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9 Lazy 9 - Sweet Jones

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Artist: 9 Lazy 9

Album: Sweet Jones

Label: Ninja Tune

Review date: Aug. 19, 2003

One of the longest-running Ninja Tune acts, 9 Lazy 9 are a crazy duo from Italy – Keir Fraserello and James Bradell, a.k.a. Funki Porcini. These two Romans have thrown together 12 tracks of drum'n'horns, or something like that – a wacky concoction of jazzy, rhythmic songs many of which would be perfect as a soundtrack for a fast-paced film noir cartoon.

The use of instruments like trumpet, trombone, flute, and bassoon atop crispy beats and thick organ makes this some solid funk-fusion. But make no mistake, the tricky synthesizers and studio fuckery place it squarely in the here and now. Take "Big Six" for example: it's a slow, ocean-wave-like dub evocation, dark and deep, pulsing bass and clattery snare mixing with synth washes that ebb and flow amidst submarine pings and outer-space wisps of electronic tones. On a similarly mellow, middle-of-the-night tip is the final track, "The Last of the West", filled with cloudy sounds over mild, minimal drums, laying a bed for quiet bells and crystalline sounds.

On the flip side is "Keep Going Daddy", a fast-paced funky piano/organ/horn jam. It's pretty classy work that'll invoke movement. Could be that sunny highway song for 2003. Likewise, "Carborante" is a sprightly one with solid drums, floating brassy instrumentation and a fabulous, deep, pulsating bass that you've just got to admire.

"The Woodworm", the album's opener, is perhaps the calmest, jazziest song. Its brushed drums and weird horn-like sounds are a misleading harbinger, and in fact this is one of the least distinguished tunes on Sweet Jones. The laid-back groove of "Sunday Morning" is marginally better, thanks to the organ, flute, mutated keyboards, and filter-swept cymbals. Or try "Cosa" and its dense, head-nodding drums, sparkling cymbals, and dark-tinged synthesizers. Good shit.

"Pound Stretcher", the album's longest track, must be mentioned. It starts out with a film noir horn intro atop ominous keyboards, like fog drifting across an empty street at 3 a.m. The drums come in calmly and authoritatively with twittering synths and dramatic brass sounds. The song continues at a relatively slow, measured pace, and whether it's complex enough to stay compelling will depend on your mood, but I found it quite effective.

Any other doubts about the album's effectiveness will be settled by songs like "Tumble Weed" and "The Flying Nun." As the title suggests, the former has a slightly echoey, big-sky Western feel, led by organ and crisp drum work, plodding forward like a slow-moving horse. The latter is a different, somehow friendly sort of song with vaguely flamenco-like guitar, but strummed, over an insistent humming and claptrap woodblock percussion.

The next time you're looking for a summer night soundtrack, this might be just the sound you're looking for.

By Mason Jones

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