Barry Cleveland: Volcano

Talking drums. Box drums. Congas. Bongos. These are the first words that come to mind when listening to the music on Volcano, Barry Cleveland’s third studio release. The feel of Cleveland’s music – a combination of Afro-Haitian rhythms mixed with jazz and acid rock – is best described as a drum-circle gone bonkers. Throw into the mix a myriad of flute, clarinet and electronic synth solos with Cleveland’s quirky guitar style and you have the ingredients that make up an avant-garde masterpiece.

While this is not a live album, the freewheeling and improvisational attitudes prevalent on each track make you wonder if it all was done in one perfect take. “Makanda” starts the album off with an energetic “Irish jig” influenced melody sandwiched in between a flute solo and electronic noise. Breezy flakiness gives way to icy sternness on “Tongue of Fire,” a tenebrous and more repetitive number that is marked by an acoustic guitar and clarinet melding together in dark harmony. The laidback “Ophidian waves” brings the album to a hypnotic dream state with the talking drums providing the main theme and the bass anchoring each chord change with one long sustained note. “Rhumbatism” rounds the album out with funky guitar chords flanked by bass and flute solos, giving a glimpse of what Cleveland’s music would sound like if he stuck to a more standard rock format.

Cleveland’s eclectic and innovative third album is defined by superb musicianship and the ability to focus open ended jams into 5 minute long songs without compromising quality. However, this is not simple music to groove to. If you are looking for uncluttered rock that is heavy on lyrics and light on solos, you have come to the wrong place. If something a little more experimental and far from ordinary is what you dig, then Volcano is definitely worth a listen.

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