Motorpsycho — It's a Love Cult
(Stickman Records PSYCHOBABBLE 041, 2002, CD)
Jaga Jazzist — The Stix
(Ninja Tune ZEN CD81, 2003, CD)
Motorpsycho + Jaga Jazzist Horns — In the Fishtank
(Konkurrent FISH 10 CD, 2003, CD)
by Jon Davis, Published 2005-03-01
After hearing the name Motorpsycho for a few years, I was pretty curious to actually hear the band. I did not expect an album of such variety, that combines intensity and subtlety and a wide range of influences into a fascinating whole. On a foundation of psychedelic rock, these Norwegians have added elements of prog, classic and modern indie rock to make a delightful style of their own, related to other recent psych-oriented bands like Super Furry Animals. They run the gamut from delicate acoustic tunes backed by strings to bouncy go-go dancer romps with horns, and throw in some Monkees-like rock and a little modern post-grunge energy for good measure. The softer side dominates, however, and the beautiful orchestrations for strings, flutes, and oboes shine on several tracks. Keyboard sounds are classic reedy organ, piano, and Mellotron, accenting the music perfectly, and many tunes feature lush backing vocals.
Fellow Norwegians Jaga Jazzist may seem at first on the opposite end of many spectrums from Motorpsycho, but the Jaga horn section has appeared with the rock band at concerts, so maybe it’s not such a stretch. On their own, Jaga presents a very modern take on the medium large jazz ensemble, featuring ten to thirteen players. Like recent artists on Thirsty Ear and innovators like Red Snapper and Squarepusher, this band brings jazz into the electronic era. The rhythm parts are a mixture of playing and programming that really lays down grooves, and it’s topped with keyboards, guitar, vibes, horns and strings. The ensemble arrangements are quite well done, mixing unison lines with contrapuntal figures, building tension and releasing it skillfully. The horn players are inventive, and often use effects devices on their instruments (or perhaps the treatments were added in post-production).
As part of the Konkurrent label’s ongoing “fishtank” series of relatively spontaneous in-studio recordings (musicians are allowed two days to record whatever they want), these two Norwegian bands teamed up for an interesting session. Over the course of a few days, the players developed a set of loose tunes and then committed them to digital posterity. The result is pretty much by definition jazz-rock, and harkens in some ways back to the pioneering work of Colosseum and other 60s rock bands with horns, but there’s a much greater nod to the jazz side of the equation, reminiscent of Nucleus. I’m also reminded of some of the German bands with horns, like Missus Beastly. Vocals appear almost incidentally, and the tunes are more than just one-chord jams, with interesting bass lines and arranged horn parts. The mood ranges from free-form sparseness to funky grooves, and the tracks, as they stretch out, build in intensity.
Jon Christensen RIP – Word reaches us today of the passing of Norwegian drummer Jon Christensen, a musician whose sensitive playing did much to help define the atmospheric sound of ECM jazz recordings. His work with Jan Garbarek, Bobo Stenson, Terje Rypdal, and many more was sensitive and varied, adapting to a wide variety of styles while maintaining a distinct identity of its own. Christensen was 76. » Read more
Gong Announces UK Tour for 2020 – Having spent the last few years touring the world, including dates in Japan with psych legend Steve Hillage, multiple headline European tours and festivals, America’s Cruise to the Edge festival, a South America headline tour, and a headline performance at Tomorrow Festival in China, the band have won the hearts of both traditional and modern Gong fanbases. During this live journey, Gong has delved further into the truly psychedelic, exploratory, and mind-expanding side of the music. » Read more
Wolfgang Dauner RIP – Pianist Wolfgang Dauner, one of the pioneers of both European free jazz and jazz rock, has died at the age of 84. With his own groups and with the United Jazz+Rock Ensemble, his playing and compositions were a prominent presence in European jazz from the mid-60s until just recently. » Read more
Michael Allison RIP – Michael Allison, who since 1997 has been recording as Darshan Ambient, passed away on January 9th after a long and brave battle with cancer. He has been at at the forefront of the new ambient/electronic music scene, with over eighteen releases to his credit. » Read more