After eight albums as a bandleader and performer extraordinaire with Bay Area bands, Schnalle has released “Idiot Fish” with a great line-up of complimentary artists. While Schnalle is an exemplary drummer and technological innovator, he augments his own exploratory ideas with forward-thinking musicians like Hristo Vitchev (guitar), Frank Martin (keyboards) and Joe Constantine (bass).
The first track is introduced by a vocal lead-in that sounds like it belongs to a 1960s educational film (or even filmstrip!) promising innovations in sound technology. This is exactly what Schnalle offers on this album. The track is entitled “Market Fresh” and Schnalle unleashes the inaugural gadgetry. On several tra cks, Schnalle displays a mastery of electronic rhythm machinery. Moving past the technology, however, what catches the listener is that great groove. Talk about in the pocket.
Hristo Vitchev throws in with his incredible guitar and it becomes clear that this album is on fire. Frank Martin’s wild and wailing keyboards expand the dimensions of this techno-fusion beauty. Joe Constantin’s bass is a great addition to the double-pedaling Schnalle who is a fierce propelling force.
The second track is “Breath Takers” and continues the theme of technological development with the spoken quote “What God has wrought” which was the line used to open the Baltimore-Washington telegraph line in 1844.
“Ferns” is gorgeous piece of Jazz Impressionism that sounds like it came from one of Hristo Vitchev’s quartet albums. That’s a high compliment. The movement of the piece is memorable and so attractive. The play between Vitchev and Martin is close and fascinating.
Vitchev’s sonorous guitar continues Metheny-like in “Prohibition 21” where everyone gets a turn to shine and groove. Vitchev and Martin again seem to be in perfect lock-step. Cool melodies cascade over a hot rhythm section. Schnalle is a powerful and precise drummer but he also proves himself—on every track—to be a splendid composer and arranger.
That is proven again on “Sleeper Train” with the brilliant push-pull between Vitchev and Constantin. All the while, Schnalle hammers out a vivid and colorful drum pattern. Vitchev slashes out some of his rawest guitar passages and Martin grabs the funk. It is impossible to get enough of this track.
“Squanches” is a breakneck pace piece that is reminiscent of Ozric Tentacles’ “Jurassic Shift” at several points in the track. Constantin and Schnalle are on a furious groove underneath Vitchev’s scorching guitar work.
The album closes with “Sweetener,” a techno-funk sweet piece with everyone at their most rattling and rambunctious. It is a relentlessly riveting groove and the virtuosity of the whole group is over the top. What a great end to an album!
“Idiot Fish” is a dramatic assault on the outposts of fusion who many considered abandoned. In fact, fusion remains alive and kicking on this album with Schnalle and company kicking it hard. Schnalle knows how to write it and this band most assuredly knows how to play it.
Visit Wally Schnalle's web site here: http://www.itrhymes.com/ where "Idiot Fish" can also be purchased.