Future Classics

Future Classic: Big Mean Sound Machine “Blank Slate 014”


via Blank Slate: Big Mean Sound Machine is a twelve-piece Afrobeat band native to Ithaca, New York. They tour 150 days a year and have a large and dedicated following up and down the East coast.

Still, it is a crime that Big Mean Sound Machine is not well known elsewhere. The band’s tremendous sound combines a big band aesthetic while channeling a global sense of musicality. Their shows leave fans drenched in sweat from dancing as audiences absorb the West African, Caribbean, Jazz and Funk traditions that Big Mean Sound Machine carries forward.

Big Mean Sound Machine comes out swinging. Triple Bacon is driving and energetic, yet sweet and groovy. Its horns and guitar engage in a playful call and response over a bed of skillful snare work. In The New Filth, Big Mean Sound Machine dials it back, exercising power that can only come from restraint. Brooding crunchy percussion sits deep in the pocket and a thick bass line lies in wait for the brass eruption. Sharks quickens the pace in a sinister yet urgent manner. Chilling keys combine with incredibly intricate percussion and build to a frantic climax followed by a silent reset—allowing the listener to pause before jumping right back into the surfer groove. A screaming alto saxophone solo and an arpeggiated synth grace the run out.

The B-side remix package begins with Mirko’s dance floor-friendly edit of Triple Bacon. Conjuring his experience as a trained jazz drummer, he expertly provides a house foundation without sacrificing the rhythmic nuance that’s the backbone of Afrobeat. René Audiard opts for a deconstructionist approach in his remix of Sharks. He has re-pieced the horns together in a way that Marshall Allen would approve. Teasing a kick drum only when necessary, Audiard’s thematic epic is ripe with tension while maintaining the live spirit of the original.

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