Russ Liquid Test @ Asheville Music Hall 4-5-2018 (Partial)
Redefining the possibilities of modern music, The Russ Liquid Test fuses the raw vitality of classic funk and the inventive sound design of electronic production. Songwriter/producer and renowned brass specialist Russell Scott heads up the New Orleans-based band. Guitarist Andrew Block and drummer Deven Trusclair round things out, with each providing a distinct musical background deeply rooted in the New Orleans jazz scene. Their debut EP 1984 featured an eclectic array of guest collaborators such as Mr. Lif and Ivan Neville—successfully creating an auditory canvas to forge The Russ Liquid Test’s irresistibly soulful future-vintage stylings.
A kinetic energy infuses each track on 1984. Giving way to a mixture of funk/jazz/electro, The Russ Liquid Test evokes a kaleidoscope of textures, senses, and moods. Featuring Ivan Neville on keyboards and the Funky Meters’ Russell Batiste Jr. on drums, the effervescent and synth-heavy title track “speaks about the current state of America from the perspective of an outsider,” as described by Scott. Lead single “Honesty,” meanwhile, finds The Russ Liquid Test slipping into a woozy psychedelia, offset by a brilliantly structured dichotomy introduced in its second-line-inspired groove.
At the heart of The Russ Liquid Test is an improv-driven musicality that began with Scott’s taking up classical piano. After spending several years playing in a jazz quintet on cruise ships and touring with psychedelic ska band Uprite Dub Orchestra, his one-of-a-kind artistry was unveiled in the genre-busting musical performance group MarchFourth Marching Band. Capable of playing the trumpet and saxophone, Scott quickly began experimenting with electronic music, eventually adopting the moniker of Russ Liquid. As his full-length debut, 2013’s Foreign Frequency showcased a forward-thinking mentality and fearless vision, anchored by an incomparable knowledge of music as a whole. “I wanted new colors to paint with,” says Scott of his foray into electronic music. “I kind of look at the electronic world as this whole other color palette, compared to the traditional sounds we’ve been working with for the past however many years.”
While on tour with Gramatik in 2014, Scott crossed paths with Block and discovered the duo’s shared musical tastes and philosophies. A South Florida native, Block grew playing guitar in his local Pentecostal church. “I wasn’t religious, I just wanted to play at that church because the music there was amazing,” says Block. He later relocated to New Orleans, pursuing his dream of becoming a full-time musician. The guitarist’s legendary endeavors reached fellow purveyors of soul/funk/R&B, ranging from Pretty Lights to New Orleans icon Dr. John. Capable of collaborating and working as a solo artist without missing a beat, Block released his 2014 debut You Can Only Go Up From Here on Gramatik’s independent label Lowtemp.
In the making of 1984, The Russ Liquid Test compounded their potent chemistry by bringing in a lineup of equally impassioned musicians. “Coming from a background of playing in bands and then getting into electronic music, I’d really missed having that interaction with other musicians,” says Scott. “The most rewarding thing for me is being able to bounce ideas off other people, so that the music ends up having more than just one person’s vibe to it. Ultimately it lets you give the audience even more to connect with.”
The studio workhorses have already begun working on a sophomore EP. The Russ Liquid Test also presents a joyful sense of synergy in their high-powered live shows, with recent appearances including Shambhala Music Festival, Lightning in a Bottle, Summer Camp, and Sonic Bloom, among others. No matter the setting, a clear multidimensionality can always be heard in The Russ Liquid Test’s projects. “We want to make people feel good but also give them something to reflect with,” says Scott. “It’s not about just making party music or music that’s more introspective—it’s for the full gamut of human expression, and we want it to be just as dynamic as life itself.”