October 2007
By Jon Garelick

This is a four-way collaboration of guitarist Bill Frisell and drummer/percussionist Matt Chamberlain with producers Lee Townsend (a longtime Frisell corner man) and Tucker Martine (Laura Viers, The Decemberists). The album has its genesis in long jams between Frisell and Chamberlain, and words like "soundscapes" in the press material might lead you to expect something heavy on groove and texture - which this album has in abundance, but it also has a lot more.

Townsend and Martine subjected the jams to "extreme editing," but then tapes went back to Frisell, who wrote horn and string parts (Ron Miles' cornet, Eyvind Kang's violin and viola) and fleshed out the material with additional tracks from himself and Martine as well as bassist Viktor Krauss. The result is 11 tracks of discrete character, all of pop-song length, all with strong melodic content lacing through the ambience. Sometimes there are distinct stylistic markers: the dirty blues guitar of "Mississippi Rising," the Montgomery/Bensen octaves and light funk of "Swamped," the acid-rock licks of "Monsoon."

But, as is always the case with any Frisell project, Flortone is never one thing, even from track to track. "The Wanderer" starts as a slow country shuffle before drifting into modal spaciousnetss reminiscent of In A Silent Way and then returning to the theme. And that country shuffle is matched with a very urbane melody line from the horns. So despite all the loops and effects and very Frisell-like idiosyncrasies, Floratone coheres. And, alsy typical of Frisell, new details are revealed on every listen.