Like something out of 1950s science fiction, the cover says everything it needs to about the disc’s contents. Showcasing an absurd kookiness that no doubt represents the personality of Fitzgibbons, the album catches you off-guard from minute one, transcending its surface disposition to reveal a catchy, technical work. Featuring mostly steelpan instrumentation, the album begins with the dreamy and sarcastic “Here For Now,” which sounds like all it needs is the narrative talents of Bill Murray’s Steve Zissou character from the “Life Aquatic: With Steve Zissou” film to complete its retro ocean-discovery documentary feel.
Having composed all music and performed all parts for the album, Fitzgibbons displays great percussive prowess on each instrument, delivering a nuanced performance throughout. With a litany of syncopated, unison punches, odd-meter time signatures and hypnotic grooves, each track has its own focus that brings the album together as a whole. “Kwasi Bruni,” an African phrase used to describe European males, begins slow, soon moving into a 6/8 African groove, which seemed to effectively convey the title’s message of culture shock. As that track moves on, keep a lookout for the hip ending jam section, featuring the guitar pans.
The mood-enducing “Rainmaker” has a warm, calypso feel, reminiscent of Andy Narell’s last album, “Oui Ma Cherie!” The difference, of course, is the continuation of the zany vibe, mixed with lots of 9th chords scattered throughout, adding a jazzy feel.
While all tracks are performed skillfully, it would be the title track, “The Travelers,” that best achieves Fitzgibbons’ primary goal. For the life of me, I can’t really say what that goal is, but I think that’s kind of the point. Coming off like a mix between the musical modes found in 1960’s James Bond films and bad 50s sci-fi, this track is pure fun. It represents a sense of humor and creative artistry not found in most instrumental music. It usually takes a vocalist to convey the charm and wit displayed here.
As a whole, if there’s one thing I can say for Fitzgibbon’s debut effort, it’s that he’s bold. Infusing so many styles, ideas and emotions into one album, using the steelpan as the primary instrumentation, and creating such a silly album cover, make this a record worth checking out. If for nothing else, just to be able to step into someone else’s head wondering, “what was he thinking?” all the while maintaining a mischievous grin.
Patrick Fitzgibbon performs “Stella By Starlight” by Victor Young.