CD Review by Matt Cole
Dig In is a recent EP by the Chicago bass and drums duo Comfort Food. The band consists of Daniel Wolff on bass and vocals, and Jake Marshall on drums. The group describes their sound as experimental noise jazz; Dig In also has funk, psychedelia, and blues as part of the recipe. Dig In is a promising appetizer from a young band, still a little raw around the edges, which will leave the listener hungry for more. (OK, enough with the food analogies…)
The album starts with “That Man Is You!,” and right away Comfort Food shows that they are very able to build a piece properly. The music starts with a funky, spacious bass rhythm accompanied by only a hi-hat. The music builds, with Wolff’s moaning vocals adding to the background, until the music hits an energetic peak, with a shifting progression of bass lines and some NOLA funk in the drums. This piece also provides an excellent example of Comfort Food’s ability to melt, and then reconstitute in rhythm.
Next up is “Sheet Metal and Anchovies,” which has strong elements of Mississippi drone blues (think R.L. Burnside, Junior Kimbrough, and the North Mississippi All-Stars) with hints of Morphine. “Sheet Metal…” provides perhaps the best example of Comfort Food’s unusual approach to vocals: Wolff’s bluesy wails are actually kind of underneath the instruments, making it hard to understand the words (to the extent that there are words) and adding a touch of mystery and distance to the sound. This song is also the first time that we really get to see Wolff create looped layers, giving himself a launching point for his psychedelic, octave-shifted solo, which brought to mind Reed Mathis of Tea Leaf Green and Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey.
“Fights, Kids” takes the listener on a journey, starting with soundscapes, and eventually arriving at bouncy and intricate rhythms, with disparate A and B sections smoothly made to work well together. This piece in particular reminded me of Drums & Tuba, with Wolff building an elaborate bass-scape by adding layers on layers a la tubist/trumpeter Brian Wolff from the aforementioned D&T. His solo on this one also inspired thoughts of D&T’s Neel McKeeby. Marshall propelled all of this with some more NOLA funk feel, made angular.
“Some Big Ass Trees” is probably the furthest-out track on the EP, with a psychedelic bass opening and a distorted avant-metal solo. Marshall’s drums sounded as free, pulsating, and rolling as the drummers from Vision Fest a few weeks ago. This track showcased some tight chops, as the band moved fluidly into and out of a groove in 5; and also the band’s sense of humor, with a random trombone/trombone mouthpiece solo happening out of nowhere.
Dig In concludes with “Gamelan Mom,” which starts with a somewhat disguised jazz waltz that then allows itself to emerge. The waltz become funky, and then the band changes into 4, but in stages; first the drums, and then the bass, for some nice tension when they’re playing in different time. Then they turn on a dime (or maybe a nickel), and go into a funky thing, with elements of prog and a lyrical overall shape. Finally, the band slowly melts, and that is that.
I found Dig In to be a very enjoyable and promising effort from a young, up-and-coming band. The music takes in a range of influences, and grooves very well. Wolff and Marshall are clearly musically simpatico, and will only get tighter as they keep playing together. Fans of Critters Buggin, Morphine, Drums & Tuba, Primus, and Arizona stalwarts Fred Green and Spacefish will definitely want to check this out (you can stream the tracks, and buy them, at http://comfortfood1.bandcamp.