Jon Hopkins and GoGo Penguin had twin sons.
Whenever I listen to Glass Museum, I continually forget that its just two people! Flipo on synths and Grégoire on drums. How is that their music always sounds so expansive and grande? On ‘Reykjavik’, the duos new album, their sound is huger than ever. Glass Museum have broken the glass ceiling.
It becomes very apparent on the opening title track that the duo thinks big. The piano playing here is chipper and underscored with warm synth pads as bass. The drum playing is bombastic and as the track moves from symphonic jazz to otherwordly synth-ambient – it provides a wonderful insight into the range of music that the duo can provide. Moving from the bright and beautiful to the denser and foreboding, ‘Sirocco’ whirls around with piano trills and swaying wooden percussion and river samples. It then sideswipes into a beautiful celestial sci-fi metallic hushed dance. It sounds mad on paper but Glass Museum are kings at switching from one tone to another without a single jarring note. This continues into the heady ‘Clothing’ that moves from the dreamy to the synth-noire. You’d never know at the beginning of the track you’d be following a city groove and be dancing to a thumping dance beat. Yet as it builds up, it returns the jazzier side and it all slides together perfectly. I love it when music genuinely takes you by surprise.
After all that craziness of dragging modern jazz around on a neon disco filled 80’s sci-fi movie, ‘Abyss’ calms things down briefly. This dreamy piece is a beautiful slow-motion descent into sadness. The piano echoes out dramatically whilst synths pitch shift slowly down as the mind falls with it. It takes a while for the drums to burst in but when they do, they smash the music into a dramatic distortion as you hit the bottom. This then brings you to the huge centrepiece of the album – ‘Nimbus I’ and ‘Nimbus II’. The next nine minutes of music sees the modern-day jazz set up pulled from cinematic vistas to pure electronica dance music through celebratory jazz via ambient and new wave synths. The two tracks showcase everything that makes Glass Museum great and explains exactly why you can’t place the duo into a specific genre box. They cross between music genres each minute or two and that is part of their charm. I’m sure some jazz fans will be freaking out at huge beats and very danceable themes here but these bountiful arrangements are why I’m here.
‘Colophane’ is the sole quiet track on the album. Its muted drums and beautiful plucked synths make it sound delicate and melodic as the rich piano is intentionally muddied in a way that makes the entire track feel smeared like a waxy dream. It would be perfect for a detective drama score. The album then finishes off with ‘IOTA’. This is a track that builds and teases with its different guises. There is its chirpy and fluid opening which then transitions into a Latin tinged drama section. Here the drums explode into free-flowing beauty whilst the synths become more like a symphonic string section following the piano note for note. Then everything pushes together for a giant finale and sends the album (and likely a live show) off into a rapture of swollen hearts and minds.
Glass Museum adds something fresh and new into the modern jazz bands that have seen a popular resurgence over recent years. They do this because they bring in so many ambient and electronica traits to their music you’d sometimes think they were an electronica duo who dabble with jazz elements instead. By being so vast in scope, they are able to create stunning songs that feel alive from note to note and Flipo and Grégoire are both masterful performers. Every time I finish this album, I feel invigorated and I don’t think any other album has done that quite like this all year. I think Glass Museum has created a new genre: Jazztronica!
Recommended track: IOTA
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