Todd Matthews: Uh Oh, Here Come The Pig Mammoths
Todd Matthews

As might be gleaned from its title, Uh Oh, Here Come The Pig Mammoths doesn't take itself too seriously (its story, specifically), even if the music itself is approached with an appropriate degree of seriousness by double bassist-composer Todd Matthews. And a double bass album it most assuredly is, as the Richmond, Virginia-based musician used that instrument alone to generate the sound world on his debut recording, though it must also be said that each of its ten songs contains between thirty to forty layers of plucked, bowed, and drummed string bass and that further manipulations were applied to the material after it was digitally recorded.

The story itself is a fantastical one, the surreal kind one imagines would captivate readers young (and old), and the full-colour illustrations by Bizhan Khodabandeh (displayed alongside the text within a twenty-four-page booklet) are as imaginative, though they're best viewed onscreen where the images' details and colours are presented with maximum clarity. In short, the story concerns the adventures a young man experiences as he attempts to rescue his brother from the Pig Mammoths, who're otherwise referred to as “double bass-hogging behemoths.” Along the way, the protagonist Chad encounters Sobeks (crocodile-headed dwarves) and a 3000-year-old turtle, among others. At approximately thirty-five minutes, the recording is well-timed and thus would not exhaust the attention span of the aforementioned young reader.

Given the story-based nature of the project, there's an understandably programmatic character to the material, such that the opening “Drifting Off” exudes a dream-like quality while the subsequent “Pig Mammoth Theme” pounds out an aggressive march in 7/8 time. That approach enables Matthews to incorporate a satisfying number of mood shifts in the release, such that room is allowed for not only aggressive uptempo pieces but also a mournful, rather baroque-styled setting (“Sad Chad”) and an exotic and mysterious one suggestive of a journey through dangerous, unfamiliar territory (“Leaving Reptilia”). Matthews' playing is a source of constant pleasure, with representative pieces like the bluesy “Bugia's Marketplace” and majestic “Major Dee, The Marching Millipede” offering a wide range of bowing and plucking techniques, and the tracks are enhanced by their oft-sinuous melodic qualities. In sum, listeners enamoured of the cello recordings of Zoe Keating and Todd Reynolds should find Matthews' release to be as satisfying, as would those with a bent for story-driven classical works such as Prokofiev's Peter and The Wolf and Ravel's L'enfant et les sortilèges.

February 2013