Classification is the process of grouping things according to their similarities. The musicology of the savant band Snarky Puppy is made wildly problematical by their varied musical taxonomy, comprising jazz, swing, electro pop, rock, soul, funk, go-go, and a fraction of hip-hop.
The band's latest experimental pet project is GroundUp, an album that cultivates true musicianship instrumentally--without features, guest vocalists or even lyrics. The resplendent and tasteful “Binky” exemplifies the project; luxuriant with grooving percussion, the single fools listeners into thinking the song is ending just when its suspense climaxes to lustful horn and brass that will make lovers drool over each other.
The trumpet and horns to the sable “Thing of Gold” are like bold strokes of brass-colored paint to the song’s canvas. The complex and extemporaneous “Minjor,” the progressive jazz and elaborate composition of “Mr. Montauk” represent the album's organic, soulful essence. The musical direction in “Bent Nails” is unapologetically roughhewn, an earful of hammering on a nine-inch nail, while “Young Stuff” is like a vessel fill of water, sustaining the growth of something pure and beautiful.
GroundUp is a mood ring that changes color according to the temperature of the finger it's on. It is a salute to rich originality and the unparallel instrumentation that's made Snaky Puppy an esteemed and highly praised band. It was maybe too early in the year to make assumptions that Robert Glasper Experiment’s Black Radio would become “Album of the Year.” GroundUp is a serious rival.
-Hector De La Rosa