Nautilus is a funk/trance/drum n’ bass trio out of Toronto. Their new release, Three Cuts in London (Pet Mantis Records, 2004), is an intelligent skillful album jammed with clever interplay, neo-psychedelia, and funky, danceable grooves.
While Three Cuts in London has some obvious elements of Portishead, Miles, and Scofield, it manages to avoid trying to clone of any of these, and the result is fresh, interesting, and listenable. Each member contributes his musical aesthetic to this veritable audio mantra, weaving an intense trance-like blanket of sound. More often than not the three-piece sounds more like a four- of five-piece ensemble, deftly using a wide arsenal of effects to produce this aural illusion.
Because of the seamless fusion of influences and the various dynamic shifts throughout this recording, each track sounds well-rehearsed and carefully thought-out, and yet what is most striking about this recording is that it is entirely improvised from start to finish. Says Avi Granite (guitar), "(this is) all improvised all the time. We are all like three record players spinning together: sometimes one album will end before the other, and sometimes albums run parallel, and sometimes the record player explodes... We're all interested in effects and finding new sounds on our instruments. It started off as trying to pull off live drum'n'bass/ jungle-influenced improvisations that people could dance to, and (it) has grown from there."
Certainly, there is a real unity of ideas and approach present that highlights both the musicality of each member and the communication between them. Scott Peterson’s fat, ballsy bass is sometimes joined by and sometimes juxtaposed by Granite’s playing, which shifts easily from discordant to eerie to spacey to playful, bobbing in and out of time. As a drummer, Kevin Howley is a relentless machine, often holding down punishing jungle beats for lengthy periods, yet still able to gear-down instantly into heavy reggae or free time passages.
In the end, this album sounds more like the movements from an elaborate jungle suite than eleven separate tracks. It’s rare to hear three such obviously skilled musicians put their talents to work on something so funky, but with Nautilus now resolutely in the fray, the ante has been upped, and we should certainly expect to see more artists follow their lead.