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Wassabi Collective's New CD "CATO" Previewed

Jay Funk Dawg

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by: Jay Cleary

After years of cross Canada tours, the gypsy family known as the Wassabi Collective unveils their first studio EP,"CATO". The album maintains a great flow of Wassabi's organic electro grooves vibe, without being enitrely predictable.

Showing some more introspective and songwriting side, the the first cut "Blindfolded" starts with an ambient introduction that leads into a soulful groove with a strong vocal performance by lead singer/percussionist Melissa Meretsky. Elastic Bass, sparce jazzy guitar flourishes, percussion effects and enlightened power-rap slowjam ensue, layering together into a mighty guitar solo and guitar heavy outro.

Recorded in Kelowna over five days, CATO is the result of a College End of Year Project at the Digital Arts School. Nine Graduate Students brought the project to fruition, utlizing the school's sophisticated, state of the art sound recording studio and the wonders of ProTools technology. The strong production serves The Wassabi Collective well, helping find a pleasing sonic balance between the organic and electronic instruments.

The album documents "Wassabi" at the beginning of a new era, ushered in by newest member Rahj "Mahal" Levinson, on keys and guitar and the band's move to Nelson, BC from Victoria last year to bring on board new drummer Jimmy Lewis.

By the time the third track "New Fuzz" hits, the band continues to impress with Mellisa's serene wordplay, and solid grooves as the song takes an unexpected turn, incorporation of all types of all organic and electronic sounds and textures leading into a world beat tip, combining elements of African Soucous guitar and psychedelic guitar wizardy. Mellisa's percussion work is certainly showcased, as the song takes a couple of twists and turns... meshing percussion laced house grooves and soothing keyboards ending on a poignant and poetic vocal outro.

Bassist Scott Milne does a hell of a job laying down pulsating basslines, as does Jimmy Lewis on drums pushing the groove, laying the foundation for guitarist Brent "Gisto" Hongisto delayed guitar riffs and epic solos, Rahj's rhytm guitar and tasty keyboard work as well as Mellisa's sexy vocal melodies.

Gisto's reggae influence becomes quite apparent near the end of the album, as the guitarist steps out as a humble vocalist. Suprisingly "Simplicity" stands out as the album's single with it's hooky Carribean chorus and consise reggae arrangement.

CATO showcases Wassabi's new musical possibilities. Each song takes the listener on a voyage through the fusion of the bands's electronica, soul, funk, and world music influences. You can feel that the songs were written for use on the stage, as each track except for the last clocks in at over 8 minutes. Nevertheless, Wassabi have always carved their own path as an original Band, eshewing traditional song structures for engaging, energy fuelled and unpredictable arrangements. Although CATO is a strong release, Wassabi's strength still thirves in their live performances. Be sure to check 'em out on tour across Canada this summer.

APRIL FOOLS DAY in Toronto will be a landmark event showcasing the new WC line up and new material off "CATO" at the El Mocambo. for more info visit: www.wassabi.net

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