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Seahorse and the Storyteller

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Reseña de álbum

Seahorse and the Storyteller gathers an A-list of current soul revivalists including members of the Dap-Kings, Antibalas, and El Michels Affair. So it's no surprise that the record blends various amounts of funk, Afro-beat, and psychedelia into its musical bouillabaisse. Those members, including Binky Griptite, Leon Michels, and Tommy "TNT" Brenneck, are perhaps household names to those who read liner notes religiously, but top biller Michael Leonhart is a Grammy-winning artist himself.

With such a load of talent and the musical base which its founders have built in other projects, you would expect the album to be a runaway success. Its musical stylings, however, make it a more jagged pill to swallow. The Avramina 7 as a collective shift from their more traditional R&B/funk roots explored in their respective bands, and delves deeper into a mysterious abyss of aquatic tales. It would be lazy to say that they created a new genre — they haven't — but melding the aforementioned genres makes for an interesting, if uneven, listening experience. The vocal arrangements don't stray far note-wise on the music staff, leading to a sound that drones on many of the tunes. However, Leonhart's vocals are meant more to blend than they are to stand out as a star-turning performance. On "Have You Met Martina," the repetitive guitar lick sounds like an honorary ode to Eddie Bo and his classic "The Thang," while the rest of the track meanders in building a sound that never quite reaches its peak, despite a spirited effort from the sax players. Elsewhere, India is represented with not one, but two, tracks in "Jaipur" and "Madhouse Mumbai," which would make excellent candidates if a soundtrack for a Bollywood blaxploitation flick was ever needed. An exploration in world percussion is permeated with Indian instrumentation including tablas and a dhol on full display. The album is a curious choice for Truth & Soul, given that their catalog leans more toward gritty soul than to esoteric experimentalism, but hand it to them for believing in a project that crosses boundaries and bending the rules. Seahorse and the Storyteller may not win you over on the first, or even the tenth listen, but it has its merits, with stellar musicianship and off-kilter arrangements.

Seahorse and the Storyteller, Michael Leonhart & The Avramina 7
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