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Mike Keneally - Scambot


Mike Keneally

Exowax Recordings - EX2410

Available from Moose Mart.

A review written for the Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange
by Mark S. Tucker

One of several ex-impossible-guitar-parts tech masters for the late Frank Zappa, Mike Keneally may be the foremost present practitioner of Frank's most difficult compositional wont—you know, the Jazz from Hell, Orchestral Favorites, Perfect Stranger stuff that everyone lauds and no one listens to, scratching their heads, muttering "WTF?". With Scambot, Keneally's tossed Billy the Mountain into the mix, conflated The Raspberries, Henry Cow, ersatz Steve Reich, Lalo Schifrin, and gawd only knows how many iconic modes and references, coming up with his latest art-damage chaos, a heady wonderland of colliding rhythms, melodies, and tempi.

More than once, you'll hear Sinatra's orchestra on a tequila slur, Varese subbing for one of the Hansons, largos of almost atonal crystallinity, theme extensions in a cracked mirror, Robert Wyatt-ish encanting, bizarre glitch effects, and a weird narrtive thread that knots itself, resolves, dives into lava, then swims back out and towels off, dripping coalescing magma everywhere. Scambot, however, does have coherence in its own fractured and peripatetic way.

There is indeed a storyline, a twisted guttersnipe sci-fi saga of disaffected youth and Sleazmerica through the adventures of Phunji, Scambot (a cross between the Modok and Mojo characters from a punky version of Marvel Comics that has yet to exist), two lighty antagonistic protagonists amid Chi, Ian, Kootch, and whoever else comes their way. The tale's as convoluted and blown out as the music, constantly morphing to whatever whim floats in.

I saw Mike perform his earlier Dog at CalProg years ago, and it was a bitch pulling it off live, a riot of cross-textured explosions and recesses; this will be easier on-stage but still not exactly a breeze, loaded up as it is with ceaseless transformation and staggers. Still, for all of what seems to be, in cold print, a Jackson Pollocky presentation, Scambot is cutting the edge of an a yet-developing mode, not nearly as otherworldy as Mike Patton's maniacally ingenious stuff but just as important.

If you must, start with We Are the Quiet Children flowing into Foam, a discombobulated Zappa / Fripp / Belew / Bruford instrumental, and work your way outwards, but I say the infernal release is best heard straight from beginning to end, the better to force crenellations deeper into temporal lobes and mutate along with the music. Consider that the disc required 5 years to make in the confines of six studios utilizing nine engineers and a scad of sessioneers, and you'll begin to get an idea as to why it has to be seem as its own map.

Track List:

  • Big Screen Baboli
  • Ophunji's Theme
  • Hallmark
  • Chee
  • Tomorrow
  • Cat Brain Sammich - Pt. 1
  • You Named Me
  • Cat Brain Sammich - Pt. 2
  • Saturate
  • M
  • Cold Hands
  • We are the Quiet Children
  • Foam
  • The Brink
  • Life's Too Small
  • Behind the Door
  • Gita
  • DaDunda
All songs written by Mike Keneally.

Edited by: David N. Pyles


Copyright 2009, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
This review may be reprinted with prior permission and attribution.

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