Artist: Nubdug Ensemble
Album: Volume 2: Blame
Release Date: 15/12/2021
Country: United States
San Franciso based experimental project Nubdug Ensemble returns with a second full-length offering that is sure to both delight and confuse. Volume 2: Blame was released independently on December 15th.
Born from the ashes of Vacuum Tree Head, Nubdug Ensemble is Jason Berry’s outlet for all of his creative tendencies. Rather than forming multiple projects to express his vast and varied musical taste he has decided to combine all of them into one. The album draws influence from all over the musical spectrum including modal jazz, blues, funk and progressive rock.
As strange and unusual s this album is, the project’s previous album Volume One: The Machines of Zeno was a far more sporadic display of genre blending. In fact the previous album had no two songs that sounded exactly the same and worked in even more styles and sounds. Personally, I feel like this release is a far more focused and refined offering. While maintaining its varied and unpredictable nature it feels like less of a scatter shot and more of an explorative journey. Just as with the last release the vocals on the album we have female led vocals, this time courtesy of Jill Rogers. They switch between being somewhat relaxed and soothing and dramatic and energetic. This shift accompanies the music which really is modal in nature, an aspect that comes from the project’s jazz roots.
Accompanying those vocals are an entire ensemble (as the project name suggests) of instruments including various saxophones, flute, keyboards, electric guitar and lap steel guitar, trumpet, synthesizers, bass guitar, fretless bass, electric upright bass, chapman stick, drums, and other various forms of percussion. I list these instruments just to give you an idea of the scale of the song writing and composing involved on the release.
Keep in mind that anyone can throw a lot of instruments together into a blender and churn out an “artsy” album, but it takes true talent to create something that feels truly experimental but remains cohesive. The project’s ability to weave together so many elements with the potential to clash with each other and produce something that doesn’t feel fractured or disjointed is possibly their greatest strength (alongside their musical proficiency of course).
The album is a swooning, flowing journey through realms of funk and groove that I believe even those who don’t enjoy jazz will still find joy in. If you are however looking to get into jazz as a genre then this may be a good starting point for you thanks to the prog rock influences running throughout. Overall, I think that this was a step in the right direction for the project and shows real growth and progress. Not only have they refined their sound, but they have simultaneously retained their experimental nature. Dive in today and expand your musical horizons.
Listen to and order the album: