Three years after their debut, national treasure The Melbourne Ska Orchestra delivers their new album, Sierra Kilo Alpha.

Nicky Bomba‘s thirty-piece ska juggernaut have taken things up a notch with Sierra Kilo Alpha – the sounds of course are still rooted in classic ska but shot through with Cuban, Jamaican and inner-city Melbourne colours. For an album recorded in the winter of 2015, it is pretty damn sunny and hot to trot.

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The snaky, swirling melody of opener ‘Escher’ sets the mission statement – heavy on the horns, beefy on the funk, yet with enough of the dancing lightness of snap-brim ska to get your ass on the floor. Pat Powell‘s knowing vocal – as all across Sierra Kilo Alpha – comes across with a grin and a worldly wink.

Leading single ‘Funkchuck’ is chunky, funky and motors along on a rocksteady groove to where it’s going. ‘Bombay Detective’ opens with sitar-exotica – like so many arrangements here, it suggest a movie-for-your-mind: a thrill-ride thriller, moody, racy, noir.Melb ska orch2

‘Nothing in The Way’ has a circular, snaking riff, like the opener, ‘Escher’ which shows the quiet genius in Bomba’s horn and rhythm arrangements – nothing gets in the way of the groove, yet there is always so much to listen to on the way.

Afro-Cuban flavours sepia ‘Solitary Island Sway’ and ‘Special Thing’ while the largely instrumental ‘Vespa Ska’ has tremolo spaghetti-Western guitar setting the showdown scene. ‘Sly Boots’ (my gold star for next single) is Nutty Boy ska with a gold-plated hook.

The sound is huge and the band is tight; the MSO will be touring with up to 30 players, taking Sierra Kilo Alpha across Australia (prior to going to London and beyond, where they are adored). And as throbbingly vital as this album is, you know their live shows will be through the big-top roof. Don’t miss them.

Published May 2016 on theorangepress.net

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