More than just about any other "pop" release this year, Out of Nowhere, Jimi Tenor's back-to-the-future psychedelic soul fantasia, is a positive embodiment of the international music Cuisinart mentality now in vogue on the continent. A Finn living in Barcelona, Spain (after stints in Berlin, New York and London), and recording with a 55-piece Polish orchestra for a Sheffield, England, techno label, Tenor's third U.S. album is a panoramic, stoned-soul sprawl reminiscent of hippie-era Los Angeles studio mavericks such as David Axelrod ("Cannonball" Adderley, Electric Prunes) and edgy soundtrack composers such as "Mission Impossible" man Lalo Schifrin.
Shaken and stirred into a record's worth of sonic goulash, even normally supportive fusionaries might be scared off by the high brow-winking of the overall kitschy conceit here. But for the most part the kitsch never arrives, and the listener is left instead with an album that incorporates the free-jazzy utopia of Sun Ra, the funky blaxploitative side of Ween, and the druggy, spiritual sexuality of a Parade-era Prince high on E. Suffice it to say that Out of Nowhere is the perfect CD for curling up with a loved one and sharing hallucinations by.
Tenor's savvy as an arranger enhances the quality of sensuous trippiness that the album is swathed in. Exquisite string and brass lines that recall classic '70s Philly soul (albeit bruised by subtly gritty dissonance) swing alongside understated tabla grooves, serving as sonic beds for guitar and sitar solos to stretch out on. In Tenor's world, such East-meets-West moments happen so naturally you'd think Out of Nowhere was a musical treaty. It kind of is, actually, as the lyrics proclaim basic tenets of universal love and passionate lust, common ground that all of Tenor's influences can agree on.
From the whisper-to-a-scream fanfare of the self-titled instrumental opener to the sweaty finale, "Call of the Wild" (RealAudio excerpt), on which vocalist Nicole Willis leads a chorus coming down from outer space on chirping woodwinds, Tenor fashions Out of Nowhere as a linear, unified piece. Utilizing his own breathy falsetto on a highly psychedelic Eastern groove such as "Hypnotic Drugstore" (RealAudio excerpt) or a Milky Way-struck soul elegy such as "Paint the Stars," Tenor is a Pleasuredome creator at play.
At times, such as on the ambient soul-jazz incantation "Backbone of Night" (RealAudio excerpt), Tenor's one-world soul mantra becomes even more obvious, and Out of Nowhere begins to resemble a wider-screen version of an Air record. In the end, it is postmodern enough to recognize its own cheekiness but so full of Day-Glo soul that it transcends the global mixmaster mentality from which it springs.