Deerhoof & Wadada Leo Smith – To Be Surrounded By Beautiful… – Joyful Noise Recordings

by | Jul 2, 2020 | Jazz CD Reviews, Pop/Rock/World CD Reviews | 0 comments

Deerhoof & Wadada Leo Smith – To Be Surrounded By Beautiful, Curious, Breathing, Laughing Flesh Is Enough – [TrackList follows] – Joyful Noise Recordings, 36:57 [7/3/20] ****:

Performing Artists:
Satomi Matsuzaki – vocals, bass; Ed Rodriguez – guitar, bass; John Dieterich – guitar; Greg Saunier – drums; Wadada Leo Smith – trumpet (tracks 7-11)

Bandcamp: exclusive download not available elsewhere

There are few bands like San Francisco’s Deerhoof. The Indie rock, experimental pop, noise-punk music group has issued 16 albums since their 1997 debut and has always been eclectic and embraced an adventurous spirit with constantly fluctuating textures album to album, or song to song, and within tunes. Over the past 25 years, Deerhoof has shared stages with Beck, Sonic Youth, Radiohead, the Flaming Lips and others. But even longtime enthusiasts probably could not have guessed Deerhoof’s collaborative guest at New York City’s 2018 Winter Jazzfest. None other than AACM [Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians] trumpeter and composer Wadada Leo Smith. Some folks might remember Smith also joined Deerhoof at Los Angeles music venue Echoplex in 2009. The 2018 Winter Jazzfest performance is now available as Deerhoof’s latest live release, To Be Surrounded By Beautiful, Curious, Breathing, Laughing Flesh Is Enough, which gets its title from a line in Walt Whitman’s poem “I Sing The Body Electric.” This is an online, digital-only Bandcamp exclusive with all proceeds benefiting Black Lives Matter. Smith says: “Black Lives Matter has been doing fantastic work in keeping the rights and the liberty issues up-front in the minds of the Americans and international peoples. I think that BLM organization is an excellent place to give support to and to help bring democratic practices into the American society. Since in today’s world, true democracy is not practiced anywhere on the planet. Human Rights is a colossal type of event for anyone to realize, and it’s hard to do. But it must be done, and I believe it can be achieved. What makes it so hard is that true democratic principles demand that all human beings respect the rights of others, and that we develop the capacity to share the wealth, the power and the earth and the sky together, with the condition that we collectively work to build a peaceful world. For all of us!”

Deerhoof and Smith Ensemble

Ensemble Deerhoof by Shervin Lainez

Ten of the11 tracks are different than the material on Deerhoof’s previous live document, 2015’s Fever 121614 (both live records include “Flower”). The opening six tunes feature just Deerhoof and showcase the foursome’s tightness as a live unit. “Believe E.S.P” (from 2007’s studio effort, Friend Opportunity) is seasoned with a decadent funky/melodic variation. Deerhoof follows with the shape-shifting and surprisingly pop-enhanced “Chandelier Searchlight,” a winsome pop nugget fronted by Satomi Matsuzaki’s stainless voice and John Dieterich’s occasional distorted guitar excursions. Newer songs such as “Mountain Moves” and “I Will Spite Survive” (both from 2017’s Mountain Moves) careen with strident and slippery progression, never faltering from Deerhoof’s signature sound, and intensifying the group’s tones and strengths. “Mountain Moves” has more changes and veering segments in under two minutes than most groups could manage across an entire record.

Satomi Matsuzaki and Wadada Leo Smith-Portrait-small

Satomi Matsuzaki and Wadada Leo Smith

The energy level doesn’t succumb one iota when Smith is added to the final five pieces. During a heightened, flowing “Snoopy Waves” (from 2008’s Offend Maggie), there are no squandered notes, no unneeded expression, and the musical gestures go from funk-infused slinkiness to a subsiding sorcery. There’s a free jazz meets Indie rock equilibrium to the two-minute “Breakup Songs” and an equal amount of raucous recombinant enthusiasm during the brief “Flower,” where Matsuzaki brings to mind Yoko Ono. The last two numbers are a culmination, a testament, an invocation. The eight-minute “Last Fad” (from 2014’s La Isla Bonita) contains layers and layers of inspiration, from serrated guitar lines (which sometimes reaffirm the band’s early noise rock-ish beginnings) to minimalist bass. Smith’s trumpet fluently switches from tender to vociferous. Smith and Deerhoof conclude with the five-minute “Mirror Monster” (also from La Isla Bonita) which comprises a similar path as “Last Fad,” with a groove-laced bass riff and dub-inclined, echoey guitar, while Smith soars above the underlying mesh with serene notes which seem as pristine as nirvana. To Be Surrounded… is a dramatic, accepting experience which continually surmounts expectations despite a group (Deerhoof) and horn player (Smith) who always defy audience anticipations. There is no ambiguity to this music, rather there is clear conviction. 

Believe E.S.P.
Chandelier Searchlight
I Will Spite Survive 
Mountain Moves 
Polly Bee
Bad Kids to the Front
Snoopy Waves
Breakup Songs
Last Fad
Mirror Monster

—Doug Simpson

For more information, visit Deerhoof Website

Related Reviews
Logo Pure Pleasure
Logo Crystal Records Sidebar 300 ms
Logo Jazz Detective Deep Digs Animated 01