Dec 24 2014
The debut album from Mammal Hands shows some real promise. Animalia situates itself right there on the border between modern jazz and indie-pop. The sax-piano-drums trio hangs their hat on thick melodies, keeping them simple and easy to embrace. From there, they scoot right along on the back of some catchy, energetic rhythms.
Opening track “Mansions of Millions of Years” is proof the trio knows how to construct an absorbing song. A bit of modal action instills a contemplative moodiness, which then boils over into some jazz-pop boisterousness. “Snow Bough” and “Spinning the Wheel” shows the trio is just as content with patient expressions and a slower rate of speed.
The harmonic explosion that follows a relatively straight-forward pop jazz groove on “Inuit Party” is a nice indication that the trio is looking for opportunities to build depth and substance. “Bustle” shows a willingness to try to mix things up with the tempo and avoid cornering themselves into one-dimensional attack.
The album’s notable weakness is that the rhythmic aggressiveness on many tracks threatens to drown out both melody and harmony. It’s the kind of thing that isn’t totally unexpected on a debut album, this sense of imperfect balance. There’s no reason to think the trio won’t develop a greater nuance to their play as they gain time and experience. It’s also the kind of thing that probably translates better in a live setting. The way they transition from a big, effusive sound on “Tiny Crumb” to a more delicate presence without decelerating out of a gallop is a nice indication that it’s an area the trio can develop. “Kandaiki” would be another solid example of the trio’s ability to solidify this aspect.
A secondary weakness would be the similarity of many of the melodies. There’s nothing wrong to sticking with simple melodies, but unless they’re crafted with a quality that provides each a striking individuality, the risk is making pretty music that quickly dulls. Again, this is something that will develop with time.
An enjoyable debut. It’ll be interesting to hear how the sophomore release ultimately manifests.
Your album personnel: Jordan Smart (soprano & tenor saxophones), Nick Smart (piano) and Jesse Barrett (drums, tabla).
Released on Gondwana Records.
Jazz from the UK scene.