The group still experiments, with honking-horn sax screams, occasionally tense tones and free-form vibes-and-brass duets. Most challenging among these nine tracks is "Von Flugal #1," which sounds like a cartoon conversation among an animated elephant, a sputtering droid and a tornado-tortured wind chime. But even through the full-trunk squawks, robotic bleeps and metallic clangs, there are clear patterns in the chaos, especially when guest drummer Earl Hauser (Seal, The The) and turntablist Joc Maxx bring pop and dance sensibilities to the mix. Booming bongo blasts make for the rare drum solo that's as enjoyable on record as it is live, and the propulsive pace demonstrates the oft-squandered invigorating powers of jet-fueled jazz.
Even when the crowd provokes him with "Play something weird," sax player Mark Southerland doesn't venture into willfully esoteric territory. His response to this request combines a carnival-calliope frenzy with spring-loaded percussion and catchy jazz riffs; like the rest of Backbelly, it's indeed weird, but not intimidatingly so.