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The New Cool: Polyrhythmics Erupting Again

Seattle funk-soul-jazz group Polyrhythmics
Kelly Robbins Photo & Film
Polyrhythmics: instrumental masters, shown here without instruments.

Their ambitious new double album Caldera comes out September 22nd, and Seattle's Polyrhythmics begin a West Coast tour shortly after which is sure to cement their reputation as one of the country's most efficient blenders of jazz, soul, funk, psychedelic rock and afro-beat.

Formed about 10 years ago by guitarist Ben Bloom and drummer Grant Schroff, Polyrhythmics won't be stuck in a genre corner, even one as generous as jazz - they simply call their style "instrumental music at its best: emotional, evocative, mesmerizing". The foundations of the band's music are varied, but years of playing and touring together has made this 8 piece outfit (or sometimes 9) as tight as a new pair of jeans.

Polyrhythmics have earned effusive praise around the Northwest almost from their beginnings, named one of Seattle's "best bands" by Seattle Magazine just a year into their existence. This attraction was not to be limited to the Puget Sound region - tours that followed put the band on stage with blues rocker Allen Stone, jam band String Cheese Incident, funk rockers Fishbone, and soulful funk-jazz groups like the Monophonics and Karl Denson's Tiny Universe.

Their records have also gained them fans in Japan and Europe, and I do mean records. Their debut Labrador was on CD, but they quickly followed with 7" singles from Kept and Electric Cowbell Records that found favor with influential DJs around the world. Full length follow-ups Libra Stripes and Octagon were released on both CD and vinyl, taking full advantage of hipster music fans' return to the turntables.

vinyl vinyl vinyl!
Credit Abe Beeson
Abe's copy of the Polyrhythmics' first single.

Their impending 4th album Caldera, named for the smouldering remains of a just-spent volcano, reminds us how prolific the band's songwriting has become. Jamming at festivals can stretch into 3 hours or more for Polyrhythmics, but you're unlikely to hear the classic r&b/funk cover songs that less-compositional groups would have to play. They claimed 60 original songs in their first three years, and the group's latest release brings together the compositional skills of every band member - their first truly collaborative collection.

We're busy making room for the Polyrhythmics in the KNKX studios for an exclusive session live on 88.5 this Tuesday at 12:15 - and for the first time we're giving away two spots for New Cool fans in the studio that day, enter here! Don't miss 'em at their tour kick-off show September 9th at Bastion Brewing Company in Anacortes, and returning mid-tour for two nights around Thanksgiving at the Tractor Tavern, November 24th & 25th.

We've already pre-ordered Caldera, and you'll hear the new song "Spider Wolf" on The New Cool this week.

The New Cool airs Saturdays at 3:00 p.m. The program is hosted by Abe Beeson and produced by KNKX Public Radio in Seattle, Wash.

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