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Now that the dog days of summer are finally barking, I can comfortably break out the Exodus Quartet’s debut album, Way Out There (Instinct Records): It’s a smooth collection of acid jazz, sultry bossa nova, cop-show funk, and smarmy pop-jazz, perfect for early-evening chill-outs. The Quartet is actually studio whiz Eric Hilton and session players who are on the right vibe, not to mention the right Fender Rhodes, the right saxophone, and the right Latin percussion. Hilton has worked under the Exodus moniker for five years, half of which was spent recording Way Out There. The album was delayed because Hilton is kept busy co-running two underground lounges as well as two other music projects, Peace Bureau and Thievery Corporation. Plus, “with Exodus Quartet, it’s really complicated because I use a host of studio musicians, and getting those guys in the studio and laying down live music tracks and then editing them is really time-consuming,” Hilton explains. “I have a pre-production studio, and I’ll loop beats and write bass lines and get the groove going and the general hook of the song.” Then Hilton works with engineer and partner-in-crime David Ylvisaker to finish the tracks. “Where I may be good at production and sounds and overall feelings, [Ylvisaker]’s just really good at writing music. Exodus Quartet wouldn’t sound anything like it does without him.”
Hilton cites Richard “Groove” Holmes, Cal Tjader, Antonio Carlos Jobim, Studio One, and Paul Weller as influences for Exodus, giving weight to his assertion that “the original acid jazz movement was very postmodern” because of its cut-and-paste eclecticism. Hilton is an encyclopedia of the past 40 years of smooth grooves, and the full history of hipster sound stylings finds its way onto Way Out There. TV fuzz (the police, dig, not static) play a particularly important part in Way Out There’s musical lexicon. Hilton says “Orbit” “sounds right out of Starsky and Hutch,” and he’s spot on. His latest police series muse? “Right now I tape Baretta, because the music is so amazing!” CHiPs is surely next.