Stealing a page from the late great Ken Kesey, Rochester’s Subsoil opens their new album proclaiming, “You’re either on the bus, or you’re off the bus.” This bus, number 585 (Rochester’s area code), is bound for “trans-dimensional hyperspace.” With a destination like that, how could you resist at least one trip On the Bus with Subsoil?
The album consists of reggae, soul, R&B, jazz, funk and rock, sometimes fused, sometimes fairly straight. Ted Ladwig has a knack for catchy keyboard nuggets, whether they come to the fore (“High Noon”) or hide just under the surface (“Zombies”). He sets up Wil McKenna for an array of surprising and diverse guitar solos which can echo Santana’s tone (“Surrender”), wail like an Allman Brother (“Meditation”), or crunch out some funky rhythms atop Ladwig’s whirling B3. Sprinkle in some well-placed saxophone blasts by Bill Smith and lay it all over some steady work by the rhythm section and you have yourself an enjoyable and bouncy ride.
Oh wait, did I forget to mention that front-men Moon-Roc and Laz Green are rapping over the whole thing? It’s a combination that can be reminiscent of the trip-hop of the 90’s and bands like Buckshot Lefonque and Us3. Steve Gutenberg, Tetris, Muhammed Ali, Walter White, Eazy-E, Scooby Doo and obviously the aforementioned Ken Kesey all get referenced, and that’s just in the album-opening title track. Later on Captain Trips gets a call out, though likely in reference to the Stephen King character from The Stand, and not Jerry Garcia. Plenty more pop-culture references, both historical and current, and clever word play make their way into this tight 30-minute set.
Released early in 2016, On the Bus was recorded and mixed by Josh Russell at Spring House Recordings in Oswego and mastered by Jason “Jocko” Randall at More Sound Recording in Syracuse. It is available at many area record stores, as well as online retailers including Subsoil’s website, and streaming on Spotify and YouTube. So get on the bus.
Key tracks: High Noon, Surrender