioned as a tongue-in-cheek ‘opera’, an underwater adventure which tells, as Belly Kids put it:
“The story of a young teen…who gets abducted to the undersea world of Atlantis by a laid-back revolutionary jazz fish…Together, they are ready to combat a disastrous oil spill which has nearly eradicated the vibrant community of poets, musicians, artists and fornicators who inhabit the undersea paradise.”
The AtlantASS ‘libretto’, for want of a better word, seems at least as important as the music. That title, with its tell-all emphasis caps, pretty effectively signposts the savour of the fare. If you like Frank Zappa you will probably like AtlantASS. I struggled with it, when it wasn’t making me laugh. There is, for instance, one character, ‘the ghost of Barley Farker’, who pops up to say “Ass” too often in a farty voice. That will either tickle you or it won’t. Meanwhile, the image of our hero, young Franklin, having sex with an anthropomorphous jellyfish, is really quite creepy.
Musically, AtlantASS bears some relation to Talibam’s 2009 album Boogie in the Breeze Blocks, on which their trademark carnage was likewise peppered with spoken word skittery. It has not much in common with their definitive statement, 2007’s Ordination of the Globetrotting Conscripts album, with its roll-call of guest stars (including Kulik on bass trombone), and even less in common with the free-jazz riot they sometimes make as a trio with saxophonist Alan Wilkinson. All the same, Kulik is a great match with the hyperactive Talibam! duo, his trombone giving their music some ballast and emphasising its melodic contours. He also gives good solo. The trio whip up a fair storm between episodes. Here’s a taster, the album’s fourth track, “Welcome to Atlantis”: