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Variable Unit

Cold Flow

Cold Flow

UPC: 698873024911

Format: LP

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Variable Unit icnludes: Sonny Fortune, Paul Hanson (saxophone); Tim Hyland (trumpet); Michael Rinta (trombone); Kat Ouano (Fender Rhodes piano); Matt Montgomery (bass); Elton Bradman, Max Macvetty, Thomas McCree, Ben Conrad (drums); Gregory Howe (percussion); DJ Zeph (DJ).
Thanks to Handbook for the Apocalypse, many of the people who are aware of Variable Unit tend think of them as a sociopolitical group along the lines of Public Enemy, the Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy, Boogie Down Productions, and Consolidated; when a group has a political agenda and is into hip-hop, those comparisons come easily. And yet, it would be a mistake to think of V.U. as a full-time rap group. They have included some rapping, but much of their work is best described as spoken word with a track -- and, of course, spoken word isn't the same as rap. Handbook for the Apocalypse found V.U. using both spoken word and rap to get their political and social points across; however, there's nothing sociopolitical about their follow-up album, Cold Flow. In fact, they stay away from spoken word and rap on this 2003 release, which turns out to be an instrumental album. And even without any words or lyrics, V.U. continues to be musically intriguing (not to mention difficult to categorize). Although Cold Flow isn't rap, V.U. maintains a strong hip-hop influence -- one can be an instrumentalist and still be influenced by hip-hop's beats and tracks -- and the group remains cognizant of electronica as well as the funkier side of jazz; the sort of soul-jazz and jazz-funk influences that have worked well for V.U. in the past also work well on Cold Flow. In fact, the Miles Davis-like "Court of Chords" features Sonny Fortune, a veteran jazz saxophonist who has played everything from post-bop to fusion. Handbook for the Apocalypse remains the most essential album that V.U. came out with in the early 2000s, but Cold Flow is a respectable follow-up -- one that successfully shows off another side of the flexible Bay Area outfit. ~ Alex Henderson