Neslorchestra, The Primordial Epiphany (Album Review)

Not all records can combine gonzo, dystopian conspiracy narratives and heartfelt pretty playing, but somehow long-awaited Neslorchestra record makes these seeming opposites work. It might be due to leader Rick Trolsen, trombonist and bandleader, whose music includes late night French Quarter standards and the early days of the bone-in meaty rock of Bonerama. Trolsen and engineer Tim Stambaugh recorded this over the course of two years. The challenge is to keep it coherent, and to their credit it never rides off the rails except when it wants to. Trolsen employs 27 of the great unsung musicians of New Orleans to execute his vision of overdriven Zappa-esque fusion, tight 1970s big band charts, and lovely melodies and harmonies. In between songs, Trolsen’s narrative details secret experiments and the desperate plight of humanity in his best Vincent Price meets the Central Scrutinizer voice. Even though there is a great deal of craziness in the playing, the songs never lose their structure. They always seem to be going in a direction and trying to express something. Even when the double whammy combination of the two of the wildest songs, “Maniacal Hysteria” and “Naked Frustration,” brings the record to a great climax, the Neslorchestra brings it back onto the rails to end with the uplifting anthem of “The Gift.”