The Merrymaker’s Orchestrina – Little King and the Salamander

New York City’s The Merrymaker’s Orchestrina open Little King and the Salamander with the curt opener Hey Everybody, a guitar dominant instrumental with a strong Hendrix influence coming through, but it’s never imitative. It makes for a tasty beginning for a collection of demos that more than shows off the immense creativity behind The Merrymaker’s Orchestrina’s preceding album Act 3. The funkafied feel of the song is illustrative, as well, of the band’s diverse musical identity.

What Fools We Can Be changes things up in a big way. The design of the song is something you’ll hear again on Little King and the Salamander, a quasi-singer/songwriter track with a slightly psychedelic twist and Shivdasani proves himself capable of invoking emotion without ever straining for effect.

White Light and Lullabies is one of the album’s darker tunes but Shivdasani and his band mates, much to their credit, surrounds the lyrics and vocals with a strong melodic character.

Particle Craze is included, in a different version, on Act 3. The track included on Little King and the Salamanderr comes at listener in a very direct way, eschewing the light effects applied to the instruments on the Act 3 version in favor of a more singer/songwriter approach.

Exemplary upright bass playing and an edgy punk rock drive makes Together one of the most spirited tunes included on Little King and the Salamander and Shivdasani’s vocal is perfectly integrated with the arrangement.

I’ll Be (Kisses at Your Door) is very subtle – it sounds, superficially, like a love song of sorts, but it’s actually much more about obsession and the artistry that goes into this track deepens its effect on listeners.

Jeepers Creepers, like the album opener, is brief but the cockeyed free verse poetry of the song syncs up tightly with the challenging jazz characteristics of the arrangement.

Another experimentally tinged effort, Definitely Not My Underwear, definitely isn’t an ordinary rock number and mixes humor with some powerful punk rock influences.

Slip Away is a deeply meditative number with an acoustic heart and the likely earliest version of its standout counterpart on Act 3.  There’s a sweetness you hear with Shivdasani’s singing lacking in the earlier songs and reveals another side of the band’s identity. It truly sounds like there’s nothing Shivdasani and his collaborators can’t do.

The steady acoustic punctuated stride of the song Thinking About You has some strong backing vocals coming in at just the right time, but Shivdasani’s singing has an assertive feel and there’s some echo-drenched lead guitar adding further color to the song.

The last track I Have Always Been Here doesn’t conclude the album on an upbeat note, but it’s a striking bookend when compared to the album’s opener while the strong tempo of the song’s body keeps your attention riveted.

There’s something on Little King and the Salamander for every fan of intelligent modern music – Shivdasani and his band mates never respect genre boundaries and show they are comfortable working in any style. It makes for one of the more interesting albums in 2018.

To find out more about The Merrymaker’s Orchestrina, click here to visit their official website. Give them a like on Facebook by clicking here & a follow on Twitter by clicking here.

Eric Jarvis

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