New Orleans Nightcrawlers, Slither Slice (Threadhead)

Very rarely does an album come along that redefines the sound and spirit of an entire genre. On their first release in almost a decade, the New Orleans Nightcrawlers have created a sound more imaginative, adventurous and contagious than any of its esteemed forebears. On all fronts, musically, compositionally and production-wise, the band’s fourth album, Slither Slice, sets an unprecedented high within the brass band world.

In recent years, the “contemporary” New Orleans brass band scene has slipped further and further into the novelty range—all party and no substance. And while splashing funk, hip-hip, soul and R&B atop some second-line beats and alongside a slew of free-wheeling solos may pave the way for an epic, all-night celebration, rarely does it lead to an album of any significance. On the other side of this debate, “traditional” brass band albums often offer arresting displays of musicianship, but rarely do they stir up any sort of frenzy. What sets the Nightcrawlers apart is their ability to capture the rampant enthusiasm of a sweaty brass soiree and color each nuance and shift with sublime expertise and vitality without any discernable tradeoff.

Slither Slice is more than just a string of grooves or a captivating musical showcase. It’s an experience—the embodiment a new era, sonically and culturally. You can feel it in the swirling horns, swinging saxes, bounding rhythms and billowing sousaphone of “8th Ward Strut.” From the sonorous groove of the title track to the tense eruption of “Come Back with It,” and from the crackling call-and-response of “Hold’em Joe” to the resounding momentum of “Alright Alright” and on to the frenetic rumble of “Pontchartrain Beach,” the parade takes many twits and turns. Still, showmanship never overshadows songcraft, even though most tracks span six minutes. While you’ll be hard pressed to find brass this tight, jazz this loose and funk this vibrant, it’s Slither Slice’s intangibles that’ll really blow you away. Listen closely, dance freely and discover the pulse of New Orleans today.