It’s always a shame when talented people get together and can’t make it work. What’s worse is when three Einsteins are so convinced they’ve found the newest theorem that they fail to realize it’s already been done and that everyone’s moved on. Individually, eight-string-guitar player Charlie Hunter, drummer Bobby Previte and DJ Logic are virtuous musicians at the top of their games. The failure of Longitude rests not on a lack of musical ideas or talent but on their forcing of a genre better left alone.
Hunter, whose breadth of talent and style (he plays custom-made guitars that have three strings for bass lines and five for simultaneous guitar work) is evident on Duo, his 1999 album with drummer Leon Parker. Since then he’s confidently veered from Caribbean- and African-inflected funk (collaborating with Mos Def on 2001’s Songs From the Analog Playground). But the spotlight’s never strayed too far from his own brand of restrained wizardry and his ability to put the groove above all else with creativity and impeccable precision.
But Longitude offers no precision. It overwhelms the listener with convoluted underwater production tricks, muddled jam-band grooves (“Dead Reckoning”) and DJ Logic’s sonic masturbation (“H-4”). Logic’s third-party influence on Medeski, Martin and Wood’s Combustication found him dropping the right amount of samples in just the right places at just the right times. Which means not too much and not too often. Here, Logic (the special guest on Longitude, the second of three albums in the pair’s Groundtruther series) may have recorded his tracks across the street. There’s no coherence, and his grating influence serves to only further impede the album’s already messy nature. Hunter and Previte, supposedly the recording’s cornerstone, rarely sync up, instead flying off the handle in directionless experimenting.
A few songs on Longitude let you in (“Back-Quadrant,” “March 1741, Cape Horn”), but most of it is sonic noodling, exploration of a genre better left on the other side of the dorm-room wall. The rare glimpses into musical clarity (not necessarily good songs, but clean) only leave you begging to strip away the layers. Unfortunately, behind the scratches and deliberate weirdness, the likeable melodies are few and very far between.