A tour de force of piano, bass and drums.
I always get confused when a band self titles an album several albums into their career. Once I finished GoGo Penguin, the bands’ 5th full-length album, I think I understand the practice a bit better. For me, if you haven’t had the chance to get aboard the GoGo Penguin modern-jazz train yet, this album offers the perfect starting point. It takes elements from all their previous works and provides a little bit of each. Into doing so it continues to show the tour de force that the trio have become both musically and sonically.
After a slow and poised intro with ‘1_#’, the album kicks off with the melodic theme that repeats throughout. Songs often centred around a piano chord that spirals off into a melody. With ‘Atomised’ it is around a bright and beautiful piano riff that then allows the drums, bass and minimal synth work to transition around it. With ‘Signal in the Noise’, its the bass the moves the most around the piano riffs, offering slants of differing emotions to the same piece over and over. ‘Open’ instead mutes and softens everything percussive and double bass wise to allow the piano to move in forward and reverse as it unfurls itself. The way each of the three principal instruments cascades like a waterfall is sensational as it leads to an epic, cinematic conclusion that evokes sci-fi post-rock vibes at times.
The key to all of this is that not one of the three instruments is ever relegated to a defined support role. Do you want intricate percussion loops like spin like a top? It is here. Do you want piano notes flying at you like there are four hands? Hello. Need a bass line that refuses to sit still and simply underscore? Peekaboo. It is why tracks like ‘F Maj Pixie’ work because each instrument gets its time to shine before they all join forces Super Saiyan style for bridges or codas. On a slightly note – tracks like ‘Kora’ and ‘Totem’ relish in letting each instrument find space in what is mostly a full speed ahead album. Each of those tracks still come together in big ways for huge sections but those two tracks, in particular, have a beautiful cadence to them.
The reflective piece on the album is ‘Embers’ where GoGo Penguin relax and subdue the listener with a delicate piece although the prepared piano and finger bass sounds of ‘Don’t Go’ are delicious. They sound like a tense ticking clock that you could meditate to at the same time. Sandwiched between these two tracks is the superb ‘To The Nth’ which is another band classic. A lot of the latter section of the album reminds me of the bands earlier work whilst the early half reminds me of the latter two albums. The level of consistency and quality across the board is mesmerising.
It’s that ‘journey so far’ mentality with GoGo Penguin that makes me understand why, at 5 albums in, they’ve decided to self title an album. It showcases all that have come before it whilst still feeling like it has its own identity. Confidence oozes out of each track and I love the beefier production across all the instruments here too. Everything feels crunchy and wholesome. A mid-season contender for album of the year? Definitely.
Recommended track: Atomised
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