Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Point-Counterpoint: Jaga Jazzist - One Armed Bandit


I love jazz.  I really, really do.  I know that people think I'm weird sometimes because of that, because jazz is often seen as an intellectual effort that is at best ignored, at worst reviled.  But I'm not one of those revilers - I find it a wonder.

And experimental jazz?  Even more so.  I like music that pushes the envelope and demands attention from its listeners, regardless of the genre.  And when it comes to experimental jazz, there is no group that does more than Jaga Jazzist.  Their 2005 release, What We Must, is certainly one of my favorite albums of all time - and a seminal jazz release.  So how does their follow up from this year, One Armed Bandit, hold up to the hype they generated five years ago?

Better than I ever could have hoped.

There is more of a focus on rock influences, and one could make a case that much of this album feels more like a post-rock band rather than a Scandinavian experimental jazz group.  But there's more than that going on - there's bits of electro, fuzz, and even shades of Mannheim Steamroller when you hear the harpsichords coming in.  And don't forget plenty of seventies-era psychedelic progressive rock . . .

"Prognissekongen" and "Toccata" are the clear standout tracks for me, with heavy bass and polyrhythms flowing every which way, but there are plenty of great songs that all flow into each other and create a sense of completeness.  "One Armed Bandit" starts the album out strong, and "Music! Dance! Drama!" have big horn sections, lots of electronica, and melodies that captivate.

Final Verdict: Adore it (with a virgin daiquiri and plenty of time to chill out)


Another new one for me.  I was aware of my brother's love of Jaga Jazzist, having seen countless plays on last.fm and with his recent review of their previous release.  When he picked this album, I was excited for the opportunity to check out his band he so adores.

Now, after listening, I have to say that my excitement is somewhat tempered.  But only somewhat.  Jazz is one of those styles of music I appreciate more on an intellectual level than on a visceral level, and One Armed Bandit exemplifies this well.  There is a lot of fascinating music to be found.  Rhythmically, the album is very interesting.  The multitude of different styles that are pulled into the music keeps the listener on his/her toes.

However, in the time I have spent with the music, it has not connected with me on any level other than intellectual.  With time, it is possible this could change and I could develop more of a connection to the music. But this will certainly take time.  As such, I can definitely state that I find the music fascinating, but not captivating.

Final Verdict: Explore it (but you will need to let it sink in)

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