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.
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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