It's easy to understand why no one has commented on this one to date -- how the hell do you describe it? There's lots of electric guitar here and some electric bass too, but also viola and some unusual percussion. One moment it rocks out in a manner fully suited for air-guitar, and a few minutes later you're getting African lyrics thrown at you machine-gun style with a jazzy backdrop. Then the guitars kick in again, and somebody is wailing on it. How about some Celtic vocals? Yeah, got that too, and what the heck -- let's mix in the African vocalist with it. And then there's track 8, with a Liberian-born soprano singing beautifully… something about being your pineapple.
Three guitarists are listed, but this sure ain't Lynyrd Skynyrd.
So Sean Noonan et al. are brewing up some seriously weird stuff here. Well, they have found the right guy I suppose, because I love weird in music. But if this qualifies as jazz, and I suppose it is (it's on Songlines after all) it's the strangest jazz recording I've ever heard, and it's not close. Luckily, I find it weird in a good way.
The guitar work is excellent, ranging from pensive-jazzy to flat out rockin'. The bass stands out too, and the viola kicks in to get your attention at appropriate times. Noonan is the drummer, so you expect some emphasis there. 6 out of the 10 tracks are instrumental.
The mix is largely up front for much of the disc, but the rears are quite active with this or that element. Two examples of bold use of the rears are track 5 "Urban Mbalax" where some percussive instrument is moving around from side to side, and track 9 "Scabies" which has some wickedly wild guitars in the rears.
This isn't a disc that you throw on and let it play in the background, there's way too much going on for that. It's complex and very diverse. I haven't listened to it a ton of times, but it seems like the sort of disc that would really reward repeated listenings.
I'm giving it a 9, which may be generous, but it's definitely surround-y and must benefit considerably from being spread out in surround (I haven't listened to it in stereo, and won't). And it is definitely different. if you're looking for some undiscovered surround gold and don't fear the unconventional, you might give this one a shot.