You’re in a dark room. The faint smell of cigarette smoke wafts into your nose. You hear a guitar, and a chorus of strings. The guitar ascends then descends. As it repeats itself, a spotlight appears at the front of the room. You squint but no one seems to be playing. Maybe it’s a sample, you think, until a figure leans into the light and begins to pull at the strings of his imposing upright bass. Your eyes widen and you think you’re getting an idea of what’s going on. A trumpeter emerges, and you lean forward in your chair. Finally, a drummer introduces himself with a slow tap tap tap on the high hat, and without realizing it you’ve been swept away into something… alive.
Over the next 45 minutes, you realize how good an idea it was to come see this band – “What’s their name again?” you ask your friend. “Black Chamber,” he (or she) says.
That’s how I felt when I heard the opening track “Other Days” on their eponymous album (the only one I can find). They’re an Oregon-based trio which plays groovy jams interspersed with complementary samples to produce a sound so cool you might even call it archetypal.
They’re almost minimalist, with only three bros and three instruments (or so). The upright bass, commanded by Chris Gustafson, has the power to move not only your head but your whole body. David Binnig can carry you out of your mind with a soaring note from his trumpet. And let’s not forget Brian McCauley, whose handling of the drums will bring you back to earth and take you for a walk around your favorite part of town. Taken together, they’ll put a smile on your face and make you think you might actually be cool just for hearing them.
For the rest of the album, I could get specific and tell you all about the awesome interplay on “Sidewinder”, how the bass steals the show until the trumpet jumps in, and before you get much further, the high hat taps you on the shoulder and says, “I hope you’re ready”; or how “Difference Engine” will rev you up, take you to a climax, leave you wanting more when it ends, then actually give you more – the second half of the song, which is no less enjoyable than the first; or how “Teleology” conveys the distinct impression that something important is happening when the bass and drums thump, paving the way for the trumpet which shouts its deepest, darkest secret in a language you barely comprehend; or how they close the album with the sickest rendition of The Beatles’ “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” since Spineshank covered it. But I won’t. I’ll simply tell you they’re an extraordinarily well-balanced jazzy trip-hop act that won’t disappoint.
Black Chamber – “Other Days”
Black Chamber release page on Cult Classic Records