The dictionary defines “hypnotic” as sounds or movements that are very regular and make you feel as if you want to sleep. Bearing this in mind you’d be forgiven for thinking that the Hypnotic Brass Ensemble should be reserved for chilled out late nights and unwinding to sunsets. Little could be further from the truth; this is a supremely funky collection of instrumental tracks for you to unashamedly shake your ass to. Hypnotic it ain’t.
There’s always something of a image problem associated with the brass band in this country. The name conjures up images of grim faced colliery workers uniting against Thatcher or forces bands marching uniformly in front of the Queen. In short, tradition tends to be prioritised above musical concerns. However, the United States has a much easier legacy to influence its bands – namely New Orleans and Jazz.
There are no Salvation Army hymns to be found in the Hypnotic Brass Ensemble’s repertoire. They take elements of Jazz, Funk and Hip Hop and mix them together into a vibrant soup of brass stylings. Unlike contemporaries such as the Hot 8 Brass Band there’s no falling back onto tongue in cheek covers of well known songs – this is original and diverse stuff.
The pedigree is good: the band have been together since their youth, and seven of its nine members are the sons of Sun Ra trumpeter Phil Cohran. To cap it all they’ve played with the likes of Mos Def, Erykah Badu and have been chosen to support Blur in their forthcoming Hyde Park reunion bash after hooking up with Damon Albarn for the Africa Express project.
Opener Alyo firmly sets the tone with a hot, funky and infectious Afrobeat inspired track – the band have collaborated with Afrobeat originator Tony Allen, too. Other highlights include the splendid War and the epic Jupiter, constituent parts of an upbeat, jazzy odyssey that’s going to get your toes tapping in any situation.
With a couple of caveats. The album lets itself down a little with the inclusion of Rabbit Hop, which feels like more of a novelty track and out of place in between the more mature numbers. Rabbit Hop also gets pointlessly remixed at the end of the disc, but with added sci-fi effects. Yet these two tracks don’t detract from what is otherwise a solidly enjoyable endeavour. Hyde Park gig goers this summer are in for a treat.
If you are familiar with the phrase “where there’s muck there’s brass” you should probably revise it to read “Where there’s brass there’s gold” after listening to this selection of hot �ber-funky tracks. Hypnotic Brass Ensemble are guaranteed to give you the horn.