Get The Blessing – Astronautilus

GTB_RingMaster Review

Jazz is not a genre which gets squeezed into our schedule too often and when it does it is the more experimental and often schizophrenic takes on it which most spark the imagination. With more offerings like the new album from UK’s Get The Blessing, making room and finding time to explore many more potential treats might just be a new intent though. The fifth full-length from the Bristol instrumentalists is a fiercely captivating, imagination stirring adventure which according to the band sees them create a proposal which is “dark with a joyous soul.” It is a declaration quickly confirmed by the album, as also claims of others which describe Astronautilus as being bred with “more adventurous improvisation and electronics” than ever before without losing the unpredictability and musical mischievousness the band is renowned for. New to Get The Blessing through their latest encounter we again take their thoughts as being on the mark whilst just adding that Astronautilus is simply irresistible.

The successor to 2014 albums Lope and Antilope, and dedicated to Ornette Coleman, an American jazz saxophonist, violinist, trumpeter, and composer who died earlier this year and “was pivotal to the band’s formation in 2000”, Astronautilus opens with the dark shuffle of Phaenomena. Instantly the fuzzy groan of Jim Barr’s bass resonates on ear drums, their attention keen to get involved as to that of the imagination as the warmer tones of brass blowing seductively yet devilishly over the senses. The skittish beats of drummer and percussionist Clive Deamer take care of the body whilst the hips belong to the hook swung by the sax of Jake McMurchie and trumpet of Pete Judge. In no time the body is enslaved, shadows and light colluding within the improvised piece of contagion spilled to cast a dance perfect for darkly lit surroundings and hope fuelled good times.

ccover_RingMaster Review     The following Carapace is a sultry romance for ears and thoughts, its seductive smoulder of brass and horn alone bewitching as the song takes the listener on a flight through exotic realms built on reflective intimacy. Like all great instrumentals, thoughts inspired, escapades sparked in the imagination most likely vary from the inspirations and themes the band breed the piece from, but they are ignited and that is the potent success which Get The Blessing achieves time and time again.

Next up is Monkfish, a piece simultaneously inspired by Thelonius Monk, a pair of Deamer’s shoes, and the fish, though as it swings and shuffles with tenacious enterprise and flirtatious bait we cannot help but think of the Fast Show and the character Inspector Monkfish, especially with the core swagger which relishes its inescapable lure on feet and emotions. The track reminds of eighties band Mouth, especially rhythmically and in insatiable energy whilst Conch straight after reveals a unique presence grown from an echoing shimmer of melodic enticement which almost toys with the senses as undefined and shadowy resonance invasively flirts with dark elegance.

Things get a touch surreal with Cornish Native next, the outstanding incitement a rhythmic compulsion for the body and its creamy invention a spark for the mind. At times it has the salty taste of the sea, or the oyster it is titled after, and a sense of the random landscape and deceptively busy natural life of the remote area where the band recorded the album. In other moments within a sense of isolation, abstract sounds and twists break out to leave the listener roaming disconnected yet still alluring scenery; the latter a bit like visiting the Scilly Isles when it is closed i.e. Sundays.

The lapping of waves continues in next up Nautilus, its melancholic and hazy air a drifting melodic fog within warm spirals of brass driven air which gets more intensive and lively, in turn suggestively dark and almost intimidating, across the length of the mesmeric track. It is enthralling, a tantalising swim though emotionally refreshing sound which like the night makes way for the morning light brought by Green Herring, a joyful and carefree piece that carries a smile to induce a matching response in the listener. The bass especially has feet enslaved, trumpet and sax taking care of the rest with both colluding to riveting effect for a finale where the imagination envisages a battle between fish and man, the net, the escape…or not.

The album is closed by firstly Hayk, a track which for no obvious reason than that is simply is, provides a mesmeric exploration which is just sinister on the ears and thoughts, and finally the haunting Sepia, a piece which lives up to its name in tone and suggestiveness whilst sending the listener drifting off into a spatial yet emotionally smothering atmosphere. It is not one of the emerging favourites within Astronautilus but it is the most fascinating proposal inciting new imagined experiences with every listen.

We cannot say if Astronautilus is the best Get The Blessing release or if they have tapped into a new plateau with their sound, with as said earlier the album our first meeting with them, but if it is not the case, past albums must be set in stone classics as the band’s new offering is simply delicious.

Astronautilus is available digitally and on Cd and vinyl from October 2nd via Naim Jazz Records.

Pete RingMaster 02/10/2015

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Craig Scott’s Lobotomy – War is a Racket


Like the soundtrack to a deranged tale fed on Tim Burton’s vision of Alice in Wonderland and soaked in the lunacy of a Captain Beefheart and the Magic Band, War is a Racket is one of those propositions which simply send ears and imagination into overload. Created by Craig Scott’s Lobotomy, the album is a kaleidoscope of sounds and textures uniting in a fascinating and warped adventure, whilst Craig Scott himself is the aural Willy Wonka, offering sonic and melodic candy created from the tang of discord and sweetness of insanity.

A bordering on psychotic tapestry of experimental jazz, alternative rock, and similarly unpredictable electronica, album and sound casts ears and thoughts adrift in a sea of instrumental incitement. Every track is a unique vehicle for the imagination to go on a creative rampage with yet they also all contribute to a perpetual flight through one fluid and invigoratingly bedlamic soundscape. War is a Racket has been three years in the making, drawing on influences, experiences, and the things Scott has learned during his life to date as a professional musician involved in numerous diverse projects. The result of everything combined is a debut album which dangles bait after bait of startling sound and seriously intriguing unconnected essences, all united in a creative toxicity which just gets deep under the skin to set off a lustful reaction in ears, thoughts, and ardour.

