Written by William Elgin, posted by blog admin
The 6th release from completely instrumental threesome the Joe Olnick Band is a quirky, off-the-cuff album full of twisting rhythms and intense guitar workouts that conjures up some real funk ‘n blues hoodoo. Downtown is a collection of jams that weave in and out of one another in a grandiose, 70s-progressive madness that encompasses every style from ambient noise to wailing punk-psyche to groovy drive in theater soundscapes.
Things lead-in on the burly, buoyant funk of the title track which utilizes pounding, thunderous rhythms that you can shake your booty to while band mastermind and guitarist Joe Olnick splices psyche leads, fuzzy wah-explosions and atmospheric licks into the band’s Frankenstein creation of sound. There’s an obvious drive, power and aggressive component to the band’s sound that keeps the music stomping forward on dirty, fun lovin’ numbers such as this one, the swank downbeat of “Philadelphia Moonlight (Part One)” and the bustling “Rush Hour.” “Rush Hour” has a snappy rhythm that’s always moving along at a good clip as Olnick imprints his rocked-out, jazzy funk leads permanently into the tune’s tough rhythmic flesh. The first part of “Philadelphia Moonlight” is one of the album’s most melodic numbers and even though some of the guitar work has an incendiary burn to it, the rhythms stay more meditative and the melodies are softer and more noticeable.
The gristly “Food Truck” provides another take on the Joe Olnick Band’s varied, multifaceted funk. This cut has a barrel-chested, walking bass lick played by Jamie Aston that holds the entire song together in tandem with Jamie Smucker’s precision, slow motion beats. Meanwhile, Olnick snakes multiple guitar leads and lick into the jam that keep expanding far beyond the initial minimalist seeds that were planted. “Parkside” examines a similar, stripped down atmosphere with gothic keyboard drones and an odd no-wave noise vibe being filtered through the atonal tunefulness. “Philadelphia Moonlight (Part Two)” gets by on using the absolute bare minimum when it comes to instrumental notation. The guitar, bass percussion and keys each seem to pick a singular note or simplistic motif/pattern and stick with it for nearly the entire song. Slow but surely new notes are eventually added and Olnick builds his tense, noisy guitar squalor into a very eerie yet memorable ambience. The soul sundering “Sports Complex” borrows heavy metal’s ruthless, infernal volume that was introduced to the genre in the late 60s. Wedding this loud, dirty drawl to a runaway Sex Pistols’ tempo and allows the guitar work to erupt with volcanic psychedelic rock, this no-holds barred psycho ditty closes that album on a downright terrifying note.
Downtown is 7 tracks of instrumental experiments that work and actually make for a set of unique, fantastic songs. No two tracks are alike and the band’s musicianship isn’t afraid to catch a mighty groove or overload your senses with power and volume… exactly what good rock n’ roll should be doing whether it has a funk, jazz or classical base regardless. Pound for pound you’ll be hard-pressed to find a better instrumental release this year.