Brian Ellis: The Silver Creature

Benbecula classifies Brian Ellis's The Silver Creature as jazz fusion but the album's material is closer to post-rock that tilts towards jazz fusion. There's no denying Ellis's command of multiple instruments is formidable (he can play more than fourteen instruments), and the fact that The Silver Creature is entirely the product of one multi-tracked individual as opposed to an improvising ensemble is pretty remarkable too, especially when the live feel is so convincingly realized during its nine Live-Evil-styled exercises and peyote-fueled psychedelic space jams.

The album impresses less, however, on compositional grounds. As someone who has devoted more hours than should legally be allowed listening to classic fusion (Weather Report, Return To Forever, Mahavishnu Orchestra) and post-rock (Tortoise, Timeout Drawer, Explosions in the Sky), something more than impressive execution is needed to keep me coming back. It's the melodies and themes of “Birds of Fire,” “Nubian Sundance,” and “Pharaoh's Dance” that park themselves permanently in one's cranium above all else, and it's that aspect that Ellis's album lacks. Ultra-busy cuts like “Say” and “Night Trails” suggest that his primary model isn't, in fact, fusion but Squarepusher, especially when the tracks exhibit a bass-heavy penchant for electronic theatrics. The greasy soul-jazz funk of “Home Cookin'” comes closest to roping in a memorable fusion theme, and the closing minutes of “Cookies and Cream” are distinguished by a tight On the Corner-like groove. But generally speaking one struggles to find compositional writing that equals the inspired playing. If a convincing simulation of post-rock / jazz fusion jamming is what you're after, then The Silver Creature ably fits the bill; if memorable themes and melodies are the game you're hunting, you may want to look elsewhere.

September 2007