5. Fila Brazillia – ‘Luck Be A Weirdo Tonight’

Posted: March 17th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Album Review, Downtempo | Tags: | No Comments »

Fila Brazillia - Luck Be A Weirdo Tonight

Fila Brazillia * Luck Be A Weirdo Tonight * 1997 * Pork

The music partnership of Steve Cobby and David McSherry was one of the most prolific in the history of electronica. In the span of twelve years the pair knocked out ten albums, ranging confidently through the swampy borderlands of house, ambient, funk, world, dub and jazz. Old Codes / New ChaosMaim That Tune and Power Clown were three of their finest. But the seamless Luck Be A Weirdo Tonight was Fila Brazillia‘s crowning achievement.

Based in Kingston-upon-Hull, a river town in eastern England, the two met through Pork Recordings, one of the world’s top chill-out labels. Cobby and McSherry were skilled musicians, playing drums, guitar, keyboards and bass. They also used electronics and sampling to excellent and ironic effect, drawing on the samba-rock of Jorge Ben or the hard bop of Art Blakey, dicing beats in hip hop fashion or channeling the ambient strums of Pink Floyd.

“It’s all found objects,” Cobby once told Lotus magazine. “If there is meaning, it’s in your head. It’s like Marcel Duchamp. You make the piece. We’re Dadaists. It’s a happy accident.”

But Fila Brazillia’s organic electronica was far from accidental. Their music carefully weaved discarded sounds with bright new ones, dazzling the mind with a Frankenstein funk powered by the electric charge of their own creative brilliance. And Luck Be A Weirdo Tonight was their Dada masterpiece.

Its clever patterns require active attention and multiple listens to break them open. Dense jazz rhythms and gaseous horns evoke a winding river trip — rushing, overflowing, swirling, floating, easing. Hovering over eddies of syncopation, wah-wah riffs trail through the thick air while synthesizers squiggle like bumblebees on a spring mating path. The first third of the album is all rapids and clears. ‘Billy Goat Groupies’ and ‘Apehorn Concerto’ pick their way through thickets of percussion, crashing drums dropping into tranquil pools of bliss. Opener ‘Lieut. Gingivitis Shit’ bumps to deep bass and lily-pad tones before a howling blues guitar scratches an itch deep down in the soul. The second third of the album picks up the pace. ‘Rustic Bellyflop’ struts to an acoustic guitar that picks its strings like the legs of a spider. ‘Van Allens Belt’ bounces to a slapping groove, its swooping synths taking us off the river shore and into the woods.

A trio of masterstrokes marks the album’s climax. ‘Pollo De Palo’ cruises to an introspective bass line, a suite of winds lifting you up through the trees and into a daydream meadow. ‘Heat Death of the Universe’ flutters until a hopeful melody zips high above, drums and plucking guitar coming to life like excited spectators of a distant rocket launch. It ranks as one of the most moving electronica tracks of all time while the millennial fever of ‘Weasel Out the Muck’ is the consummate funkster. Coming on like tank music from the Vietnam War era, ‘Muck’ kicks off with an evocative voice sample about self-fulfilling prophecies. Its kick drum buckles the breeze under a vapor of violins, a frenzy of keys answered by a guitar line that would make Jimi Hendrix proud. And when you think it can’t get any better, a billowy synth spills out of the air like colored smoke, leaving you dazed in the weeds.

Fila’s excursion through forgotten samples and wild inventions concludes with the coda ‘Do the Hale-Bopp,’ its title alluding to the Hale-Bopp comet sighting of 1997. It’s a dubbed-out jam of rubbery bass and twanging guitar, slowly rising up into the ether — a fitting end to an unforgettable trek through the weird and lovely world of Fila Brazillia.

Adding to the fantastical mischief, Luck Be A Weirdo Tonight‘s cover is one of electronica’s best. When combined with the music, its storybook illustrations echo the psychedelic ardor of nature itself. “Is that a bunny named ‘Luck’ hopping through the forest?” you might ask.

Sadly, Cobby and McSherry would call it quits in 2006. But Luck is an enduring reminder of just how intensely their artistic fire burned, each listen yielding new discoveries in the mental wilderness.

Like a rabbit, that curious spirit is never far away, haunting an acid jazz daydream on the outskirts of everyday life. You just have to cross the fence. And chase it.

1. Lieut. Gingivitis Shit
2. Billy Goat Groupies
3. Apehorn Concerto
4. Hells Rarebit
5. Her Majesties Hokey Cokey
6. Rustic Bellyflop
7. Van Allens Belt
8. Pollo De Palo
9. Heat Death of the Universe
10. Weasel Out the Muck
11. Do the Hale-Bopp

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