The Upshot: The former Grace Potter & the Nocturnals member turns up the Afro-beat heat for a remarkably diverse, agile artistic pivot.
BY FRED MILLS
How often do you pop in a disc, cue up an LP, or hit “play” on an internet file, and abruptly find yourself transported to an alternate universe? It’s the greatest feeling in the world, and I say that as someone who’s been opening random mail parcels since the late ‘70s; suffice to say, new releases, I’ve heard a few. Longevity never diminishes that feeling, however; it only makes one more discriminating when assessing new music. Do I even need to point out how many new records are released each week (or, for that matter, each day)?
San Diego’s Elektric Voodoo is the brainchild of one Scott Tournet, whose name you might recognize as the erstwhile guitarist for Grace Potter & the Nocturnals. Joined by Mark Boyce (Jon Spencer Blues Explosion/G-Love) on keyboards, Ty Kiernan on percussion, Matt Bozzone on drums, and Evan Lucas on bass, Tournet (who handles, in addition to guitar, vocals and keyboards) conjures up a thick, heady sound entirely apropos of the group moniker. Who knew there was voodoo being practiced in San Diego?
But indeed, it is. This 8-songer kicks off with the infections Afro-beat of “Secrets,” a guaranteed party-starter that wonderfully marries the classic, kinetic, Fela imperative to contemporary jammers’ psychedelic aesthetics. (All respect to Kiernan here, and on many of the other tracks; Tournet himself notes at the E.V. website that Kiernan “exposed me to a whole world of rhythms that I didn’t know about.”) That’s followed by the equally percussive, heady “Ball & Chain,” alive with arpeggiated riffs and jagged bursts of harmonica. Later, the ensemble demonstrates its versatility by touching down in both Prog territory (the brooding “Mercy”) and jazzier turf (the horns-laden, “The Other Side,” which also showcases Tournet’s lead axe skills), although it’s clear that Tournet’s love for world music, eastern Africa sounds in particular, is what’s driving him these days. The man’s prior, extended, foray within the contemporary jamband scene has clearly served him well, in that regard, because he immerses himself in all this with an intuitive, open-ended manner.
It has to be a tough row to hoe when leaving a hugely successful band in order to strike out upon one’s own, as Tournet did in leaving the Nocturnals. He was definitely a key component in the group’s ascent. But with the brilliant Elektric Voodoo, this veteran rocker and musical seeker has not only recommitted himself to the cause, he’s also carved out a compelling little corner of the musical universe for himself and his new compatriots that can only expand and envelop.
DOWNLOAD: “Secrets,” “Mercy”