Jaga Jazzist - Starfire

(CD, 2015, 45:00, Ninja Tune ZENCD223)

The tracks:
  1- Starfire(8:47)
  2- Big City Music(14:07)
  3- Shinkansen(7:42)
  4- Oban(12:41)
  5- Prungen(6:35)

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Even though they have been around for two decades I presume that only a few readers are familiar with Norwegian group Jaga Jazzist (although we did review their awesome 2003 release In The Fishtank 10, a collaboration with Motorpsycho, way back in the time when Background Magazine still was printed on paper). Since then they've released a fair number of albums and evolved their style from jazz-dance to modern jazz, jazz-rock and gradually embracing more and more progressive rock elements. Their 2010 effort One-Armed Bandit (with a set of 'fruit-machine cards' that enabled the listener to customize the CD artwork to his/her own preference) was the highlight of their catalogue so far, being their most accomplished and progressive album to date.

It's been a while since their great 2010 album so I was eager to hear what this group is up to five years later. The packaging is again special - this time with a mini-LP gatefold in a plastic slipcase that gives a psychedelic touch thanks to the 'swirl' design. There are only five tracks between 6 and a half and 14 minutes to be found and as we will see it appears that the band have (successfully) reinvented themselves once more. In comparison with previous work I feel that horns/wind instruments play a minor role this time, even though they're not gone entirely.

The title track (almost 9 minutes) opens the disc and takes on a forward driving pulsating journey that draws on spacey electronics just as much as on quirky jazz-rock/fusion. The longest piece, Big City Music starts with electronic sounds and patterns that remind of Daft Punk but quickly develops into less rhythmic electronic fusion. And the track is over before you know it! Shinkansen brings atmospheric and eerie music, and a mild Oriental flair and eventually ending up in another Daft Punk-like rhythmic piece that finishes rather symphonic. Oban is another very long one, clocking over 12 and a half minutes. We start with wide electronic symphonic melodies with interesting rhythm patterns underneath. Closer Prungen is the shortest piece and also probably the jazziest. A great album - even though it doesn't reach the class of One-Armed Bandit.

By the way, this one is also available as LP (the artwork is possibly even cooler then) and for those who can't get enough of Jaga Jazzist vinyl: Oban was released as a 12 vinyl only single including a remix.

**** CarstenBusch (edited by Astrid de Ronde)

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