Niacin - Organik

Year of Release: 2005
Label: Magna Carta
Catalog Number: MA-9081-2
Format: CD
Total Time: 63:15:00

The latest release from the fiery fusion trio Niacin is the densely packed whirlwind called Organik. There's no lead-in to this album, no short mellow intro to ease you into their excursions. It just leaps out of your speakers and pounces with the boiling, speedy "Barbarian @ The Gate." It's album that you have to listen to at least three times, once focusing on the Hammond and keys (John Novello), once to follow what going on in the drums and percussion department (Dennis Chambers) and then once again for the bass (Billy Sheehan) and that's after playing it a few times to take it all in. Of course, there's Hammond. There's really no point in me specifically mentioning it, really. It's a given; it's unlikely that a Niacin album (Niacin being the name for the vitamin B3) would be without the Hammond. Hell, it's called Organik after all, isn't it? So just assume that it's an integral part of every piece.

This is a hurried release. I don't mean they didn't take time to work out their arrangements - this is just too complex to be improv, right? But that, like I said at the beginning, there is nothing relaxed and easy going about this release. It's anxious and jumpy, frenetic? Don't try dancing to it, unless you you're using your Twister mat, since you'll be verily tied up in knots. You just have to listen to "Nemesis" to see what I mean. And even the throaty "Blisterine" is high-energy, though it's throttled back just a tad or so, Novello playing fewer, longer notes. In any other trio setting, this would be the searing guitar leads, here they're keys. And what a clever title, I think. It's blistering, and it's sharp and biting like Listerine?

But few pieces have any kind of definable shape; perhaps that's the other meaning of the title. That's its organic and pieces just evolve where they will, and if they aren't roaming free across a landscape, but swirling around a single spot, well, that's just the way it is. Among those that do, there's "Super Grande," which is like classical music wired on something - classical in some of the arrangements, and a bit in the use of piano. But, strangely, and because of that Hammond I'm sure, I thought of Glass Hammer. Oh, certainly more jazz-fusion than GH, and hella more fusion than classical, but if you can imagine a fusion take on Beethoven, this would be it. The "catchiest" piece on the album, it being the most "song" oriented. For even more "classical" elements, strings (or "strings," since I'm sure they're synth generated), there's "Hair Of The Dog." They provide a bit of dark dramatics - and a momentary calm - to another driving piece.

The Zappa cover "King Kong" is a piece that, ahem, puts that Hammond front and center. Well, a little more front and center, I guess. Though there's a chance for a dirty bass solo to jam, with only Chambers calmly-wild drumming for accompaniment. This is more jazzy than other pieces, and in some ways, more relaxed. Perhaps because it's a cover, I don't know. I won't say more nuanced, but there's more airspace here than the Niacin originals that precede and follow it.

Okay, it isn't all rocketfuelled fusion, as there's the moodier, noodlier, sultrier "Magnetic Mood," that puts Sheehan's walking bass in dual lead with Novello's keys, Chambers not being mere timekeeper, but sitting back and laying down an easy going, mid-tempo beat. In subtle shifts, Hammond takes solo lead, gives over to more "guitar-like" leads ? moves away, and then we ease back to where we began. Bass takes the lead again in the strutting "No Shame." Though Hammond and other keys aren't far behind, even some that sound like a tenor sax, others almost like a brass section, yet not quite exactly. It was the most? linear, defined pieces on the album. This one has more of a journey like feel, a beginning, middle and end, and where you started isn't where you ended. "Clean House" is a quirky piece with tart bass-like keyboard sounds, percolating Hammond, and a hint of spacey textures floating behind at first, like a curtain. Sheehan's bass lines are of the funky variety, staccato at times. Chambers' drums march and stomp along. It's King Crimson-like in a way, but a little bit more fusiony, at least more fusiony than I'd associate KC with. Like "Super Grande" it's song oriented, and in this case, you could imagine some vocals (someone like Glenn Hughes maybe), though it doesn't need vocals, the keys take that role ably.

"Stumble On The Truth" mixes in a bit of funk into the fusion, though mostly it's quick, staccato keyboard notes, stabbing and prodding, sometimes poking hard, sometimes just tickling. And, at times, a pummeling series of notes. Oh, but done in the nicest possible way - don't think of the pummeling one gets with thrash metal. This is more like the darting dancing of a boxer. Bob and weave, jab jab.

No one can question their talent; they are premier players of their instruments. But I think Organik feels a lot like a lot of sound and fury, and notes a flurry, but nothing that really grabs you and makes you say "wow!" Well, of course, how they play makes you say that, but not the pieces themselves. It's not a bad album, but it didn't make me think "yowza!" (Though I did feel that way after the NEARfest set this year, so? ). Great playing, but it doesn't, for me, have the same attraction that Time Crunch had.

Oh, and Niacin don't ease out of the album either; it ends as sharply as it begins.

Barbarian @ The Gate (2:56) / Nemesis (4:00) / Blisterine (5:34) / King Kong (7:20) / Super Grande (4:57) / Magentic Mood (6:39) / Hair Of The Dog (4:18) / 4's 3 (4:17) / Stumble On The Truth (3:48) / Club Soda (4:31) / No Shame (4:26) / Clean House (4:21) / Footprints In The Sand (6:02)

Dennis Chambers - drums and percussion
John Novello - Hammond B3, piano, Rhodes
Billy Sheehan - bass

Niacin (1996)
Live In Japan (1997)
High Bias (1998)
Deep (2000)
Time Crunch (2001)
Niacin Live! Blood, Sweat and Beers (2003)
Organik (2005)

Genre: Fusion-Jazz Fusion

Origin US

Added: July 30th 2006
Reviewer: Stephanie Sollow
Artist website:
Hits: 949
Language: english


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