Buck Wild

Estradasphere's epic new recording, Buck Fever

Q: What's the difference between beer nuts and deer nuts?

A: Beer nuts are $2.95, deer nuts are under a buck.

It's surprising that this classic bit of puerile humor didn't make its way onto Estradasphere's epic new recording, Buck Fever. In between genre-mashing tunes, the album features goofy skits satirizing the manliness of buck huntin'. For example, after a Bachlike Casio-carnival introduction on “Trampoline Klan,” our heroes scramble through the leafy underbrush in search of their prey. When at last they come within striking range, one of the party reverently whispers, “That is a beautiful buck. That is a monster creature right there.” Then: BOOM! The jubilant hunters descend on their kill.Estradasphere underscores its point with National Enquirer-style CD cover art, which features computer-generated images of band members in military fatigues with shotguns, cans of Budweiser, and decapitated deer heads. As with most adolescent joke telling, there is little subtlety in Estradasphere's message. On “Bride of the Buck,” a pretentious preacher character overenunciates, “Maiden fair, fear not the king stag's horns, however masculine they may be.” Silly? Yes. Melodramatic? Certainly. But don't let the joshing fool you; Estradasphere is a group of ferociously talented musicians.

Spawned three years ago in the recital halls of UC Santa Cruz's classical and jazz departments, this quintet of restless virtuosos taps an arsenal of instruments that would put the Duke Ellington Orchestra to shame, including banjo, mandolin, glockenspiel, and didgeridoo, not to mention crazy vocals spanning netherworld roars and Tuvan throat-singing. The band appropriately calls its concept “world fusion avant-garde.” Set lists and single tunes can range from swing to death metal to surf to '70s game-show soundtracks. Live shows may include such co-conspirators as fire dancers and meditating yogis.

Ambitious and irreverent, Estradasphere defies the so-called right way of musicmaking, in the process making music that's big-time fun.

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