bass electronica jazztronica Modern Jazz percussion piano review

GoGo Penguin – Between Two Waves Review

When a refreshed excitement to play again shines through the speakers.

What does GoGo Penguin sound like?

An exciting cocktail of jazztronica melodies centred around the clever use of drums, bass and piano.

The review of GoGo Penguin – Between Two Waves

Between Two Waves is something of a fresh new chapter for GoGo Penguin. With original drummer Rob Turner moving on and new drummer Jon Scott coming onboard, it feels like a great time to cleanse the palette of the jazzztronica band and try something new. The band were excited to be back together again after being apart over the pandemic lockdowns and that joy shines through across this new release.

GoGo Penguin – photo by Emily Dennison

Whilst this EP doesn’t change the GoGo Penguin formula, there is a brighter bounce to each track. There is a clear emphasis on rolling, flowing arpeggios and double bass twangs that bend up high like seafoam crawling a beach wall. Whether that is on the maddening breakbeats and bombastic bass of “Badeep” or the nadir piano trills that mark the climax of “Ascent”, the music is full of life. The closing track “The Antidote Is In the Poison” kicks back to some of the more chaotic and frenzied moments of GoGo Penguin across their career to date. If you looked purely at these three tracks, you could be forgiven that aside from brighter production and a slight streamlining of sound, nothing much has changed.

Peer beyond that to the other two tracks though and plenty of new elements are emerging. Bassist Nick Blacka is wielding a more aggressive turn of play for his double bass. Chris Illingworth, the sole original band member, is exploring new synths too and the electronica elements feel subtler. There is plenty of room for experimentation too.

“Wave Decay” turns to reverb machines to shape the sounds of synth beats. The listener hears them pan around your ears like bats and the main melodic hook plays out like a hedonistic dance motif. The key here is that the track is very muted in the first half like it’s a 2am bar. It isn’t until the second half that the big, bold piano stabs emerge, albeit briefly. Then the song cleverly deconstructs itself like sound wave ripples. “Lost In Thought” is the most abstract track GoGo Penguin has released to date. It is a moody synth piece with rolls of percussion and the growling hums of a machine.

To me, “Between Two Waves” could equally read “Between Two Sounds” as that is how this EP feels. One half gives you traditional GoGo Penguin. Big piano statements, crazy bass and skipping atypical beats. The other side sees the trio voyaging into slightly more synthetic and atmospheric areas of sound design. It isn’t new territory for them, but it is a different direction down a familiar path. That leaves me just as excited for the future as well as treasuring all their past releases. Our penguin is still in very good hands.

Recommended track: Ascent

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GoGo Penguin - Between Two Waves

8.5

8.5/10

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