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The Explorers Club - “Together” (2016) review


Two of the tightest bands that exist in my world are The Beach Boys, though their music sounded so flawless and tight because the Wrecking Crew was actually playing the music, and Steely Dan, who were equal sonic geniuses, a band of unprecedented caliber. Then the Explorers Club filtered into my life, laced with harmonic and musical interpretations that are simply flowing and effortlessly intoxicating.

If there’s one thing I’ve come to appreciate from my time with Steely Dan and the Beach Boys, it’s that there’s nothing wrong with well crafted dynamic songs, even if these songs head down similar avenues as the aforementioned bands, as their sojourn into proficient harmonies and arrangements are delivered with a pure essence and appreciation for what has come before, and manage to enchant my ears by building on those early aspects with elaborate backing vocals, melodic hooks, and the wide open musical images of classic pop that’s both breezy and warm … suitable for poolside listening or strolling across the beach.

Of course it’s impossible to put The Explorers Club on the same footing as Steely Dan or The Beach Boys, simply because these two visionary bands did it first, though forty years ago, it would have been easy for me to draw a musical lineage for them as well. What’s essentially important is what The Explorers Club bring to the table that’s fresh and exciting, and in order to do that, one must free themselves from the notion that The Explorers Club are a group of wannabes, and accept that what they are laying down is a brilliant extension of musical history that is was no longer happening until they burst on the scene … perhaps with a bit or a revivalists attitude, though surely with the intention of opening a new chapter, and to my way of listening, there is nothing wrong with that in the least.

Just yesterday I dropped their album Freedom Wind onto my turntable, and while I sit here writing, citing references to The Beach Boys and Steely Dan, those bands didn’t cross my mind once as the record spun on, causing me to finally to sit down, transfixed with what I was hearing, feeling that the musical nature of my world was still expanding. Certainly many of the tracks by The Explorers Club sound as if they could have been half forgotten numbers lifted from the cutting room floor from so long ago, yet that aspect dose not entirely ring true, as what the Explorers do is to step up the game, paint with new colours, and string together notes in a manner that is reminiscent, yet very much evolved, being in and of the moment. The Explorers inspire harmonic jazz progressions, one that comes off as stripped down, yet in so sounding, its complexities become more apparent as melodies ascend and the wash out with a syncopation that’s been well considered and developed in order to not only embrace the listener, but to involve them, to flow through them, sounding playful, content, and really good.

The washed out water colours of the album’s artwork says it all ...

- Jenell Kesler
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