Hazmat Modine: Box of Breath
It would be a cheat to label Hazmat Modine a world-music outfit, as their sound is just as easily pegged to the Mississippi Delta and the longreturned-to-dust swing joints of Kansas City. But it would also be lazy to call them Americana because they infuse their music with so many disparate elements drawn from Africa, Asia and those places in Europe that tourists never see. They’re rooted in modern-day New York, are beloved in Germany, but sometimes you could swear they were conjured off-the-grid in the deep Caribbean, or maybe the New Orleans of Satch and Buddy Bolden. Really, the best thing you can do is just to put on Box of Breath , stop worrying about who these cats are—OK, they’re led by this eccentric multi-instrumentalist named Wade Schuman and a whiz of a guitarist, Erik Della Penna, who co-write the tunes—or where they came from, and just let its multitude of sonic miracles sweep you away. This latest offering, as with Hazmat Modine’s previous ones, features bunches of horns doing things that horns rarely seem to do, alongside Schuman’s seismic harmonica wails and Della Penna’s swampy guitar and banjo guitar and vocals that don’t seem to belong to a time or place. They’re joined on most tracks by the Malian balafon player Balla Kouyaté, who brings a funky desert blues vibe to tracks like the opening “Crust of Bread.” Everything about Hazmat Modine is hipper than hip can be, and Box of Breath is the hippest thing they’ve ever done.