Girls in Airports: Kaikoura (2013)
How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.
Since releasing its self-titled debut in 2010, the Danish group Girls in Airports has managed to create their own expression, a unique blend of Nordic jazz lyricism, indie-rock influences and sounds from around the world, including the pentatonic scales of Ethiopian music, dub sounds of Jamaica and Brazilian rhythms. This is truly a globalized band if there ever was one.
The group's aesthetic foundation relies on the natural melodies of saxophonist and composer Martin Stender, but the music is developed organically in the group and each member delivers a crucial part of a greater whole. It isn't about egos delivering their own solos, but about artists fleshing out a wide canvas of sound.
If there is one thing that is apparent on the group's third album Kaikoura, it is an increasing interest in texture and coherence. While each composition is strong and melodic, there isn't a particular anthem that sticks out in the same way as the utterly enchanting "Children's Temple," the epic tour de force on the predecessor Migration. The narrative isn't so much inherent in the singular song as it is in the work as a whole. While being distinctive in its own right, one composition flows naturally into the other, carried by the delicate rhythms of percussionist Victor Dybbroe and drummer Mads Forsby.
The playing of Stender and fellow saxophonist Lars Greve is as inventive as ever, encompassing everything from the deep growls of the didgeridoo to the dancing lines of a snake charmer and the velvet tone of Lester Young. Their signature melodic arabesques come to the fore on "The Grass By The Roses" where their singing saxophones lift in a joyous crescendo.
A notably new influence comes from the post-rock pioneers Tortoise whose cinematic, repetitious grooves and subtle rhythmic counterpoints resurface on "Broken Stones" with Mathias Holm's ethereal analogue keyboard washes in the center.
Holm, who has humorously been called the captain in the band, is the pillar of the effortless organic shifts in sound. Through his diverse use of the keys, he can cover everything from dub imitations to oriental Fender Rhodes-funk and post-rock. However, the real captain in the band is the music itself and everyone in the band seems capable of taking it into new places.
Kaikoura is named after an island in New Zealand, but it belongs to the rich geography of the imagination. Like a wild forest, the music reflects life in all its colorful variety while still having a firm sense of unity. In spite of all the influences, this isn't a postmodern patchwork of genres, but rather a timeless snapshot of natural beauty.
Track Listing: Intro; The Grass by the Roses; Sunshine on Fish Skin; Broken Stones;
Children's Chambers; Kaikoura; King's Birthday; Albert Kahn; Oktober
Personnel: Martin Stender: saxophones; Lars Greve: saxophones and clarinets;
Mathias Holm: keyboards; Victor Dybbroe: percussion; Mads Forsby: drums.
Record Label: Gateway Music