Unchained Music Blog

Unchained Music Blog

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Joe Olnick Band - Downtown (2017)

Written by Laura Dodero, posted by blog admin

The Joe Olnick Band adds to its vast discography with their 6th LP to date, Downtown, the follow-up to their prior collection Defiant Grooves.  Downtown truly lives up to its name by sporting a city after midnight motif that makes itself known through the band’s uplifting dark shuffles and shimmies.

Basking in the twilight hour of the evening, album opener “Downtown” ignites the jazz club just around the corner with funky guitar pyrotechnics while a walking bass line dances all over a churchy keyboard hum and a beat that could get a dead man to move.  From this point onward the album goes from strength to strength, displaying the magical chemistry between the band members.  Joe Olnick (guitars), Jamie Aston (bass) and Jamie Smucker (drums) have obviously spent time honing their craft on the stage, jam room floor and in the studio which renders each of these songs into a tight, well-oiled machine.  Second cut “Philadelphia Moonlight (Part One)” places the mood under a full moon shimmer as a snappy, filling and rolling drum groove expands ever onward amongst the swirl of cosmic bass boosts and funky, psychedelic luau guitar licks. 

The low slung, darker still mid-tempo funkadelia of “Food Truck” feels like it’s up to a really fun no good from the very first note.  Somehow the band manages to show superb restraint and dedication to sticking with a groove, waiting for perfect moments to throw in jammy, rocked-out lead guitar bits, slamming bass lines that will step out and around Olnick’s flowing melodies and settle in the pocket that Jamie Smucker’s kickin’ percussion provides.  Impressive, extensive soloing from Joe smooths this composition out to perfection.  “Parkside” reckons of a crazy, outsider era Beach Boys fugue with its odd keyboard flourishes and unusually psychedelic, slightly acerbic FX screeches.  Despite this free-form jazz/noise weirdness, the entire song is built around a rock solid rhythmic shakedown and mesmerizing, fuzzed-out guitar work.
If the first “Philadelphia Moonlight” was a tranquil shimmer, “Part Two’ is transmitted from the heart of the witching hour.  It’s even more akin to a Beach Boys’ freak-out in terms of its instrumental texturing and distinct studio production that highlights each players’ every bewitching note.  “Rush Hour” releases the built up tension of the previous track for a shag-shaking funk rock rumble with a soaring bass line and bluesy, psychedelic guitar leads n’ trip-out keys vying for control of your soul…  If that’s not enough the final track “Sports Complex” takes of all that psychedelic weirdness and buries it beneath insane distortion for a fast-paced take on going completely, instrumentally mad (forgot to mention that there are no vocals on this unique album). 

Joe Olnick and the boys whip up a really quirky frenzy on album number 6.  The songs are varied and the playing tight, making it impossible to guess which direction the music will turn in next.  They’re not afraid to take risks with their sound and because of that Downtown is a 7 track ride that’s absolutely worth taking.

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