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Chemistry Set
Cobblestone Below My Feet
Ogden Park

At times treading dangerously close to revivalist folk rock, Chemystry Set manages to swath itself in enough diverse musical ingredients that Cobblestone Below My Feet feels more like an experiment in prog-Americana. And for the most part, the band excels at bridging disparate styles and influences and energizing one generally homogenous aesthetic. As the disc progresses, King Crimson-style instrumental flourishes mingle with cheeky, simplistic Phish-like songwriting, all the while maintaining a refreshing undercurrent of humor that never fully descends into novelty.

Ten years and five albums in, this Bay Area band makes a habit of drastic departures from track to track. Album opener, “Thwart O-Five” is a beautifully minimal ukulele absurdist polemic where Baba Ndjhoni’s vocals flirt with biodiesel, green-freak dada musings: “Jumped on board a bit too late, I’m nothing but fertilize / Though history is my polyglot, I live in present tents.” While the slightly derivative “What We’ve Got” with its repetitive “Break on through” callouts and weaker female vocals from keyboardist Patty Hughes, quickly wears out its welcome, Chemystry Set seems naturally attuned to lulls in its own canon and quickly backhands a staggeringly delicate jazzy instrumental, “One Never Knows” in order to keep the disc from stalling. The album is at its strongest when straight up rock is sidestepped in favor of more exotic palettes.

Genre-melting fare like the brass-inflected, blues guitar jam-morph treat, “Zydecongo Stomp” and the tongue-in-cheek white-boy-reggae callout, “Lo Grade Dread” (sample lyric: “I and I singing this should make a Rastaman laugh / I and I got no struggle to speak of in my past”) allows the band enough legroom to wiggle out a few killer riffs and pull of a few illuminating punch lines.

Favorite Track: Track 12, "Zydecongo Stomp”

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Christopher j Ewing is a writer and filmmaker living in San Francisco with a girl and a designer dog (Chihuahua vs. dachshund). He is in a band by himself and has a myspace account ( and a production company ( for freelance film and crit/journo work.

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