The unstoppable jazz machine known as Snarky Puppy has struck again. Their seemingly never-ending string of album releases, some with just the band and some featuring some magnificent collaborations, has yielded another pure Snarky Puppy record. While Snarky Puppy has become known for its live-in-studio albums, in which the band records the album in one take to a live studio audience, Culcha Vulcha is a return to the traditional studio recording. This is a side of Snarky Puppy we have not seen since Bring Us the Bright, and it has yielded some tantalizing results.
When I first heard that Snarky Puppy was doing a traditional studio album, I did not expect this to be a significant departure from their normal style. After all, their live-in-studio recordings are done using a very large, exceptionally tight and well-rehearsed band. Snarky Puppy felt like a band that could imitate the textural qualities of studio recordings live. Upon first listening to Culcha Vulcha, I was pleasantly surprised how fundamentally different the album sounds. Snarky Puppy has taken advantage of private production to make their pieces pop in a brand new way. The layering is just a bit more crisp, the dynamics are a little more precise, and the band has played with the tonal quality or the instruments themselves to get some mesmerizing results.
Culcha Vulcha is a roller coaster of an album. There is a constant flow from roaring, intense, energy-laden pieces that give way into subdued numbers that give the listener a chance to explore more subtle sonic space. Intricate compositions weave around dazzling moments of virtuosity from a diverse host of players who are each keen to add their voices to the mix. The nature of the music is something that Snarky Puppy fans are accustomed to, but this time in a new production style that brings the music into a new light.
One large downside of Culcha Vulcha‘s recording style is that we won’t have the good fortune of watching the fascinating videos that accompanied their live-in-studio performances, but we have several albums of that kind of material to watch. I highly recommend Culcha Vulcha, and quite frankly anything that Snarky Puppy has put their paws on.