The subgenre of acid jazz is inherently a bit odd. The music, especially in the case of The Herbaliser Band, is a sometimes-erratic and always-eclectic mixture of styles. Tracks may feature touches of everything from hip-hop to funk to house to soul to, of course, jazz in its most standard form. And while that coagulation of sounds isn’t necessarily strange, it’s just how it all comes together that makes acid jazz so interesting. But, like in any subgenre, it can also be bland and even corny if it’s presented as such. For a group like The Herbaliser Band, though, that’s not the case, especially on their latest effort, Session 2.
This second dose of The Herbaliser Band more or less picks up where the first session ended. The live band element is alive and well with the entire effort comprised of instrumentals. This time around, the collective behind The Herbaliser played a series of past tracks from 1997′s Blow Your Headphones through last year’s Same As It Never Was. And, even with those 12 years of growth and varying styles, this band has crafted an album in Session 2 that is every bit as cohesive as it is enjoyable.
The only real problems that arise from listening to this album are ones that almost painfully obvious. Many of the tracks will seem to blend together as they feature similar themes. Also, a lack of vocals is sure to turn some listeners away. But those who stick around to hear The Herbaliser Band’s funky and jazzy takes on the collective’s past tracks are sure to fall in love.
Session 2 kicks off with a horns-driven, record scratch-ridden, and piano-laden funk beast in “Mr. Chombee Has the Flaw”, a track that truly sets the tone for the entire record. The upbeat brass and funky bass hardly let up across many of the cuts from up-and-down pace of “Geddim!” to “Blackwater Drive”, which plays a lot like a futuristic Western film before everything goes insane, though in a fun and frenzied manner.
The up-tempo tracks nearly steal the show on here, even if “Amores Bongo” is a little too corny for its own good. But The Herbaliser Band’s style comes together most effectively on the cuts that slow things down with a touch of eeriness. Aside from being two of the album’s strongest songs, “Another Mother” and “Moon Sequence” are dense, rich, and sinister. They play like leftovers from a soundtrack to a galactic psychological thriller. Just as intense, though in a mellower way, is the lonesome beauty of “Stranded on Earth”.
Of course, fans of The Herbaliser’s past records should be first in line to pick up a copy of Session 2. If you’re not in that camp, you might want to buy this album if you are in the mood to freak out your dinner guests with something a little funky and, at times, spooky. Or grab a copy if you just want to hear some fantastic, albeit isolating, acid jazz. This album might not win over a boatload of listeners, but it will definitely turn some heads.