September 6, 2001

Ed's Underground

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The latest release from Portland, OR-based weirdo-jazz collective Rollerball is a logical extension of their uniquely eclectic sound. Incorporating influences as diverse as Frank Zappa, free jazz, electronic music, and dub, Trail of the Butter Yeti is an hour-long trip through a landscape of sounds so vibrant it almost seems to breath. From the sprawling and melancholy epic “Butter Fairy” to the horn-laden pop of “Earth 2 Wood” — which touches briefly on the melody to “Glory, Hallelujah!” — the album jumps and shifts so often that you never know what’ll hit you next. “Narcisse” opens with a noisy sound collage, but the rest of the song alternates between spiritual a capella vocals and sections of lush, driving jazz-rock. “Can’t Run the Dogs that Hard” is a somber folk song that sounds somehow mortally wounded. Another highlight comes wth “Lon Chaney,” a spooky slice of horror movie murder scene music with Phantom of the Opera-style piano chords, stately horns, and vocalist Mae Starr’s dramatic vocals. It’s a fitting tribute to the famed horror actor of its title, and a fitting example of Rollerball’s lunatic genius.

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