sub-ID: BFF
1320 Records

Though BFF is sub-ID's debut recording, its two members, Nashville-based husband-and-wife duo bassist Alana Rocklin and electronic wizard Brad Bowden, bring to the album years of experience. While living in Chicago, the two performed regularly with the electronic-fusion outfit The All Rectangle and produced the band's Ke Ala Mano (The Way of the Shark) debut and after moving to Tennessee in established themselves as sought-after session players for Nanci Griffith, Bela Fleck, Greg Osby, and many others. After forming sub-ID in 2005, the two promptly contributed a remix to STS9's (Sound Tribe Sector 9) Artifact: Perspectives which prompted the group to make sub-ID the premiere signing on 1320 Records. But don't expect anything country-styled on BFF ; the material is a heady, full-frontal take on electronic clip-hop with more than a little jazz fusion thrown in for good measure.

In the opener “C.N.S.,” an MC's chopped babble rails over a writhing funk-hop base of bright synth melodies and clapping beat throb, and in the boombastic “The Raven & the Ruby,” an ‘80s-styled mix of drum machine and Rockit-styled beats gives way to a less dense episode where Mark Kirschenmann's muted trumpet is given space to blow. The combination of head-nodding beats and trumpet in “Yup 1” is reminiscent of the fresh sound Ben Neill was digging into around the time of 1998's Goldbug. “Punchbowl” offers a poppy fusion of jazz-rock, funk, and electronic forms while “The Return” ventures further into jazz territory with a steamy mix of Rhodes , muted trumpet, and Pastorius-styled bass. One of the things distinguishing sub-ID's sound is Rocklin's playing whose acrobatic fluidity is a constant source of pleasure. Having said that, at times the density of sub-ID's dizzying boom-bap can be overwhelming. Adding Missi Hale's emotive vocalizing to the already-busy throb of beats and keys in “LG's,” for example, tips the balance a tad too far (thankfully the track's second half pulls in the reins to let Kirschenmann's trumpet soar). Traces of drum'n'bass-flavoured polyrhythms surface here and there but the album largely occupies a trippy middle ground between structured electronic composition and free-floating electric jazz. At times BFF sounds like what an innovative jazz trumpeter might create, were he/she to extricate him/herself from the genre's conservative straitjacket and hook up with a forward-thinking hip-hop producer.

September 2008