From Basement Jaxx to Sir Elton, Kano to Brian Ferry, Nathan ‘Tugg’ Curran defines the ‘go-to’ drummer but that’s only one dimension of this restless spirited musician. Beyond the world of an exemplary sticks-man, Curran has over the last couple of years used space to energise his own music, calling on his deep rooted jazz and funk influences, a beyond-nerd knowledge of vintage drum machines and an unguarded sci-fi enthusiasm to shape his own definitive soundscape.
First came Planet Battagon, hurtling on a slipstream of dancefloor syncopation, techno templates, future jazz visions and funk fuelled escapism. Settling into orbit with the seismic 2020 LP ‘Trans Neptunia’ the band’s upward trajectory through the jazz rave universe seemed set but Curran and crew had other plans, a more expansive mode of musical transportation that became Edrix Puzzle. Joining Curran plus fellow Battagon dwellers Oli Savill (percussion) and Martin Slattery (Bass clarinet and sax), the Puzzle was completed by the addition of Tom Mason on acoustic bass and classical violinist Darren Berry. From the outset, with the release of their ‘Rise To Eris’ EP last year, it was clear that Edrix Puzzle were boldly going further, taking multi-coloured acoustic tones, scorching beats and synth ballistics somewhere deeper into the vortex where Sun-Ra, Mwandishi era Hancock, Richard James and other sonic outliers do magic.
Now comes the first full Edrix Puzzle statement ‘Coming Of The Moon Dogs’ available from Nov 4th through the imperious On The Corner Records. Put together remotely over lock down, the album sets out to extend the fluid, front facing grooves and resonant cosmic overtones that are central to Curran’s solo projects. While much of the music from those static pandemic times looked inwards, the intrepid Edrix Puzzle responded differently, taking a hyper-imaginative reaction to the context as inspiration. ‘Coming of the Moon Dogs’ reaches out beyond the actual, soundtracking some otherworlds and beaming you away from the mundane.
Given any familiarity with the driven momentum of Planet Battagon releases, ‘V 11’ is one of the new tracks that may come closest to your expectations. Blasting off to synth siren warnings and an urgent trip hop vibe, it’s a cut that erupts into riff driven urgency with full-on Mahavishnu commitment. Jabbing afro-beat percussion, rumbling bass muscle and a soaring sax trajectory pile on the pressure until a nimble rhythmic coda restores some sort of order. ‘Unknown Hyperion’ also keeps it shifty with an ominous bass-heavy funk swagger through droning electronics but there’s some dangerous left turns here which alert you to new Edrix Puzzle dimensions. Post metal near grime breakdowns, wild improv collapses and hard bopping sax blasts ecstatically puncture the track’s early rolling groove. This fusion is different, more cathartic, unpredictable and intoxicating.
Work further into ‘Coming Of The Moon Dogs’ and the significance of the expanded tonal variation that the five piece allows hits you time and time again. Opener ‘Shadow Of Phobe’ scuttles to an expectant swing while Slattery’s sonorous clarinet lurks close by, before a restless physicality takes control with the panting double bass runs and banshee cries of Berry’s violin. Atmospheric doesn’t describe the multi-layered dynamics that Edrix Puzzle deliver. ‘Haunted Soldiers Of Rhea’ states a similar case for the acoustic lobby, The synth flutters may provide some contemporary hints but it’s the slow build, snaking ethio-funk, the stripped back minimalism of the reed lines and the tight grip of the interlocking drum/ bass connections that define this momentous sound.
While the expansiveness and fluidity of classic spiritual jazz is an obvious touchstone for Curran and his band this never restricts the ambition or scope of ‘Coming Of The Moon Dogs’. ‘Deep In Dione’ is all Fourth World mysticism and wonder, an infectious dancefloor gamelan whipped up to a shamanistic peak by searing violin swipes. Further exploration of global beats extends into ‘Farthest Known’, where nu-jazz afrobeats spiral higher with the same rampant velocity of James ‘Blood’ Ulmer in his late seventies prime.
With such urgent blasts of energy surging through the ‘Coming Of The Moon Dogs’ there was the possibility it could always result in listener exhaustion, but Edrix Puzzle solve this dilemma through the genuine exuberance and integrity of each players’ contribution. Although recorded during such frustrating times, the band’s savvy, restraint and commitment to the overall vision maintains a balance that wins through. The extraordinary closing track ‘Cry Wolf’ highlights such intuitive understanding as well as that musical daring at the core of the Edrix collective. An anguished, free form improvisation with Berry’s aggressively bowed strings taking the lead, yearning above the oscillating electronics and ritualistic hand percussion.
It’s a transcendent coda to a mesmerising album. There might be plenty of mystery and mischief wrapped up in the cosmic imagery of ‘Coming Of The Moon Dogs’ but from another angle it’s a record that couldn’t be any clearer in stating its brilliance.
Get your copy of ‘Coming Of The Moon Dogs’ from your local record store or direct from : https://edrixpuzzle.bandcamp.com/album/coming-of-the-moon-dogs