A Quick Spin

Sunday, August 24, 2003; Page N02


OM Trio

OM Trio is a Medeski, Martin & Wood that rawks. Here's a keys-bass-drums trio that brazenly stomps into concerts playing a Rage Against the Machine cover, then closes with a charging, irony-free version of Guns N'Roses' "Paradise City" as fist-waving fans scream the chorus.

Hailing from the San Francisco Bay Area, OM Trio pumps out "elevator music for headbangers," a brand of electric jazz that relies on dynamics, rhythmic drive and melodic mischief. On the band's fifth album, keyboardist Brian Felix, bassist Pete Novembre and drummer Ilya Stemkovsky concoct trippy, deadly-infectious studio bursts: Most songs are two to four minutes long, guided by Felix's reverberating, space-alien organ.

There's a sonic cohesiveness, whether OM Trio is kicking out sinewy funk, oozing hypnotic trance or dabbling in minimalist atmospherics. When the ambient groove of "(Hedd)" is followed seamlessly by the cranium-crusher "Drop Q" (aided by a dirty-good guest guitarist), your lip instinctively curls into a "man-this-is-so-wicked!" snarl.

The molten core of OM Trio is its relentless, blue-collar rhythm section: Novembre's evil bass lines (and possessed-by-Lucifer stare) and Stemkovsky's drum assault (and soaked System of a Down T-shirt). The album winds down with a hidden-track cover of Living Colour's "Cult of Personality," augmented by showy bursts of chop-shop jazz fusion. For the uninitiated, that's a taste of OM Trio's improv-heavy live shows: Paradise city, indeed.

-- Michael Deeds

(To hear a free Sound Bite from this album, call Post-Haste at 202-334-9000 and press 8152.)

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