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Change, while sometimes difficult, can also be a catalyst for something new and great. Such is the case with P.O.A., a project that came together when Gov’t Mule went on hiatus earlier this year. The Mule rhythm section - drummer Matt Abts and bassist Jorgen Carlsson - wanted to keep their outstanding chemistry going, and thus was born P.O.A., or Planet of the Abts.
“P.O.A. was conceived by, of all people, Brad Sands, one of Gov’t Mule’s many – but rating right up there with one of my favorites and most interesting - road managers,” Matt Abts explained. “ ‘Matt Abts! Planet of the Abts!’ just started spewing from his mouth after a few weeks on the bus together, and the term stuck. So fast forward to April 2010; Jorgen Carlsson, my favorite bass player, suggested, ‘Hey - let’s start Planet of the Abts as a band. Come on over to my place – I have a recording studio and I want you to meet my friend Torbjorn - T-Bone.’ J.C. and T-Bone know each other from growing up in Sweden and playing in many bands together over the years. Both - but not together - came to America, the land of opportunity (I’m not sure about that) in the 1990s. Jorgen did a lot of session work in L.A., and T-Bone performed the guitar work on the computer/video game Quake III Arena, which has sold over ten million units.
“Anyway, when I met T-Bone for the first time, we both faced off each other, circling, snarling, teeth showing - and immediately hit it off. T-Bone is our secret weapon (well, not any more); he plays everything, sings and now is part of our family. Two Swedes and me - hey! It’s the P.O.A. We cut the entire Planet of the Abts CD at Jorgen’s Roger’s Boat Studios; it was recorded analog, on a Studer 820.”
A volley of horns, courtesy of Gov’t Mule cohort Danny Louis, announces the beginning of “Planet Part One,” giving way to the explosive, driving guitar work of T-Bone. This edgy instrumental is pushed along by an undercurrent of bass lines from Jorgen and Matt’s flaying percussion, with Danny’s horns making intermittent appearances throughout. Energy is the key word here – constant, relentless energy, which is the basis for and trademark of P.O.A. on Planet of the Abts.
The powerful and thrashing “Dressed Up Looking Fine” features distorted vocal effects from T-Bone, who also contributes some pulsating guitar lines - there is some real shredding here. Matt provides crash/bang drumming, while Jorgen is rock steady on bass.
Slinky and sultry, “Anything You Want It to Be” allows T-Bone to display some sparse, tasty guitar licks, and to show off some spacey keyboard work. His vocals swell and ebb, giving the song a haunting, eerie feel. Matt and Jorgen play as one throughout, offering a solid bedrock to lay the tune upon.
The hard-charging Jagger/Richards composition “Off the Hook” erupts with fury; Matt’s lead vocals snap your head and go hand-in-hand with edgy guitar and a crunching bass line. P.O.A.’s interpretation of this no frills, old-school Stones rocker contains a chorus that burrows into your brain and lodges there, and is a memorable cut on Planet of the Abts.
“Deep into Self” is an evil, brooding raw number; dark and mean, it has a distant-sounding chorus that is surrounded by towering organ swells. Jorgen’s prowling bass line pushes T-Bone’s organic guitar to new heights, and “Deep into South” is something Led Zeppelin would have been proud of.
The ethereal “Circus” sails through the stars, with T-Bone hitting some David Gilmour-style notes. Matt takes a short-but-taut solo that yields to drifting keyboards and T-Bone’s detached vocals. The visceral texture of this one is impressive, as is T-Bone’s burning outro.
The mood stays trippy for “Planet Part 2,” with a hypnotic melody line that conjures up vintage Pink Floyd and Supertramp. With its expansive scope, “Planet Part 2” embodies the creativity and vision of P.O.A.
Closing out Planet of the Abts is “Trying to Be Myself,” which eases along with subdued passion that suddenly and instantly turns on a dime. P.O.A. has a very short fuse, and lift off is always imminent. When that explosive moment arrives, it is delivered with the power of a Saturn 5 rocket.
P.O.A. is not of this world. It comes from the outer limits of the musical universe, a place of creativity, spontaneity and genius. Your destination is Planet of the Abts, and it’s time to make the journey.