An artist’s first exhibition is an exhilarating and anxious time, no matter the medium of expression. A foundation is laid; all work will be analyzed and judged upon this baseline going forward. Old World realize this and apply the logic and resulting work in a compact eight-track debut which clocks in at nearly 30 minutes long. They blend jazz technicality with funk played at the urgency level of a punk song in a manner that’s force fed to the listener.
There are moments when mindfulness needs to come into play so that you can remind yourself you’re only listening to an album and not a final exam performance by three Berkley level jazz students trying to get out of Boston with a degree.
Jazz isn’t their only forte, however. Guitarist Riley Staples identifies with other facets of adept playing like math rock and progressive rock as critical indicators for their sound. However, Staples prefers not to affiliate Old World with any sub-genre out there and detests any mention of Rush as a comparison to the group.
Like most bands, their origins are humble. Hailing from Fillmore, an agriculture town 20 miles inland to the east of the Southern California beach town Ventura, each member met in school and at a party through a mutual friend. Upon spending time rehearsing and figuring out their sound through repetitive fleshing out of material, they set up shop in Staple’s garage to record what you hear today.
Old World issued this album initially in 2016, but it is seeing the light of day on vinyl as of 2018 through Record Outlet Records (an imprint Staple’s father created and one of the last standing record stores in Ventura County). Their efforts resulted in this amalgamation of skilled genre blends that hit hard.
The record consists of absurdly funny, Dweezil Zappa-ish, track titles (“Bill Cosby Robotoid,” “I Just Want to Start A Flame in Your House”). How to summarize this? Take the frantic jazz-punk of The Minutemen and level of playing Mahavishnu Orchestra exudes, and you’ll get an idea of what to expect here.
Which brings up a good point: what else can these guys do if they’re letting it all hang out on the first run? Will they slow down? Will they change genres? The baseline is here, and they’ve set the bar high for themselves regarding technique.
I’m talking a lot about the technical aspects here without giving you some description; let me change that. The absurdity of some of their title tracks, such as “Fall Down Some Stairs,” quickly becomes an irrelevant factor when hearing the mood change from its meditative, clean-tone rhythm intro to a crash course of frenzied passages with Staple’s abrupt hammer-on riffs and drummer Tyler Low’s jazz fusion percussion ringing throughout.
“Dead Clone” has a featured melody that gives way into their capabilities to ensnare your attention before blistering you with punk jazz percussion, while the combination of Staples and bass player Alex Malmquist seems to showcase the two’s abilities in a distinctly separate manner. That’s something to take away from this album; each instrument is showcased individually throughout its run, as if they’re intentionally isolating each channel from each other on the recordings for personal demonstration.
As impressive as their level is, this is the age of 4G, and people’s attention spans are next to nothing. Can they hold up? That’s their challenge; welcome to the jungle guys.