Patuxent CD-323 Psycho Exploding Orangutans
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Spend enough time in any music scene, and you’ll meet its prodigies: young, preternaturally gifted artists whose talents fill listeners with awe and competitors with envy. Although most prodigies content themselves with dutifully imitating past masters, a few talented mavericks always manage to blaze new trails, expand traditions, and contribute valuable, original art. This record presents two such artists from the post-millennial old-time music scene: banjoist Victor Furtado and fiddler Andrew Vogts, together known as the Psycho Exploding Orangutans.
Furtado and Vogts possess a rare combination of exceptional virtuosity, extraordinary creativity, commitment, and daring. Make no mistake; Psycho Exploding Orangutans have diligently mastered the musical traditions that birthed them. (They both have ample trophies to prove it.) As you listen to traditional tunes like “Durang’s Hornpipe” or “Chinquapin Hunting,” you surely will hear authentic Appalachian style.
That said, Victor and Andrew are the same rabble-rousers who famously smuggled a saxophonist onto the stage of the Galax Old Fiddlers’ Convention’s band competition. So don’t be surprised when Victor suddenly plunks out some dissonant licks in “Denver Belle,” or when Andrew interrupts him with percussive, bouncing, rapid-fire bow strokes, the likes of which you never heard from bluegrass icon Kenny Baker, or even newgrass pioneer Darol Anger.
Victor and Andrew reach far and wide as they explore the outer limits of their genre. New sounds, new rhythms, and innovative playing techniques continually add extra dimension and color to the classics. This fresh duo reminds us that all great music stems from a living tradition. As Andrew puts it:
We specialize in rock-out, funky, raging old-time. Despite the reputation Appalachian old-time music might have of being boring, repetitive tunes, that is far from reality. We prefer to think of old-time music as the rock ‘n' roll of the 18th century. We are privileged and honored to be innovators of this great style of music.
Of course, artists’ wilder creative urges are best served by composing original works. In this regard, Psycho Exploding Orangutans truly shine. Tunes like “Ghost on Hippie Hill,”“Sabertoothed Mammoth,” and “Monster Ride” bear many of the trademarks of lickety-split old-time breakdowns. However, they substantially expand and develop the form by adding slow, haunting introductions, percussive breaks, or down-tempo postludes. The ancient drones and modal harmonies of “Dandelion” recall Bela Bartók’s violin duos inspired by Hungarian folk music. Meanwhile, “Serenity Peaks” brings funky hip-hop beats to the fore for a contemporary take on the banjo-fiddle duet.
Victor Furtado and Andrew Vogt’s output represents a truly formidable aesthetic scope. When you hear this record, you can easily understand how Psycho Exploding Orangutans are just as comfortable sharing the stage with The Beach Boys as they are jamming with Mark O’Connor and Noam Pikelny. We are so fortunate to have a debut album capturing their creative talents right at the dawn of their professional, adult careers. We’re in for a wild ride, folks. Let’s enjoy it!
-Dr. David Wallace,
Chair, Berklee College of Music String Department