Aug 25 2014
There is a palpable shock felt at that moment when an artist’s sound reveals an evolution from what has come before. All of those hints and possibilities and brief experiments suddenly coalescing into a brand new cohesive voice, a completely different type of expressionism, yet one that can be traced back to the origins earlier of albums. UK quartet Get the Blessing just did that with their 2014 release Lope and Antilope.
Their 2008 debut All Is Yes held plenty of promise. There was a looseness to this music of tight grooves, a casual sort of sonic happenstance applied to danceable tunes. But the quartet shed a lot of that casual ease as they dug in deeper on the grooves with 2009’s Bugs In Amber and 2012’s OC DC. The former painted with broad strokes, building enthusiasm one big note after the other, and working tempo like an angry driver would a gas pedal during rush hour traffic. There were moments reminiscent of their debut, like the alluring “Tarp,” but this was music brash and bold. The latter album attained a tunefulness as it developed its grooves, and that led to more structure to the songs, giving them a precision that contrasted with the appealing looseness of their debut. The group was trying out new things while building onto old.
Lope and Antilope is an album of songs. There is a structure built into everything, even during those moments when the group delivers melodic passages with an off-the-cuff sincerity that cuts to the bone. Songs like “Quiet” and “Hope (For the Moment)” with their serpentine melodies, a round-about way of charging straight-ahead. Bass resonant and direct, a compass. Sax and trumpet sigh peaceably. Electronic effects squeak and drip and fall like rain over the drum’s insistent tempo. This music’s electric personality speaks to it being fully improvised, created over the course of four days of recording, an immutable sense of being In The Moment no matter what post-production and studio manipulation may have been applied after the fact… that quality of organic inspiration, created from the ground up.
Rock band Morphine inched up close to the border between indie and jazz. The bass-sax-drums trio brought a rhythmic element to their indie-rock swagger that hinted that they were only one final leap from crossing over that border. Get the Blessing sounds to have approached that same spot, but situated themselves on the opposite side of the line. There are both rhythmic and melodic elements to this music that will appeal to listeners who spend more time reading Pitchfork than Downbeat, even as heart of the music beats one of the many possible futures ahead for the modern jazz scene. There is something simultaneously Today and forward-thinking about this music. It’s not a fusion or blend of genres; it’s simply a concrete, new perspective on how Jazz can be expressed.
The blaring notes, held long and steady, on “Little Ease” and “Viking Death Moped” mine similar territory to that of Morphine’s saxophonist, Dana Colley, but the trumpet and sax of Pete Judge and Jake McMurchie develop things far outside the tidy bundle of song that Morphine typically crafted. And “Hope (For the Moment),” with its mechanical buzz and hum and its spirited saxophone dance, behaves with a crooner’s confidence… the kind of articulation that Morphine’s Mark Sandman would have appreciated. But it’s the pulsing tempo, as trumpet and sax twirl and tiptoe across its surface, that keep things tethered to the modern UK jazz scene.
That rhythm section of bassist Jim Barr and drummer Clive Deamer have pop music ties of their own, having been a part of the cast of ambient-trip hop act Portishead. That group’s peculiar blend of implied serenity and bursts of activity influenced more than a few artists who followed in their footsteps. It’s also in play on Lope and Antilope.
“Corniche” scoots right along, rhythms in bunches, while trumpet solos over the top with long lengths, contrasting cadences while still connecting the dots. “Trope” charts a similar course, but now it’s sax outpacing the rhythm section. There’s a kinetic energy built up from the core of these tunes that behave as a separate life within the context of the song, as if the rhythm section has achieved a sonic form of quantum physics where their contributions exist in two states of rhythmic positioning… doing their own thing while also creating something else that fits the ensemble goals to a tee. The melodic squiggles on “Antilope” lead to several nifty sections where soloists give the impression of taking the song in a new direction just to have the ensemble surge up and envelop the soloist in the cadence, and as one, ontinue on together.
Some songs behave more as interludes. The hazy “Luposcope” and the formidable “Viking Death Moped” sit at opposite ends of the spectrum in terms of intensity and loudness, but behave in much the same way as guides between songs, escorting the listener from the disconnected conclusion to one song and the beginning of the next.
The album closes with “Numbers,” a song that sounds like the reflection of opening track “Quiet” on the surface of a choppy sea. Electronics and effects run it through while melodic strains provide a lit path marking the direction of the song to the album’s finish line. It’s an inspired conclusion to an inspired album.
One of the best things released all year.
Your album personnel: Jake McMurchie (tenor & baritone saxes, effects), Pete Judge (trumpet, flugelhorn , piano , looping and effects), Jim Barr (bass, electric bass, bass V1, effects), Clive Deamer (drums, tambourine), and guest: Adrian Utley (guitar).
Released on the Naim Label.
Jazz from the UK.
Or purchase the music directly from Naim Label.