Emerging on String Cheese Incident's SCI Fidelity imprint is Chicago's Umphrey's McGee, an esoteric collective that blends acute improvisational instincts with rhythmic prog rock inventiveness.

Emerging on String Cheese Incident's SCI Fidelity imprint is Chicago's Umphrey's McGee, an esoteric collective that blends acute improvisational instincts with rhythmic prog rock inventiveness. The combination works better than it ought to, and the band has more discipline than many of its jam-band counterparts. For proof, listen to such economic cuts as the grooving "In the Kitchen," the weirdly syncopated "Uncommon" and the driving, Zappa-esque "Robot World." The group can be repetitive in longer pieces (the six-minute "Plunger"), but it also mesmerizes when songs are given room to breathe (the purposeful noodling of the frenetic instrumental "Miss Tinkle's Overture"). Because of the players' fine and versatile musicianship, a lengthy opus like "Wife Soup" and "Pequod," the gentle instrumental that closes the album, are quite interesting. Musically adept and sonically adventurous, Umphrey's McGee is a worthy addition to a burgeoning scene. Racked by Ryko.—RW