The previous years has seen Scott play regularly with the likes of ‘Shatner’s Bassoon’ , IKESTRA , CottonWoolf, The Bugalu Foundation, and The Hot Beef Three as well as perform with artists such as Tom Arthurs, Baba Adasose Wallace, Matthew Borne , John Potter (Hilliard Ensemble),Chris Sharkey (Trio VD/Shiver), Ball-Zee(UK Beatbox Champion) Jean Tousaint (Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers) , Les Smith (Cradle of Filth), and Ruby Wood (Submotion Orchestra , Bonobo). His music has grabbed the ears and support of fellow musicians like Gary Lucas (Captain Beefheart / Jeff Buckley) amongst a growing horde of fans which also includes cult horror classic House of 1000 Corpses’ Bill Moseley. Anticipation for War is a Racket has certainly been more than keen but it is now with its release that it is easy to expect major awareness embracing its creator.

a4033067006_2    The album, which sees Scott accompanied by a plethora of skilled and inventive talent, opens with Gibbles and a distant wistful melody. The ear is soon under the temptation of dark double bass slaps and bass clarinet seduction though; they in turn courted by a web of brass teasing. A jazzy air soon takes on an exotic flavour through guitar and sax, excited elements entwining for a sultry and mouth-watering dance through Arabian avenues and more Caribbean spiced festivity. All the time though there is a tempering shadow, an underlying turbulence which brews up a danger with fresh seeds for thoughts to twist and redesign its visual landscape with. The nearer its conclusion the more unravelled the track and its calm becomes as it takes the listener into the sonic distortion and percussive bubbling of Proud to be a Mirkin. The second song also brings a brass fuelled agitation aligned to a sinister electronic stalking of the psyche. It is the stuff of dark dreams, though as hindsight will eventually show, just the start of bigger nightmarish intrusions to come.

Peace returns with Tempest in a Teacup next, a nine minute stroll through summer gardens and reflective atmospheres. Of course already, even on the first listen of the album, expectations are soon expecting darker warped twists too and it does not disappoint, though equally the track sets senses and emotions ablaze with a deliciously manic melodic enterprise equipped with mischievous hooks and perverted imagination. Like something from Brian Brain in a drug induced stupor, the track ebbs and flows with bright revelry and noir clad infestations of ears and thoughts. Ultimately though, you come away with feet bouncing and emotions leaping to that devilish jazz pop lure and the emerging gypsy/world music spicing which has a distinct Les Négresses Vertes feel to it.

The following Technicolor Yawn is a brighter and relatively straight forward hug of the senses, initially at least as of course it too has contrasting and darker flirtations of sound and invention to its gentle cruise. Guitars and synths collude to colour the elegant canvas with shards of seemingly improvised jazz incitement, each nudge and jab of sound a tempting spark to new diversions or characters in the imagination’s interpretation. Almost a travelogue of unique lands and atmospheres on its own, the transfixing pieces makes way for the climactic and psychotic For those with a Short Attention Span. The track is a splatter of sounds and textures which somehow within the ears unite to create a coherent if still furiously unpredictable weave of sonic colour. As all the tracks it leaves a pantry load of food for thought before making way for the irresistible lures of Voodoo Friday. Rhythmically tribal and virulent, the track opens like a thumping ‘sketch’ from percussionists Stomp, but is soon embracing darker strains of sound and harmonies. Its persuasion is meditative and demonic simultaneously, the perpetual invitation from tablas, matched by grouchy bass sounds and a swarming cloud of brass and stringed fermentation which only add to the psychedelic Hammer Movie-esque visualisation inspired across the glorious encounter. Its closing romp reminds of deranged versions of eighties bands like Pigbag and Mouth, that alone leaving ears and emotions basking.

The album’s title track comes next and swiftly returns the listener physically and mentally to the dark clutches of haunted realms and sinister trespasses. Keys impact with a classic thirties/forties lilt to their narrative whilst rhythmically and harmonically, the track is a web of ravenous shadows and psyche grasping evocation. The bewitching nightmare prevails with increasing sideshow devilry as the song continues its descriptive presence, reaching a restrained yet ‘hellish’ climax taunted by crooner inspired keys. The drama and air of the song is traumatic and seriously compelling just as the lighter but no less drenched in espionage album finale of Ormchestron. Opening like the theme tune to a sixties spy/thriller TV show, keys dangling inescapable bait for the imagination, the piece becomes a much cloudier and thematically minatory adventure yet with a constant tempering of melodic and inventive whimsy. The brass escapades brings hints of Essential Logic to thoughts whilst strings and keys offer a Cardiacs like devilment, but ultimately, as War is a Racket itself, it is all wholly individual to Craig Scott’s Lobotomy.

It is fair and easy to say that War is a Racket is quite brilliant, maybe not something for everyone but for those with real adventure and love of life’s and music’s discordance woven into something truly unique, simply a must.

War is a Racket is available through Wasp Millionaire Records from 30/03/2015 on CD, 12” Blue vinyl (Ltd to 250 copies) and digitally.

RingMaster 30/03/2015

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