The Wee Trio
Ashes to Ashes: A David Bowie Intraspective
Many listeners consider a cover album to be a lagniappe effort at best…at worst, a cop out. New Orleans jazz experimentalists The Wee Trio's latest is neither—it is an instrumental examination of the musical core of one of modern music's most uncanny and impactful icons.
"Battle for Britain," an esoteric selection from Bowie's then heavily NIN-influenced 1997 outing Earthling flawlessly illustrates the Wee Trio's ability to translate Bowie's surreal space oddities into methodical minimalism. The anxiety-induced drumming and psychotic industrial riffs are effortlessly sedated into a meditative calm, clarifying the songs harmonic arrangements. "Sundays" is another lesser-known late-career track. Bowie's ambient electro-blues dirge introduces additional instrumental layers as the song progresses, gradually building to an anticlimactic crescendo. The Wee Trio contain this foreboding electronic moodiness into a more restrained emotional delivery, again transforming an alarming air into a tranquil reflection.
More traditional pop-singles from Bowie's catalog such as "1984" and "Man Who Sold the World" will succeed in putting a smile on the recognizing faces of fans, however the reworkings shed less insight into the composition of the originals (though the solo at the conclusion of "MWSTW" is the album's most thrilling performance). "Queen Bitch" does an effective job of channeling its inspiration's punk-rock riffage into a soothing reimagining that's still taught with a tinge of the original's visceral tension. Finally, "Ashes to Ashes" washes away all of Bowie's pop-glam makeup, revealing the intense impact of the bass and drums underneath.
An interesting album for fans of Bowie and lounge jazz alike.