The musicians in Full Tang know their way around a world beat. They all played in the Fela Kuti-inspired Superpowers band, and two are active in the Debo Band, whose music is grounded in Ethiopian pop.
But unlike the 11-member sprawls of the Superpowers and Debo Band, Full Tang is a four-piece, and as such is a bit more nimble and able to make dynamic pivots the larger bands would have more difficulty pulling of.
"We can do things that get a little more noisy, like 'Pre/Post,'" says Full Tang guitarist Ryan Dugre, referring to the lead-off track on the band's debut CD "Intangible."
Dugre and his band mates_ Adam Clark, Danilo Henriquez, and Eric Lane_ released "Intangible" late last year but didn't have an opportunity to push the record like they wanted to, and if any record deserves a second look, "Intangible" is it.
The music moves from the aforementioned rockier terrain of "Pre/Post" into the psychedelic swirl of "Purple Sky." An icy touch of prog shapes "Baktun 13"; there is a jazzy approach to a cover of "Sleep Walk" ; and the band's reggae influence blossoms fullest on Ansell Collins' "Nuclear Weapon."
Clark doubles on bass and percussion, Lane on keys and sax, and Henriquez on drums ad trumpet, so there is a lot of seat changing during a show to capture the tones and textures of the recorded material, Dugre says.
And you'll get a chance to see that for yourself on Thursday, June 20, when Full Tang returns to the the Middle East in Cambridge. People's Champs, Brother Sam Slideshow, and Ultratumba are also playing. The music starts at 8:30 p.m., and the Middle East is at 472 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge.
Full Tang took shape after Superpowers dissolved in 2010. Dugre says the quartet delved more deeply into contemporary Zimbabwean music_ learning the guitar-picking style that emulates the traditional thumb piano, for instance_ and layered on other rock influences from outside the Afro-pop world.
"I guess it's hard to say what it is exactly, which hasn't helped," Dugre says. "But as a listener, you'll be hearing a lot of different styles brought together."
The band members honed their sound while living together in Roxbury, and three still do, while Dugre recently moved to New York City. While Henriquez and Clark_ Full Tang's main songwriters_ still play in Debo Band, Dugre says Full Tang has been able to keep working on new songs and may start a new round of recordings in August.
People's Champs is also an offshoot from the Superpowers, though its new single "Humanity" underscores the new outfit's soul influences. And Brother Sam Slideshow is a more pop-oriented duo.
Dugre says Full Tang likes mixing up its shows, as happy to play with garage rock and lo-fi acts as with other Afro-pop bands.
"We enjoy all kinds of music," he says.
And you can't help but notice that listening to "Intangible."
Here are a couple of tracks from the album:
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