Hearing Aide: Ride Medeski, Dietch & Skerik’s DRKWV on debut album, ‘The Purge’

Despite the inner workings of this record, which we will necessarily get into, there is a brilliant simplicity to DRKWV’s concept and sound. The entire project seems to follow the name-sake DRKWV vision: the melodies are spooky and menacing, drifting between spacey-drones and melodic tension and the funk lives in the jowls as opposed to the teeth. This guiding thought, paired with the distinct style of each musician, creates a world that exists in shadows, weaving storylines within tracks and as a cohesive album.

As any effective first track should, “DARKWAVE” immediately sets the tone and clears up a few inherent questions. First of all, yes, “DRKWV” is pronounced “DARKWAVE.” Second of all, no, the clean tones of drums, sax and keys are not buried by effects or overproduction and third, yes, this shit is going to get weird. The track starts with spacey-synth drones (that make appearances throughout the album), interrupted by an uptempo drum line that is almost house music-esque. The next layer comes in the form of a hard-hitting, simple, bass line that begins with a tight tone and slowly oozes open to reveal a light-blue slime. Now aware of what you are in for, the tune resolves into opening synth drones and you settle into your chair, ready for the show.

The next song on the album, appropriately titled “Soundtrack” adds more narrative to the story, with a steady back and forth persistence that is almost meditative in nature, guiding the listener deeper underground perhaps with mild sedation. The journey takes place in a dimly lit elevator, burrowing into the cosmos, screeching past glowing rocks and space debris. When we arrive at the bottom, the doors open to a place where there is no light, only luminescence and maybe the occasional fire. Here we are greeted by “Count Chokulos,” the third track, who serves as a sort of concierge for this new world. “Chokulos” takes us through a funky-back and forth where the drums settle and groove nicely along Medeski’s persistent licks, heavy in conversation with Skerik’s minimalist sax notes.

Up next is “Datura,”  arguably the most impressive composition and definitely a stand-out tune. “Datura” begins as gritty, arrhythmic ambient freak-out and turns into a distorted uptempo funk rally song, channeling reptilian allies in the fourth dimension. The drums are steady and heartfelt, and the keys dig their claws into our skin. The careening lines interact slowly, with a sort of insistent whale cry, before a blissful resolve (or at least acceptance), coming in the form of a sultry, ambling saxophone solo. The patient sax calms down the drums, until all parts blend together with familiar drones, and Medeski’s flowery piano part gives our brain the comfort it now deserves, as if nesting in a basket of cotton.

The following song, “Scars,” takes note of what we have experienced this far and moves forward with one of the most straightforward grooves of the album. “Scars” is most like a traditional MMW song in terms of funk and bouncing feel-good drums, with a healthy amount of organ wailing and a killer sax to wrap things up. Things don’t stay normal for too long, and the preceding “Hell Bass” comes in flying with some of the best drumming on the album, a sort of spazzy dance beat paired with fat, bassy synth notes. Just when you start to realize your room is a lot warmer than you thought it was, “Hell Bass” dives into an exception noise section; you’re lost in the cave and you have become delusional, thinking you see light but the room starts spinning until you can’t tell up from down.

We regain our bearings at “Gazselloni,” which I have to assume is named after a sneaky six-toed alley cat who struts around town listening to Wu-Tang in Beats by Dre headphones, while smoking a tobacco pipe. This is another great ‘rally’ track and carries a steady canter that is equal parts empowering and contemplative. “Gazselloni” is definitely the grooviest track on the record and moves heavy with a menacing confidence. Each player slides into their pocket, easing back a bit in favor of head-nodding textures. Then, Gazselloni (the cat – but maybe we are the cat at this point?) gets hit by a car at end of song and dies slowly. The final track, “Shmeeans Cuti” is possibly the first glimpse of real light on the whole album, shedding free any pretense with a world-music flavor paired with gospel church organ and big band feeling horn sounds.

DRKWV only has one tour date lined up so far, but with a stand-out freshman album like “The Purge”, it is no doubt fans will want more. The record is also available for purchase via Download, CD or Limited Edition Vinyl through The Royal Potato Family’s online store.