The first description I read about Chemystry Set and their music was that they are a San Francisco band with a unique approach combining funk, jazz, rock, folk, Zairian rhumba, Kraut-rock and Latin rhythms. For a moment, I thought, why narrow your focus--grinů The reality is after listening--hey this isn't a bad description for a one sentence approach. Another short description listed them as an anarcho groove rock band. I had to hear their recent work for myself. I contacted them and set up the opportunity to listen to their most recent release, "The Last Real Experience".
The group is made up of a variety of talented musicians: Sven Eberlein on guitar and vocals, Patty Hughes playing keyboards and singing vocals, Baba Njhoni picking at the mandolin and lending vocals, Dickie Ogden playing the drums, and Joel Oppenheimer filling in the bottom with his bass. The band is quite visible across the southern area of California and I am quite envious of the local patrons who get to see them on a regular basis.
The opening tune and title track, The Last Real Experience, begins with a woman's voice speaking in Portuguese through a filter that sounds like a telephone [maybe it is a telephone--grin]. The band overlays the opening dialog and a rock/jazz beat with a world sound lent by what I believe is a banjo in the mix. Clever keyboard and guitar fills create interest while the bass and drums create the rhythm. The vocal harmony reminds me of the early mixes of vocals of the Jefferson Airplane but with a jazzier and more polished feel. Yet the whole is very loose and fun!
Walk opens with a bouncy Supertramp sort of keyboard riff but quickly all similarities to that band change as the tune evolves into a pleasant tune about life enlightening for the subject with his walk through the diversity of earth's inhabitants. Drummer Dickie sets the pace like a metronome and the band manages to keep an exact pace but in the same moment keep the sound free and evolving. The guitar work flows like it was made of rubber.
Salaam starts with an ancient sound you might imagine in an eastern temple. Guitar builds this song into a melodic round giving the lis