HAZMAT MODINE (USA)
New York City has always been a base for wildly inventive music yet nothing you have heard before can prepare for Hazmat Modine. Very eclectic and wilfully eccentric, Hazmat Modine draw from American music’s rich and varied sources: blues harmonica absorbs klezmer melodies, Hawaiian slack key guitar blends with New Orleans brass, Western Swing heads to the Caribbean riding on a ska rhythm. Do they succeed? Or is it a mess? The answers are yes and no.
Hazmat Modine’s debut CD Bahamut was released internationally in spring, 2007, and has since attracted plenty of praise. Here you have a band who play blues with a distinctly Oriental feel and klezmer as if it was a music shaped by New Orleans’ hookers and hustlers rather than Eastern Europe’s Jewish communities. Which means Hazmat Modine create a remarkably offbeat and good humoured groove – as you might expect from a band lead by two duelling harmonica players backed by tuba, drums, guitars and trumpet (alongside special guests who play the claviola, cymbalum, bass sax, Chinese mouth-organ and – yes! – Tuvan throat singers.
Lead by Wade Schuman, Hazmat Modine formed from a collective of musicians all playing sessions across a wide variety of musical forms (members worked with everyone from Norah Jones, late reggae star Dennis Brown to David Bowie). The band have existed for more than seven years, slowly developing their sound – the offbeat name twins a large commercial heater (a “modine”) with the reference to hazardous materials (“hazmat”) – from its roots in traditional American music, especially the harmonica bands of the 1920s and 30s, while pulling in influences from everywhere. Perhaps most surprising is the partnership with Huun-Huur-Tu - the throat-singing Tuvans who are also nominees for a Radio 3 award this year. Schuman admired Huun-Hurr-Tu’s music so developed a friendship with them when they began visiting the US. He then specifically wrote songs with their unearthly singing in mind and thus they became a key part of Bahamut’s sound. Hazmat Modine are an intriguing conundrum: a band who look to the past yet aim to build new musical futures.
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