Wet Tuna: Warping all by Yourself CD
'The kaleidoscopic sonic agriculture of Wet Tuna has long inhabited its own universe. Over the past five years, they have established themselves as one of the most forward thinking and anarchic of the many groups rethinking and reconceptualizing the notion of the “jam band,” all the while frustrating critical attempts to slot the group’s music into any scene, sound, or easily classifiable genre fad.
For Wet Tuna’s latest, "Warping All By Yourself," Matt “MV” Valentine—occasionally aided by longtime collaborators Samara Lubelski, Erika “EE” Elder, Mick Flower and Doc Dunn—flies mostly solo. Continuing the ‘Tuna’s m.o. of homegrown, dubwise psychedelia that eternally pivots on the edge of chaos and funk, "Warping All By Yourself" is as radical and beguiling as anything in the band’s—or, for that matter, its principle architects’—discography.
There remains a beautiful simplicity at the core of MV’s workbench alchemy; as with the music of Can, there is in his productions almost always a lodestar fixed within the eye of whatever maelstrom or fragmented primal abstractions surround it. On "Warping All By Yourself," funk and soul are both the unifying principles and the unlikely bedrocks upon which everything else orbits and rests, resulting in a concoction of iconoclastic, free-dancing music that has as much in common with Funkadelic as it does Crazy Horse.
Beginning with the sound of lapping waves on the shore of Coney Island, opener “Raw Food” sets the stage with an indica-kissed fever dream of shoegaze-y guitar and vocals over a slinky, sumptuous bass lurch; breakbeat-laced “Ain’t No Turnin’ Back” recalls the enigmatic street boogie of Royal Trux circa “Inside Game,” while “Kinda Feelin’ Good” foregrounds a slow-motion Earl “Chinna” Smith-style groove before dissolving into the kind of thick and blurry vortex from which a thousand e-damaged A.R. Kane fans have never returned.
The album’s high point might be the irresistible “Sweet Chump Change,” perhaps the first Wet Tuna jam you could seamlessly sandwich into a DJ set between Herbie Hancock’s “Watermelon Man” and A Tribe Called Quest’s “Award Tour.” Over a blood-pumping bed of warm keyboards, drums, and hand percussion, MV and EE free associate on what sound like potential song titles for some Kyuss-worshiping stoner rock band (“Geek messiah…unicorn blood, down at the pub…spectral geezer…gravity tweeze…”), while MIDI flutes, organs, and cascading, painterly guitars peek and poke through the cosmic fug. An absolute banger.
The kinetic, psychedelic, and downright fun "Warping All By Yourself" serves as further proof that the most visionary, truly original American art continues to be made on the margins. Don’t sleep—get Wet!
-James Toth, 2022-