It was quite an eye-opening weekend for me, as I got my first glimpses of Perpetual Groove, Lotus, Barefoot Manner, and the Motet. These bands all vaulted into my rotation after the spirited sets they gave on the Home Grown stage that weekend. Of all the bands, it seemed to me that the Motet "brought the heat" more than any other. I found their mixture of Afro-Cuban groove, tight horn play, and energetic riffs to be uplifting tonic for the sweltering North Carolina sun. In the years since that event, I have only managed to see the Motet a few times, as their Colorado base and my total lack of traveling has minimized my interactions with this great band. Dave Watts is the driving force on the drum kit at the core of the Motet and I have long admired his work. I was tickled to get my copy of "Dig Deep" and have found the tracks, complete with a more "live-tronica" sound, to be broad and appealing. The tracks on this album spotlight Watts and a bevy of talented musicians and find the Motet redefining itself for the future.
"Dig Deep" begins with "Kalakuta Show," featuring driving horns, ethereal vocal contributions from Beth Quist, and the layered effects that define the album. "Roforofo Fight" (written by Fela Kuti) starts with light percussion before ratcheting up in intensity. The song features excellent saxophone, interesting effects, and a solid, driving beat that will inspire the denizens of late-night dance parties. The title track features driving percussion and is also sure to please an energetic crowd looking to dance. The song goes through several movements, coalescing with a loose, less-structured jam to close the song. "Mighty" features jazzy overtones and keyboards that mesh with a relaxed funk groove. This track invokes a sense of island serenity and meanders through various moods and tones, as if vacationing in a faraway place.
"Push" jumps out of the gates with a taut funk groove and energetic vocals from Jans Ingber. This track almost seems anachronistic to the rest of the album, as it invokes the spirit of bygone 70s era dance floors, while the rest of the album skyrockets into decidedly modern space. "Expensive Shit," which is Fela Kuti's third songwriting credit for the album, features the Afro-Cuban sensibility and grooves that define much of the band's earlier work. "The Luxury of Doubt" spotlights Beth Quist's ethereal vocals against a loosely structured jam, while "New Old" moves forward methodically, offering a nice platform for saxophones and brass. The album closes with "Tonight it Belongs to You," sampling certain passages from Barack Obama's election night speech.
I have found this album to be interesting and appealing, even versatile in its application of different moods and musical textures. I found the additional "livetronica" elements in this release to be enjoyable, as I tossed away my pre-existing frameworks and associations of the Motet. Dave Watts, with his unique style on the drum kit and with the music he makes in general, is instantly recognizable. Through experimentation and the addition of "livetronica" elements to their arrangements, Watts and his band mates have opened themselves up to greater audiences within the jam scene. That's probably a smart "business decision" when looking at the musical landscape these days, but a fruitless one if you can't pull it off. The Motet has no such problem, hitting the ball out of the park on several occasions in the tracks of "Dig Deep."
- By J. Evan Wade