Luther & Toby are a somewhat mysterious duo that create music like a carny band on a bender. They sound something like a slightly more orchestrated and less ragtag version of what you'd hear playing behind Tom Waits. Karny Sutra is a flat-out strange album of sometimes intoxicating music that's definitely music for a film yet to be written.
Supposing that film is ever written, I can imagine it being a cross between Something Wicked This Way Comes and a Jim Jaramusch film. It would be something that has the pedigree of an art film but isn't afraid to get a bit low-brow either. Maybe Bruce Campbell would star as a jazz musician who makes a deal with a shady Carnival owner (who is also a demon) before finding out the truth and subsequently dueling musically with a band of freaks before getting into a huge blood-spilling finale.
Perhaps the best part of Karny Sutra is the images it conjures (like the one above). "Lucrezia Borgia Waltz" opens the disc with loads of filtered percussion and layers of organ melodies while "Hombres Machos" mixes a swirl of Mexican dance into the proceedings (including some serious shout-outs) and pours on everything so densely that subwoofers shake with low-end while playful organs tear things up overhead.
Although most of the songs keep a somewhat similar grouping of sound sources, they mix in slight influences to try to keep things interesting. "Hesperian Express" takes on a somewhat middle-eastern feel while "Aluminum Lady" strips things back to a more minimal jazz feel, letting single piano notes reverberate out over upright bass. The second-to-last "144,000" takes things in a different direction all-together, mixing everything into a dark electronic sludge that actually works quite well before the album closes out on the twisted acapella of "Oh Sore Sore Song." One of biggest problems with the release is also the thing that seems to haunt many sountracks, and that's that despite the slight variations, it runs together a bit in the mid-section. With the aforementioned "144,000" and some of the other experimentation that takes place in other places, the group is definitely not above it, but too many times they fall into the more plain organ and percussion style that takes up a majority of the release. Fun stuff (with amazing artwork), but I can't help thinking it would have been even better if they'd mixed it up a bit more.