Monobody's eponymous debut collection calls to mind many words, but none more so than agile, dextrous, breezy, and effervescent. Featuring members of The Para-Medics, Loose Lips Sink Ships, Renaissance Sound, and The Soft Greens, the Chicago-based quintet is a progressive jazz-rock-styled outfit that showcases an impressive degree of high-level musicianship on its action-packed, thirty-four-minute release.
A couple of things set Monobody—guitarist Conor Mackey, keyboardist Collin Clauson, electric bassist Steve Marek, upright (and electric) bassist Al Costis, and drummer Nnamdi Ogbonnaya—apart from other instrumental configurations: the presence of two bassists for one, and the powerful thrust Ogbonnaya's finessed playing brings to the band. The natural tone of the acoustic bass provides a pleasing counterpoint to the synthesizers, and Mackey also builds upon the band's core sound by adding electronics to the mix. Theirs is an intricate and far-ranging sound, and in Monobody's world, it's not uncommon for kalimbas to rub shoulders with Moog synthesizers (as happens during “I Heard Them on the Harbor”).
“Lifeguard of a Helpless Body” opens the album with four minutes of uptempo sparkle as the five confidently navigate the tune's breathless melodies and rhythms like tidal-wave surfers. Here and elsewhere, one of the album's biggest attractions is Monobody's two-bass guitar set-up and witnessing how Marek and Costis beef up the band's muscular attack without getting in each other's way. Though the group hails from Chicago, “Curry Courier Career” nevertheless exudes a West Coast warmth in the synthesizer textures that wrap themselves around the fast-paced fusion-styled number. With much of the content delivered at a fast clip, it's nice to see the band opt for a slower pace in the closer “Country Doctor”; doing so also enables the musicians' individual contributions to be more clearly appreciated.Possible reference points might include Soft Machine and The Pat Metheny Group (the piano solo that rides the closing roar of “Curry Courier Career” recalls Lyle Mays performing similar acrobatics during his tenure in Metheny's band), among others, but Monobody ultimately comes off sounding like nothing so much as itself. If there's anything the outfit needs to keep an eye on, it's the tendency for its music to become overly intricate; easing up a bit on the compositional complexity would allow the music to breathe a little more freely and more space for a soloist or two to stretch out, too. But such a complaint is a relatively minor one, however, given the many listening pleasures the release delivers.