Tommy Babin's Benzene: Your Body Is Your Prison
As if declaring Your Body Is Your Prison to be his date, Tommy Babin's acoustic bass is the first instrument one hears on the fifty-minute album. But baritone saxophonist Chad Makela, guitarist Chad MacQuarrie, and drummer Skye Brooks make their respective appearances soon after, indicating that the album is anything but a solo bass album by the Vancouver-based Babin (even if, as happens during “Interlude” and “They Didn't Know They Were Robots,” he does take an occasional solo spot, and even if all of the compositions are credited to him). The album's nine tracks sometimes feel like a wild roller-coaster ride, something that can be explained in part by the fact that the each piece was recorded live in the studio in a single take. Your Body Is Your Prison is also designed to be heard as a multi-part totality, as evidenced by its being listed as a fifty-minute single composition on the packaging, and in truth there is a feel of constant flow as one track segues into the next. Helping to distinguish the album is the guttural roar of Makela's baritone sax, which keeps up a memorable dance with MacQuarrie's guitar throughout; that's especially evident during “Les Trousduciel” when the opening minutes are given over to the two musicians only.
Babin's Benzine sounds equally at ease whether navigating oblique paths through intricate melodic mazes (“Your Body is Your Prison,” “Damaged”), or indulging in wild throwdowns (“The Sky Beneath My Feet”) or laid-back meditations (“The Thing and I”). There's no shortage of energy of display, with some of the material exploding with free-flowing improv (check out the titanic skronk unleashed by MacQuarrie during “Citizen Kang”), while at other times it gets downright funky and bluesy. In short, while nominally it's a jazz album, it paints liberally outside the lines during much of its playing time.