Review Summary: Nu-tribalism.
Pulse. Feel. Timing. These are the building blocks of rhythm as currently known, and Herbie Hancock’s Sextant
gets down to the nitty-gritty of it. Borrowing unabashedly from tribal percussion, Hancock and his Mwandishi-era octet pursue a bare rhythmic feel, strongly recalling African drum circles and early forms of music itself. However, they do this in an incredibly innovative and particular way, as they not only utilize acoustic percussion but also from modular synthesizers and electronic drums. The resulting product is a delightful show of rhythm, in which the octet put forth a futuristic but fundamental-based sound like nothing before it; it’s as if the listener is attaining a small glimpse of what tribal music will sound like hundreds of years from now.
On top of the percussive elements, the octet also pushes the futuristic feel with electronic soundscapes which enhance the advanced harmonic concepts played by the band. Mellotrons, clavinets, and a variety of synthesizers (as well as an occasional acoustic piano) played by Hancock provide a solid foundation whilst texturizing the music further. The rest of the members melodically play off the keys with a variety of instruments. These range from saxophones, clarinets, and trumpets to flugelhorns and Hum-A-Zoos. Naturally, a huge array of sonic capabilities is explored on the record, resulting in an incredible amount of color through sound. Vivid avant-tinged soundscapes are thrust on the listener throughout the album’s 40-minute runtime in an unapologetically brazen manner.
fascinates with its unique sound, it can be slightly overwhelming at times. The mixture and modernization of the wide range of musical ideas seen on the record is rather jarring at times, proving undeniably esoteric. However, the record is more rewarding because of it, as musical ideas can be extrapolated from it in a seemingly endless fashion. New themes and concepts transpire with each new listen. Sextant,
Herbie’s most innovative outing, is a truly remarkable album that cannot be properly experienced until heard, and it is absolutely advisable one does so. Time to groove.