Friday, April 22, 2011


Song Title: "Homemade Paneer"
Artist: Modo Trio and Wayne Horvitz
Search Term: "Paneer"

Sometimes I feel like the fewer notes a song has, the more likely I am to enjoy it. It's naturally not a hard-and-fast rule, but rare indeed is the prog-rock song that doesn't lose me halfway through, and if you were to subject me to a technical virtuoso like Steve Vai, you would actually be able to watch me impatiently purse my lips tighter and tighter with each successive hammer-on until I was indistinguishable from a platypus. On the other hand, I never tire of the Ramones' three-chord rudimentariness, and I'm perfectly willing to sit through ambient or minimal electronica that I don't even think is done well (see Procer Veneficus) because I usually find that sort of thing comforting and agreeable. So when it comes to jazz, it's no surprise that my tastes run less toward fiery improvisation and more toward the mellow (which is not to say smooth) style of folks like Chet Baker.

Which makes Manitoba's Modo Trio (abetted here by American keyboardist Wayne Horvitz) just fine in my book. Four plinkity notes from a marimba or xylophone roll over and over like a gummed-up washing machine drum, and an organ and trumpet hop on for the ride, simply holding their notes until one of them doodles a little, just for variety. Even when Horvitz's distorted keyboard barges into the mix to give the piece a little muscle, it's not boisterous enough to threaten the relaxing vibe. To my jazz-for-dummies ears, this song nestles itself in a cozy spot halfway between the fresh peacefulness of Miles Davis's Sketches of Spain and the weirdly celebratory indie-rock droning that Yo La Tengo does so well on songs like "Beach Party Tonight." Low-key and cleansing, it's an unpretentious treat.

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