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A Livingroom Hush

Jaga Jazzist
A Livingroom Hush
(Smalltown Supersound)

After reading a couple different reviews heaping praise on Jaga Jazzist, I decided to hunt down their CD and give it a whirl. Upon first listen, the opening track of "Animal Chin" came flying out of the speaker at me from nearly all directions and blew my mind. It's one of those tracks that effortlessly mixes jazz, skitter-fried electronics, and about five other genres into a steaming stew of fortified funk. I played the track over and over again, thinking that as a musician I should just give up, because there was no way I would be able to match the sheer lunacity and skill captured within.

While the rest of the album doesn't reach quite such dizzying heights as that opening track, A Livingroom Hush is still a nicely bonafide debut entry for the collective of Norwegians. Arriving on the little Smalltown Supersound label, the group is a large batch of friends mixing all kinds of styles together for something nicely unique, calling to mind a slightly more refined version of the Tied And Tickled Trio or a tweaked-out Tortoise. After the breakbeat/vibraphone/horn/guitar colission of the aforementioned first track, the disc settles down into a slightly more subdued groove. "Going Down" blends some slightly processed guitar with layers of horns and subtle percussion, and "Press Play" follows it up with a short burst of springy cocktail jazz.

"Airborne" opens up with a soothy saxophone solo over a bed of slightly crackling noise and some soft percussion, but as it progresses, other instruments slowly make themselves known and by the closing three minutes, they've broken things off into a downright swaggering strut with upright bass and layers of horns. One thing that the group also keeps in mind is that although there are 10 people in the band, every single track on the release allows plenty of room for different instrumentation to breath. After the dense opening of "Real Racecars Have Doors," the track drops off several different times to allow for interplay between horns, guitars, and other instruments.

The only other time the album revisits the rather frenzied moments of the opening track are is in the cracking breakbeat and keyboard layers during of the oddly-titled "Midget." It's another nice burst of energy towards the end of the disc, and although it's quite a bit more simple in construction than other tracks, it works well before the slow burn ending of the release. From there, it's a bit of tropicalia on "Made For Radio," the meandering "Lithuania," and the more experimental closer of "Cinematic." It's the final track that the group actually introduces some serious noise into things, and while it never reaches Merzbow levels, the hissy radio static and cracks juxtaposed with a pretty piano melody don't quite gel with the music that came before (even though it's still a pretty interesting track). In the end, there are a few soft spots, but the release is still a great debut and shows some serious moments of brilliance. With an EP arriving shortly, there won't be much of a wait for new material, and I have a feeling the group will just continue to get better.

Rating: 7