Record Review: Mucca Pazza – Safety Fifth (2012)

Mucca Pazza is an odd act: a tight marching band with DIY helmet amps, unusual instruments, cheerleaders and diverse influences – a delightful dadaist patchwork

Mucca Pazza Safety Fifth

Genre: Brass Band / Dada

Region: Chicago, USA

Artists’ Website: Mucca Pazza

Label: Electric Cowbell Records

Mucca Pazza (meaning “crazy cow” in Italian) is certainly an unusual case of a band. At first they sound like a brass band, inevitably bringing in mind the Rebirth Brass Band and other New Orleans folks, but there are a lot of unexpected features that set them apart Mucca Pazzafrom any strict definition of a genre.

There have been also other brass bands experimented themselves out of their category like the Dirty Dozen Brass Band and most notably the Youngblood Brass Band who managed to merge the brass band sound with hip hop and progressive elements.

Mucca Pazza is the dadaist cousin of those bands, assembling sometimes chaotic collages of sounds in unpredictable avant-garde song structures. The band has chosen to give space to boundless experimentation, without obeying to rules or even to a ‘necessary’ tunefulness. At times their music is like a satire, at times they want to make noise, at times their songs are overly melodious, delightful, grandiose – every song has its own character. Nonetheless, ‘Safety Fifth’, contains enough good songs to make it an interesting record.

There are too many influences to mention like rock, surf and gypsy music. There are some standout tracks like the upbeat opener ‘Boss Taurus’ with eloquent brass and glockenspiel timbres or the romantic ‘Last Days’ which flows between the dramaturgy of Beirut and the detailed instrumentation of Calexico. As in this song there is a diffused cinematic sensibility throughout the whole album.

Mucca Pazza Playing LiveMaui Waui 5-0’ features a world brass surf-a-delica with blazing horns and strumming guitars that could be accompanying an oriental spy movie. ‘Rabbits And Trees’ goes into the gypsy jazz direction to prepare the ground for the outward horn assault of ‘Sexy Bull’ that could be performed even in Guca festival.

What is exciting here is that the body of music is quite experimental and utterly incoherent albeit injected with a healthy dose of sticky melodies and rhythms to keep up a dance. The musicianship is tight as they showcase their experience in ‘stop and go’ breaks and multiple shifts within songs that are only a couple of minutes long.

Mucca Pazza PosterAs evident in their music, Mucca Pazza is a diverse band that has evolved by playing sessions at abandoned industrial scrap yards next to the Chicago river on Sunday noons attended by people with coffee and donuts. As many have witnessed, such factory relics can be inspiring places as they have already ‘decomposed’ from their original function and that can provide space for limitless creativity and reconfiguration. In Freegan Kolektiva at least we are really interested in repurposing and creative reassembly of any given materials.

More than 30 member strong, Mucca Pazza have achieved a few innovations already like the fact that they feature some unusual instruments for a marching band (accordion, violin, glockenspiel, guitar and mandolin). It is their ‘freak section’ equipped with custom made amp hockey helmets to be able to march along with the rest of the band. That’s a whole new dynamic for such a motley mob which performs also with a cheerleader group shouting out surrealistic algebraic formulas.

Mucca Pazza have stayed almost a decade together and this is their third album after ‘A Little Marching Band’ (2006) and ‘Plays Together Well’ (2008).

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Check out more big bands via Freegan Kolektiva:

Street bands restore the spirit of urban communities: Rebirth Brass Band

Rebirth Brass Band – Rebirth of New Orleans

Seun Kuti & Egypt 80 – From Africa With Fury: Rise

The Funk Ark – High Noon (2012, ESL Music)

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