Medeski, Martin, and Wood—a funky improvisational jam trio sprung from Brooklyn, New York—has been creating a cool blend of blues, jazz, and hip-hop for more than a decade. Of course, the best way to experience a band like this one is to catch 'em live. It's hard to duplicate that spontaneous energy that flows from the stage on which a jam trio is just letting loose. The good news is that a 5.1 surround mix is the closest you're going to get to approximating that energy—and here it is on this DVD-Audio/DTS-ES audio disc.
This disc seriously grooves. The band describes its own sound as "avant-garde instrumental hip-hop trance-funk," and I honestly can't think of a better description. Not going for realism in this mix, the band's musical energies are all over the place, going instead for an eclectic barrage of sound that comes from all funky directions. In general, the drums are off the right, and the oddness tends toward the left. And by oddness, I'm talking about organ blasts, synthesizer vibrations, soulful snare, and even cigarette-deep spoken-word noir stylings. This is infectious stuff, very involving, and you can't help but get up and groove. Or at least tap your foot.
Here's the track listing:
2. I Wanna Ride You
3. Your Name Is Snake Anthony
4. Pappy Check
5. Take Me Nowhere
6. Retirement Song
7. Ten Dollar High
8. Where Have You Been?
10. Nocturnal Transmission
12. First Time long Time
13. The Edge of Night
14. Off the Table
HOW'S IT SOUND?
You can choose from three sound options. The premier effort, of course—and probably the reason for buying this disc—is the DVD Audio track, which is totally immersive and aggressive and yet is mixed at 48KHz rather than 96KHz, with a 24-bit depth. It's not as full as it could be, but it sounds terrific, rich and deep. Many of the songs have an almost drunken sweep of sound from speaker to speaker, and the sweep is very smooth. You can almost visualize the band member moving across the room as he plays whatever instrument is at hand. The clarity of sound with each element is quite impressive: Highs avoid all playback-related distortion—although some of the very-much-intended distortion makes it difficult to tell.
At an equal bit rate and depth is the included DTS-ES track. I was able to test this track back-to-back on my Atlantic Technology setup, which has two rear-channel dipoles. For the most part, the track is very similar to the DVD Audio track, and the rear speakers remain fairly inactive. The mix places the instruments/sound elements in the same locations. But there are some subtle effects that make use of the extra channel, and they comes as a surprise, nearly making you turn your head.
You also get a PCM Stereo track with a 12-bit depth. If you're a stereo purist, this track's for you, but honestly, this music was made for multichannel. Give in to it, dude.
The disc offers a few extras for those who like visual supplements with their high-end music. You get a Gallery of photos of the band, and you get a Music Video for the song Uninvisible, a cool little effects-based film that follows the band through New York as stuff around them vibrates to the drumbeat. There's also a text- and photo-based essay About the band.
WHAT'S LEFT TO SAY?
This disc was a pleasant, energetic surprise. This is the kind of eclectic music that's perfect for multichannel, high-end sound.