This is a record probably best savored sometime after last call, sitting at home with a slight buzz, woozy and in the groove but not quite ready to sleep. It's the sound of a master bluesman channeling the dream world, and if you can find the time, place and atmosphere to let this disc sink in, you will not be disappointed. (****)

-- Rob Patterson

Ben Neil

Neil is player and inventor of the mutantrumpet, a three-belled, six-valved horn that can blend various real- and computer-generated sounds via its MIDI interface, producing a unique tone that's part human breath and part machine. The instrument has an incredible range -- it can play open and muted sounds at the same time -- and the MIDI interface allows Neil to sample a phrase and play along with himself, a technique that could open infinite avenues of expression to an adventurous player.

On Goldbug, however, most of Neil's trumpet work consists of simple, repeated phrases that are all but buried under a flurry of industrial-strength jungle beats. Last year, Neil toured clubs with DJ Spooky, who collaborates here on production, to create an offering that is decidedly more dance than jazz. Even in the world of acid jazz, where beats often dominate the free-flowing instrumental passages, most musicians do their best to cut through the electronic clutter and play something that will engage the listeners' emotions, as well as their feet.

But alas, that's not the case here. For the most part, Neil's mutantrumpet lines are simplistic, repetitive and -- let's face it -- boring. "Syntonic," "Blue Maroon" (with its hint of samba) and the title track work best, the mutantrumpet floating in and out of the aural field like some fragment of tune you've never heard but which somehow feels familiar. Still, most of the tracks on Goldbug sound suspiciously like generic alt-rock instrumentals. After all, if you're going to go to all the trouble to invent an instrument and give it a provocative name, why waste it on such formulaic filler? (**)

-- J. Poet

Press Ratings
***** Historic
**** Great
*** Worthy
** So-so
* Lame

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