A reticent guitar part grinds up against a ruing organ, both of which seeming utterly beside themselves as a passive bit of percussion scrapes between the two. Striking away at a minor key melody, we start to fall in step with the swaying beat, getting lost in the transient disposition of the music and abandoning all sense of care or worry. About 20 minutes later, we’re swinging; the funk is understated, but it’s there, and the bass is pushing us onto the dancefloor (leaving our inhibitions behind along the way). Whether it’s the tortured rhythm of “Better Man” or the strut of “Don’t Stop the Music,” Freightrain is determined to stir a powerful reaction from within in their all new album Outside Ourselves.
Outside Ourselves isn’t a record that lacks little cohesiveness beyond the central framework of its free jazz, jam band stylization. Though the contrast between plush tunes like “Elijah,” the title track, “Dark Season Blues” and “You Found Me” with the more eclectic “Better Man,” “Wake Up” and the title track’s reprisal is a noticeable one, it isn’t so elaborately constructed as to make this LP feel lopsided or fractured. If anything, when assembled as a complete piece, these fragments of sheer tonality become something so genuinely fascinating to examine that any sense of disconnection between the expansive conceptualism and the audience themselves is lost in the impact. To put it a little more simply, once you give this record a chance, it’s hard to focus on its subtle contradictions in light of the massive grandeur and sophistication it sports.
The balance of this album is rooted in the rigid textures that formulate its most passionate moments. “Elijah,” as we encounter it in the first track slot, is shaped not by its relaxed beat, but through the music’s playful relationship with the tempo. The band doesn’t attack the rhythm by running alongside it; they come up from behind, allowing the pace to be set ahead of them and filling in all the gaps as the song progresses on. It’s the low-key stuff like this, the bread and butter intricacies if you will, that makes Outside Ourselves the precise and emotionally-charged release that it is. Here, Freightrain aren’t playing for the audience – they’re playing for themselves, and exuding raw artistry with every note they turn out.
Outside Ourselves can be described as modern easy listening with an acerbic bite, and while it fails to play by any of the rules and regulations set forth by the pop music establishment, its crude rejection of the status quo is exactly why I’m pushing you to pick up your own copy now. Freightrain has a reputation and hard-earned position in the American musical underground, but when I listen to this as both a critic and a fan, it’s deeply confusing to me as to why they’ve never broken through the mainstream in the same way that other, far less talented acts have. But with that said, the music that they conjure up in the studio and on this LP is so much more accessible for that simple fact alone. Outside Ourselves was born of aestheticism, not financial fixations.
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PURCHASE LINK: https://www.amazon.com/Outside-Ourselves/dp/B071DPQX8S