Polar Bear: In Each And Every One (2014)
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Polar Bear is back. Not just with a bang, but with a whole array of other sounds, including the occasional whimper. In Each And Every One brings together 11 tunes from the pen of drummer Sebastian Rochfordfrom the gently bucolic to the downright macabre. There's also an early front runner for the Best Song Title Of 2014 award.
In Each And Every One is the British band's fifth album. It appears four years after Peepers (Leaf Label, 2010) and ten years into a career that's included the Mercury Music Prize nominated Held On The Tips Of Fingers (Babel Label, 2005). The four year gap between releases hasn't exactly been filled with thumb twiddling and idle reflection. Rochford has worked with a host of musicians including Brian Eno and Jason Moran. Saxophonist Pete Wareham and electronics maestro Leafcutter John have enlivened the scene with Melt Yourself Down. Saxophonist Mark Lockheart produced the excellent Ellington In Anticipation (Subtone Records, 2012)which featured Rochford and bassist Tom Herbert. Herbert also plays bass with another Mercury nominated band, The Invisible.
The 2014 Polar Bear has lost none of its creative spark. Starting with Rochford's compositions, the band takes off in all sorts of directions. Leafcutter John's electronics are at the heart of much of this music, whether creating the dreamlike soundscape of "Open See" or the darker moods of "WW."
Whatever the mood, whatever the tempo, there's a beautifully unforced feel to this music. Rochford's percussion, often underpinned by Leafcutter John's electronic beats, is key to this sense of relaxed cool. Wareham and/or Lockheart sound similarly unhurried much of the timeon the quirky "Be Free" for examplealthough they occasionally break into more frenetic flurries of sound.
"Lost In Death Part 2" (which appears before the rather slinky "Lost In Death Part 1") finds the band at its most graceful. It's a beautiful tune, centred on melodic tenor sax and driven by Herbert's pulsing bass. In stark contrast "Life And Life" belies its titlethis is Polar Bear at its most harrowing, the playing at its most intense.
And the early favorite for Song Title Of The Year? "They're All Ks And Qs Lucien" takes that accolade. Blessed with a fine groove and some of Rochford's most imaginative percussion, it builds slowly to what appears to be a rousing finale before re-emerging with a somewhat mystifying coda. High drama. Indeed, there's excitement in all of these tunes, there's drama In Each And Every One.
Track Listing: Open See; Be Free; Chotpot; They're All Ks And Qs Lucien; WW; Lost In Death Part 2; Maliana; Lost In Death Part 1; Life And Life; Two Storms; Sometimes.
Personnel: Pete Wareham: tenor saxophone; Mark Lockheart: tenor saxophone; Tom Herbert: double bass; Leafcutter John: electronics; Sebastian Rochford: drums.
Record Label: The Leaf Label
Style: Modern Jazz