Sep 1, 2009

The Motet - Dig Deep


Boulder, Colorado's The Motet released Dig Deep in July of 2009; The album is a unique experience, reflecting the work of more twelve current and former members of or contributors to the band from over its rich history. The eleven tracks presented on Dig Deep give an overview of the band not as an ensemble but almost as a vibrant family of musicians, continually growing and refreshing itself over time.

Dig Deep gets off to a flying start with Kalakuta Show, a funky bit of Space Age Jazz/Electronica that will get your toes tapping and your feet moving. Roforofo Fight is a busy Electronica/Dance tune that draws on funk rhythms and jazz instrumentation to expand the sound around an incessant rhythm more fitting to a dance club than casual listening. Dig Deep draws in Latin Rhythms to liven up the Electronic instrumentation underneath a forgettable synth progression. It's a tune likely to do well on the club scene but is little more than fluff. Mighty goes back to the Funk/Jazz mix that seems to work so well for The Motet. The instruments here all sound organic (with the exception of a 1970's sounding Synth that pops up from time to time). The bass work in particular is notable here.

Push goes for a more mainstream Funk/R&B sound, with The Motet creating a tune that might have been a huge chart hit if it were put out ten years ago. Expensive Sh!t plays like a grandiose display of the power of greed, from the inner turmoil to the glitzy presentation. The song is ultimately listenable, creative a showpiece atmosphere that's inescapable. The Motet slows things down a bit with South African rhythms on The Luxury Of Doubt. New Old opens with a xylophone monologue that sounds like a take on a Steve Howe guitar line (Changes) before settling into a comfortable and repetitive song structure whose best minutes are at the beginning. Dig Deep concludes with Tonight It Belong To You, opening with a sample from Barack Obama's victory speech on Election Day 2008. Steeped in Funk and ethereal synth overlays, the song squanders what is implied as an inspired moment with a mundane bit of dance music that's more programmed progression and beats than inspired creativity.

It's interesting that a band named The Motet would be so instrumentally talented, or perhaps that's the band's private joke. There is a distinct level of musical talent in the band, and when they're on track they're amazing. The Motet occasionally loses their focus on Dig Deep, withdrawing into cliché or outright formulaic song construction. Luckily these instances are the exceptions rather than the rule. Dig Deep doesn't stand still, mixing styles and influences with a reckless abandon that generally works and creates an atmosphere that makes the listener want to dance along. Dig Deep is a worthy offering. I'll be curious to see where The Motet goes next.


Dig Deep is a tapestry of sound that pushes the expectations of any listener who is familiar with the band’s signature mix of afrobeat, electronica, funk, and jazz. Dig Deep presents The Motet revisited and refreshed, showcasing 12 great musicians who have contributed to the band over the years. Much of the material is geared toward the studio setting rather than their famed live shows, which is evident in Watts’ rich production of interweaving rhythms and melodies. But in addition, every song on the 11-track album expresses the talents of these great musicians and plays well to the roots of the band’s signature sound.

The album, in a sense, is a family reunion with Dave Watts on the drums, Joey Porter on keyboards, Scott Messersmith on percussion, Mike Tiernan on guitar, Garrett Sayers on bass, and the powerhouse horn section of Dominic Lalli (tenor), John Stewart (baritone), and Dan Sears (trumpet). Beth Quist and Jans Ingber put their touch on three tracks with some strong vocals and the recording is rounded out with Paul McDaniel on bass and Zivanni Masango on guitar.


When Dave Watts started up the Motet more than a decade ago, he and fellow drummer Scott Messersmith took a trip to Cuba to hone their Afro-Caribbean rhythms. I'm not sure if the Motet percussion-trust has visited Africa, but over the years, they have set their sights further east. “Dig Deep” opens with two tunes by the late Nigerian Fela Kuti, the innovator of Afro-pop. The sounds get even richer when Watts and Co. play the original song “Nemesis,” which adds echoes of Stevie Wonder and Herbie Hancock's Head Hunters to the African base. The title track hints at Jamaican dub, but with stimulating touches of modern groove and an overall jazz approach thrown in. “Dig Deep” is mostly instrumental, but the addition of vocals, by Jans Ingber, on the soulful, funky “Push” doesn't impede the beat. Fans of Afro-pop and groove will dig this.


2009 brings a new sound to a familiar face in the national music community. With an astonishingly talented cast of musicians, The Motet has refined their sound and their vision into a dynamic and expressive improvisational force.
Founded and led by drummer Dave Watts, The Motet began almost ten years ago and hasn’t let up since. Featuring complex compositions written and arranged by Watts himself, the music tells a story through syncopated rhythms and melodies.

“I’ve always written parts for guitar, bass, horns, and percussion. Because they’ve all been created with a clave in mind, there’s a very specific way in which the parts interact,” explains Watts.

“That’s what gives the song its character. When we play live sometimes we’ll get into a groove, play the head, and then open up for solos. And all the while, everything is tied to the clave with everyone playing in it. That’s just one way you approach playing music with respect for it’s composition or tradition.”

As music and technology evolve at an astounding rate, so too has The Motet pioneered their unique sound while continuing to defy categorization. With roots in Jazz, Afrobeat, Funk, Salsa and Samba, The Motet keeps their audiences in a dancing frenzy by layering House and Techno rhythms into a style that is uniquely their own.

From years of incessant touring and with a rich legacy under their belt, The Motet’s “resolve to evolve” has made them indispensable in the East and West Coast groove circuits.

Writes Dave Kirby of Boulder Magazine: “Watts' dedication and artistic integrity have created an elusive musical entity which seems to be as much fun to play in as it is to go out and hear.”

The Motet is a world-class ensemble that whips audiences into a whirlwind using sheer impromptu force. The rhythms are spontaneous and textured and the beats are hard-driving. The band uses this energy to create a rapport between the audience and themselves that is rarely seen in today's world of manufactured rock. The Motet consecrates the ground on which dance music meets free-form improvisation.



01. kalakuta show
02. roforofo fight
03. nemesis
04. dig deep
05. mighty
06. push
07. expensive shit
08. the luxory of doubt
09. new old
10. guru
11. tonight it belongs to you

Album availabe for free download @ The Motet @ MySpace

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