No cameras. No audience. To record Culcha Vulcha, their 11th album and first true studio album in eight years, Snarky Puppy decamped to a pecan orchard at the remote Sonic Ranch Studios in Tornillo, TX, a five-minute walk from the Mexican border. The Texas-bred and Brooklyn-based collective used a week in isolation to record nine original tracks that showcase a darker hued sound while also proving why Rolling Stone calls them "one of the more versatile groups on the planet right now." Influenced by the travels of their nearly constant world tours, which have seen the band play over 1,200 shows on six continents, sounds from places like Mumbai, Rio de Janeiro and Buenos Aires effortlessly mingle with strains of Motown, vintage J.B.'s and the music of Dallas, TX churches that were so crucial to Snarky Puppy's formative years. Culcha Vulcha, out April 29th on GroundUP
Music and Universal Music Classics, finds Snarky Puppy utilizing a sonically creative approach to both composition and performance. The melodies are intricate, the counterpoint is fluid, and groove reigns supreme in mixes that are bass and percussion-heavy.
The album begins with a funky mix of Dallas and Mumbai called "Tarova," or as the band lovingly refers to it, "First Bollywood Baptist." Dallas keyboard legend Bobby Sparks (Marcus Miller, D'Angelo, Lalah Hathaway) takes the first solo of the album while retro horn, piano, and organ sounds provide a sharp contrast with a contemporary groove rich in Southern accent and Indian percussion. Things take a darker turn with Justin Stanton's "Gemini," a downtempo brew with Motown as the base. Slide guitars, effected violin, and rich vocal pads from trumpeter Mike "Maz" Maher provide an eerie gloss over the constant pulse of Larnell Lewis and Robert "Sput" Searight's unison drum patterns, while a driving, McCartney-esque bassline from Michael League keeps the low end rich and dominant throughout. "Big Ugly" is a slow burn, unhurriedly working its way through eerie melodies and mellotron chords to a heavy, syncopated groove that serves as the foundation for an electric violin solo from Zach Brock. Things get sparse to make way for three-part Moog melodies and the instantly-recognizable sound of Bobby Sparks on clavinet before a simple, powerful groove develops with the aid of massive drum sounds and a sea of analog synthesizers as Cory Henry soars above it on Moog.
The "D.I.Y juggernaut" (New York Times) released the acclaimed album Family Dinner Volume Two in February, featuring collaborations with David Crosby, Laura Mvula, Salif Keita, Becca Stevens and more. Snarky Puppy also won a "Best Contemporary Instrumental Album" GRAMMY that same month for Sylva, their 2015 collaboration with the Metropole Orkest. It was their second win, following a "Best R&B Performance" GRAMMY for the Lalah Hathaway collaboration "Something" in 2014. The band made their SXSW debut earlier this month, and were picked as one of the "25 Artists You Need To See" at the festival by Rolling Stone.
The band will continue their 2016 World Tour with a North American leg that kicks off with a set at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Fest on April 28.