Particle finds the groove on first studio CD |

Particle finds the groove on first studio CD

Stewart Oksenhorn
California band Particle, with Charlie Hitchcock, left, and Eric Gould, has released its debut CD, "Launchpad." Aspen Times photo/Stewart Oksenhorn.

Following are reviews of CDs by newer and younger artists.

Particle, “Launchpad”

produced by Tom Rothrock, John Paterno & Particle (Or Music)

Los Angeles quartet Particle began its thriving stage career with a late-night gig following a Phish show in San Francisco in 2000. They call their all-instrumental music “space porn.”

Neither of these tidbits begins to describe what Particle does on “Launchpad,” the band’s studio debut. (“Space porn” comes closer than a Phish spinoff.) The sounds come from the electronic world – swirling synthesizers, relentlessly driving beats. But their hearts seem to be in the jam-band world – toward the funk end occupied by Robert Walter’s 20th Congress and Sound Tribe Sector Nine. Everything is played, not sampled, and the four members – bassist Eric Gould, keyboardist Steve Molitz, drummer Darren Pujalet and guitarist Charlie Hitchcock – respond to one another on a dime. Here, Particle powers its way through mostly up-tempo tunes, but even when the beat slows down on “Below Radar,” they manage to find a trancelike groove.

Spookie Daly Pride, “Marshmallow Pie”

(Funzalo Records)

Boston five-piece Spooky Daly Pride takes soul, reggae, hip-hop, New Orleans fonk, electronica and more and wraps it into a big ball of fun. Their debut album “Marshmallow Pie” is as delectable as it sounds. There’s nothing too serious here, not with song titles like “Karma Thunderbolt,” “Pleasure Appointment” and “Pot and Coffee.” But the big, bouncy beats, pumped up with horns, wah-wah effects and vocals by Spookie, whose voice is by way of Dr. John-meets-Tom Waits, makes for a significant good time.

Donavon Frankenreiter, “Donavon Frankenreiter”

produced by Jack Johnson and Mario Caldato Jr. (Brushfire Records)

Surf-singer Jack Johnson is all over the debut CD by California singer-songwriter Donavon Frankenreiter. Johnson co-produces, co-wrote and adds vocals to the single “Free,” and released the album on his Brushfire Records. Johnson loans his friend and collaborator G. Love for another track, “What’cha Know About.”

And that ain’t all. Frankenreiter has also borrowed Johnson’s formula of laid-back, surf-inspired grooves, easygoing vocals and acoustic guitars. So much so that I was certain that “Free,” getting plenty of local airplay, was a Jack Johnson tune. If you like Johnson, you’re going to like “Donavon Frankenreiter” – unless you’ve got no ethical problem with cloning.

Frankenreiter plays Jazz Aspen’s Labor Day Festival on Sept. 3, on a bill with, that’s right, Jack Johnson and G. Love & Special Sauce.

Modereko, “Solar Igniter”

produced by Bobby Read, Tom Kobza and John Molo (Harmonized)

Four years ago, Modereko put out its debut, a fine example of cutting-edge jazz-funk. But I didn’t expect to hear any more from the group. The quartet seemed a thrown-together project, built mostly of pieces from Bruce Hornsby’s band: drummer John Molo, horn player Bobby Read and trumpeter John D’Earth. Rounding out the group was L.A. session guitarist Tom Kobza. Given the busy schedules and the far-flung residences, it seemed a good bet that “Modereko” would be a first and last recording.

I was wrong, fortunately. Instead of fading, Modereko has expanded. D’Earth is gone, appearing on just one track here, but the band is fleshed out with JT Thomas, another Hornsby sideman, and bassist Dan Conway. And their second CD, “Solar Igniter,” is ambitious, multifaceted and bordering on genius.

On “35 Rooms,” the band quotes from Grieg, but sets the composer’s “Hall of the Mountain King” to a reggaeish beat. Elsewhere, the album floats easily through mellow jazz-funk with soulful vocals (“Seven Heaven”), upbeat, electronic acid jazz (“El Kabong”), and avant-jam (“Celebrate Your Youth,” one of three tracks to feature vocals by Keller Williams). In the thriving realm of contemporary jazz-funk, this is on a par with the best of Greyboy Allstars and Medeski, Martin & Wood.

Stewart Oksenhorn’s e-mail address is

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