Beledo: Dreamland Mechanism
MoonJune Records has done an incredible job in recent years of providing an outlet for talented artists from Uruguay, Argentina, and Indonesia. Names such as Dewa Budjana, Tohpati, simakDialog, and Dwiki Dharmawan are more familiar (to Western ears, at least) as a result of such exposure, and it appears Beledo is poised to benefit from a similar treatment. But though he hails from Uruguay, he's been based in the NYC area since the early ‘90s and has thus established a plentiful number of musical relationships, some of which are drawn upon for his MoonJune debut Dreamland Mechanism.
The album encompasses a number of styles, world music and progressive jazz among them, but the primary focal point is fusion (jazz-rock if you prefer). With electric bassist Lincoln Goines and drummer Gary Husband locking into position for much of it (electric bassist Tony Steele and drummer Doron Lev hold things down on a few cuts), the ten-track set harks back to the ‘70s era when fusion classics by Return To Forever and Jeff Beck wore out turntables. Tight, virtuosic playing by all involved abounds, though generally it's put in service of Beledo's compositions. The leader himself is certainly a muso, as demonstrated by his abilities on guitar, keyboards, violin, accordion, and even fretless bass.
Though Dreamland Mechanism emphasizes Beledo's guitar work, the opener “Mechanism” highlights his more-than-credible violin playing, the result so satisfying I wish more of it had been featured on the album. With Goines and Husband providing muscular, high-powered fusion backing (see “Big Brother Calling” for the perhaps heaviest performance), the cut sets a high bar at the outset. There are moments on “Sudden Voyage” when Beledo's guitar exudes a rather Frisell-esque twang, and elsewhere the album calls to mind the world music sound of Pat Metheny's Letter From Home period. The accordion episode (played by Beledo, incidentally) that surfaces within “Marilyn's Escapade” strongly suggests Metheny's influence, but it's on “Budjanaji” (featuring Dewa Budjana, naturally, on electric guitar) that it's most strongly evident when Beledo doubles the instrumental melodic line with his voice.
As hard-edged as Dreamland Mechanism often is, the album also benefits from the contrast provided by a small number of restrained, acoustic-styled pieces. “Marilyn's Escapade” not only showcases Beledo's lyrical side, it also shows him to be an acoustic pianist of no small ability (piano apparently was his first instrument), and “Lucila,” laid down in Indonesia, sees him impressively doubling up on Spanish guitar and fretless bass while Endang Ramdan and Cucu Kurnia provide support on Sundanese kendang and metal percussion. But lest anyone lose sight of the project's primary focus, Dreamland Mechanism ends with one final fusion workout, the electric trio-driven “Front Porch Pine.”