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Posted on August 22nd, 2015 (10:00 am) by Justin Goodman

There is such a thing as too low key. Tofu, for instance, is too low key a food; The Fratellis are also low key. These are things the experience of which are not simply lacking, but forcibly bland. They take no risks and do nothing new. This is doubly true (as I’ve suggested) of musicians who inherit genres started on the assembly line. After listening to Mocean Worker, the self-titled project of Adam Dorn, you’ll understand what I mean. It’s suffocating, spaceless, and monotonous with fragile shelters amidst it.

The hideously synthetic horn section, its brass an abrasive scrubbing at the rhythm (not to mention the rhythm itself), a recipe drum kit, and the keyboard that is unsure if it’s interesting or is pretending to be. Everything is too compacted – within and between tracks – leaving nothing to stand out. It’s not a mishmosh - Mocean Worker is too talented a musician for that. Just look at Enter The Mowo and Candygram for Mowo albums, highlighting his distinction among house-influenced electro-swingers Parov Stellar and Caravan Palace. But on Mocean Worker, it’s all clearly one droning song. Between the elephant whooping trumpets of “Soul Swing” up to the passionate groove of “Collette Ma Belle Femme,” there are few highlights. Almost none not involving the pinfinger of the bass line.

I am thankful for this: it makes considering the music easier once a majority of the rubbish, or banility, is cleared away. When the keyboard isn’t bowing in arpeggios, it can counterpoint the harsher, darker tones (“The Actual Funk”) or cause the harshness of a moment with shrapnel bursts of ragtime (pay close attention on “Rubber Band”). And the greatest moment comes with the small pause between “Punk Disco (Jaco) and “Collette Ma Belle Femme,” a bass line madness dying, then ascending, to an ever-quieting place. This diversity and complexity is too rare on this album. Dorn knows composition. Why doesn’t he choose to use it?

Fact is, he does. A few times, and briefly, until the last two track. “Punk Disco (Jaco)” is a reference to the legendary electric bassist Jaco Pastorious whose band, Weather Report, played the song “Punk Jazz.” It’s not a subtle homage. There should be more of it. Dorn’s admiration for Pastorious is clear from the fact that the best moments, by far, were the bass-driven ones. What the latter brought to jazz – forceful fusion of forms – the former is trying to bring to dance, and to disco, swing, funk, and EDM. It doesn’t come across as an experiment though - it comes across as shallow.

Track List:

  1. Soul Swing
  2. I Told You Twice the First Time
  3. The Actual Funk (feat. Sweetpea Atkinson)
  4. Julius, Irving, Berlin
  5. Clap Yo Hands
  6. Rubberband
  7. Savoy Strut
  8. Ralph and Marcus
  9. Now That's What I'm Talkin' Bout
  10. Punk Disco (Jaco)
  11. Collete Ma Belle Femme
Purchase at: Amazon | eMusic

Our Rating

49 / 100
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