Sunday, July 17, 2016

Album Review: Mike Dillon- Functioning Broke

Mike Dillon is associated with big beats and monstrous grooves.  The late singer-songwriter Elliott Smith is remembered in part for his heartbreaking lyrics.  That’s why Functioning Broke, Dillon’s instrumental album that includes arrangements of six Smith compositions, initially seems like an absurd proposition.

Yet the latest release by Dillon, a one-time member of Kansas City area ensembles including Malachy Papers, is a resounding success. Employing vibraphone, tubular bells and other empyreal instrumentation, Dillon evokes classical composer Steve Reich more than vibe pioneer Gary Burton on the meditative project.

Artists including Madeleine Peyroux have already demonstrated that Smith’s alcoholic lullaby “Between the Bars” translates well to jazz settings.  Dillon’s reading is haunting.  His interpretation of Smith’s “Independence Day” resembles the score of a Oscar-winning art film.

The sonic distortion that runs through Functioning Broke will understandably repel many listeners.  Whether by accident or design, the contorted sound adds an abrasive edge to even the most tranquil selections on the startling album.

Dillon performs at the Brick on Thursday, July 28.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

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