Since his 2010 debut LP, Zombie Pimp Cowboys From Outer Space, former Ravelers vocalist and guitarist Mike Brown (aka The Man from RavCon) has been a musician cum mason, building sonic "movies of the mind" from the mortar of cult movies — a twang-inflected treasure trove of imagined spaghetti, spy, blacksploitation and Italo-horror soundtrack cues.
Brown's latest release, Skyscraper, employs the architect metaphor overtly, as the Man from RavCon erects the most intricate compositions of his career. On paper, Brown's grab bag of psych, funk, prog and god-knows-what-else should be a whiplash-inducing exercise in ADD. Yet Brown's deft genre cross-fertilizations are focused and unforced.
It sounds so natural when the music box waltz of "Secret Passage" dovetails into ghostly Mellotron, a six-string madrigal and the jazz-fusion legato runs of Alan Holdsworth gone full-metal Morricone. It makes perfect sense that the '60s jet-set romance of "The Spring of Our Content" seals the deal with arid High Plains Drifter guitar.
The combination of moody Midnight Cowboy harmonica, '70s Genesis synth chorus and circular John Barry fretwork in "Friend" seems, in retrospect, a no-brainer. You wonder why more tunes don't end with the coruscating spaghetti blues guitar of "Higher," or the funky Caesar-crossing-the-Rubicon cantor of "Veni, vidi, vici." With six LPs under his belt, Brown has long since bypassed mere pastiches of his beloved genres.
Instead, he seamlessly fuses his influences into catchy yet challenging and ever-changing tunes. Where Brown breaks new ground is in the emotional heft of his new instrumentals. Skyscraper is as funky 'n cool as his earlier work, but the LP's spiraling and soaring tracks transcend the groove-tastic plateau and become uplifting.