Glad to see a new album by Mr. Ho’s Orchestrotica in the Book-o-sphere, definitely a welcome addition to my sonic library. Third River Rangoon (Tiki) is a low-key affair compared to their last album, as it’s not quite a proper exotica orchestra, but rather the group restrict themselves to a quartet setting, equal to the groups of Arthur Lyman and Martin Denny. In this setting you get to here more of the core of the music, the center of the groove and instrumentation that they offer. In other words, it’s one way to hear if these guys are more than just exploring this music as a novelty, and trust me when I say these guys are no joke.
The quartet in this case consists of Brian O’Neill (vibes, percussion), Jason Davis (acoustic bass), Noriko Terada (live percussion), and Geni Skendo (bass flute, c-flute), and the way the music was recorded and mixed, it sounds like those old records from the 60’s where the bands may have recorded in an aluminum dome (in fact, many exotica recordings and Hawaiian records made in Hawai’i in the 1960’s were recorded at the Hilton Hawaiian Village Dome).
Of course, Mr. Ho’s Orchestrotica probably didn’t record in any aluminum dome, but the sound in these songs have that same roomy, atmospheric sound that will make the music sound bigger and bolder than love, which was often the point of a lot of exotica and lounge music: to take you to a place unlike the one you may be in while listening to this in your hi-fi room.
There’s a good amount of original material on here, composed by O’Neill, and hearing songs like “Phoenix, Goodbye” may place you in the hot and sandy territories of Casa Granda, or somewhere in the Middle East. Then there are tracks like “Lonesome Aku Of Alewife” that are sly and sexy, and you may wonder if you’re being caught in a mood that you can’t escape (hint: you are).
You also have Milk Raskin‘s “Maika”, Cal Tjader‘s “Colorado Waltz”, and Tchaikovsky‘s “Arab Dance” on here, and for moments throughout this album you are taken away from the cool and serene beaches of a place in your mind into the mysterious and perceived uncertainty of foreign lands. However, if you chose to embrace the exotica of Mr. Ho’s Orchestrotica, then you’ve already made your first steps into foreign-yet-comfortable territory. What I also hear with this album is some nice mellow jazz not unlike Herbie Mann or even John Coltrane‘s lighter moments, and that’s when the novelty of them being lounge music ambassadors disappears. This is just damn good music, whether you call it lounge jazz, picnic table groove, or thrift store symphonic warmth. Take a trip, you’re in good hands.