Lush, Trippy, Hard-Hitting Atmospherics from Naked Truth

by delarue

Naked Truth’s new album Ouroboros is one of those deliciously uncategorizable ones. Is it art-rock? Some of it, definitely. Is it film music? Could be. Jazz? Sure, why not? Psychedelia? Hell yeah, especially when they open it with a “trippy Pink Floyd kind of thing,” as drummer Pat Mastelotto puts it. He leads the instrumental project, along with bassist Lorenzo Feliciati and keyboardist Roy Powell, cornetist Graham Haynes ably replacing the estimable Cuong Vu who played on their first album

Lush atmospheric sheets of synthesized strings and dozens of other textures rise and fall, fading in and out of the mix, often giving the music a dub feel. Mastelotto plays with an animated Bill Bruford intensity, often on a kit and syndrums at the same time. As with the swoosh of the keyboards, it’s often hard to tell what’s live and what’s tumbling from the laptop, but that’s part of the psychedelic appeal. Meanwhile, Haynes wafts in and out of the mix with a terse, wary Miles Davis clarity, adding a brooding noir edge that sometimes has a powerfully humanizing effect on the mechanical chill behind him.

The opening “trippy Pink Floyd thing” fades up and down gracefully and winds up on a cinematic crescendo with all kinds of wisps and fizzles percolating through the mix. Dancing with the Demons of Reality, a tricky atmospheric theme, alludes to a stomping King Crimson art-rock vibe, which makes sense since Mastelotto has held the drum chair in that venerable band since the 90s. From there they segue into Garden Ghosts, a long, distantly menacing piece contrasting Haynes’ fugitive angst against the intricately murky thud behind him.

The bass woozes, and eventually rises to squeaks and squalls throughout the trip-hop thump of Orange, bubbly oscillating electric piano playing off the uncannily steady, calmly atmospheric backdrop. Then they pick up the pace, fast and heavy, with Right of Nightly Passage. It’s a highway theme of sorts: if Kraftwerk had drums, in fact anything other than synths, they might have sounded something like this. Yang Ming Has Passsed winds up and down with a slow, shivery sway and more of that richly mournful cornet; In a Dead End with Joe picks it up again, a heavy but trickily rhythmic riff-driven theme. The album ends with Neither I, which works its way from atmospheric dub reggae to a pensive neoromantic piano outro, with a cool piano/cornet interlude along the way. Whoever would have thought that a founding member of Mr. Mister could have come up with anything as richly enveloping and darkly kaleidoscopic as this?