Cultural Capital

After two decades of reconfiguring all sorts of material by other artists, from the briefly humongous dance hit “Macarena” to timeless Duke Ellington tunes, Sexmob decided to try something different with Cultural Capital by stocking it entirely with original material.

How’d it turn out? Well ... different. Its overall sound, a woozy stew of avant-jazz, wordless Tom Waits and Salvation Army band can’t be mistaken. It’s the same for their defining characteristic: the absence of any harmony instrument except for a couple of discreet electric guitar jangles, courtesy of Briggan Krauss, which flavor the groove, rather than impose actual chords.

Some of these tracks obviously are based on compositions, though these tend to be fragmentary, rather than coherent flows of verse, chorus and bridge. Instead, they might be harmonized or unison lines played by Steven Bernstein and Krauss. On their own, these can speak powerfully. “Helmland,” for example, begins with bassist Tony Scherr playing the mournful theme, while Kenny Wollesen’s brushes scuttle across snare and cymbals. The effect is quite moving—and, like all of this successful experiment, irony-free.