All About Jazz

Home » Articles » CD/LP/Track Review

Dear All About Jazz Readers,

If you're familiar with All About Jazz, you know that we've dedicated over two decades to supporting jazz as an art form, and more importantly, the creative musicians who make it. Our enduring commitment has made All About Jazz one of the most culturally important websites of its kind in the world reaching hundreds of thousands of readers every month. However, to expand our offerings and develop new means to foster jazz discovery we need your help.

You can become a sustaining member for a modest $20 and in return, we'll immediately hide those pesky Google ads PLUS deliver exclusive content and provide access to future articles for a full year! This combination will not only improve your AAJ experience, it will allow us to continue to rigorously build on the great work we first started in 1995. Read on to view our project ideas...

8

GoGo Penguin: A Humdrum Star

Geno Thackara By

Sign in to view read count
"Who are we? We find that we live on an insignificant planet of a humdrum star lost in a galaxy tucked away in some forgotten corner of a universe in which there are far more galaxies than people."
-Carl Sagan


GoGo Penguin's snappy-yet-offbeat name is a pretty good indicator of their personality—partly inspired by an actual penguin statue that lurked in the corner of their rehearsal space in the early days—but it seems the chameleon is turning out to be their true spirit animal after all. Their amorphous musical DNA has woven jazz, chamber/classical, techno, trance and myriad other things from the start. Meanwhile the trio's evolution has always been a series of gradual but unmistakable steps: there's a feel in there that's always recognizable as their own, while each recording manages to both refine and redefine what they're all about.

The latter half of GGP's trademark "acoustic electronica" makes a noticeable shift to the fore on A Humdrum Star. Everything is still played on analog instruments, and any alterations to the sounds (a pickup or two for the piano, objects draped across drums and cymbals) are handled live in real time. Nonetheless these judicious tweaks go a long way toward expanding their soundscape this time around. Album number four finds the trio sounding more spacey, more picturesque, simply more vast than ever before. That's partly a function of Chris Illingworth's piano getting a lush dose of reverb from time to time, but more so because the compositions become downright cinematic.

The production is evocative and even sharply futuristic, melding organic rhythms and dramatic atmospheres with hints of something indefinably alien. Rob Turner's frisky Elvin Jones-on-a-bender breakbeats keep the boilers stoked like mad, still leaving breathing space aplenty for lovely oases like the tribal "A Hundred Moons." Nick Blacka nimbly co-leads the affair with warm double-bass thrums and odd-textured arco fuzz; Illingworth's crystalline notes can settle into earthy groove chording, weave themselves into flighty lines or simply float and revolve like dust motes in sunlight.

The band's chemistry was already impressive when this lineup debuted on V2.0 (Gondwana, 2014), but the years in between have brought them to a sizzling combustion point. The three sound effortlessly smooth even when hopskotching through the staggered five-over-four of "Transient State," for instance, or chugging through the brain-twisting "Reactor" in what feels like three different time signatures at once. With music so rhythmically dynamic they don't simply play in synch, but they don't quite go against each other either—the friction of their three-way counterpoint is the kind that only pushes them all to more adventuresome heights as it goes. GGP certainly has the defining qualities of a jazz group, but also so much more that they've become a complete breed apart. We're witnessing another electrifying leap forward and there's nothing humdrum here in the least.

Track Listing: Prayer; Raven; Bardo; A Hundred Moons; Strid; Transient State; Return to Text; Reactor; Window.

Personnel: Chris Illingworth: piano; Nick Blacka: bass; Rob Turner: drums.

Title: A Humdrum Star | Year Released: 2018 | Record Label: Blue Note Records

Tags

Related Video

comments powered by Disqus

CD/LP/Track Review
Interviews
CD/LP/Track Review
Live Reviews
CD/LP/Track Review
Best of / Year End
Read more articles
A Humdrum Star

A Humdrum Star

Blue Note Records
2018

buy
Man Made Object

Man Made Object

Blue Note Records
2017

buy
Man Made Object

Man Made Object

Blue Note Records
2016

buy
GoGo Penguin: Man Made Object

GoGo Penguin: Man...

Blue Note Records
2016

buy
GoGo Penguin: v2.0

GoGo Penguin: v2.0

Gondwana Records
2014

buy
v2.0

v2.0

Gondwana Records
2014

buy

Related Articles

Read Brothers CD/LP/Track Review
Brothers
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: September 24, 2018
Read The Fearless Flyers CD/LP/Track Review
The Fearless Flyers
by John Bricker
Published: September 24, 2018
Read Super Mood CD/LP/Track Review
Super Mood
by Glenn Astarita
Published: September 24, 2018
Read Beheaded Totem CD/LP/Track Review
Beheaded Totem
by James Fleming
Published: September 24, 2018
Read New Hope CD/LP/Track Review
New Hope
by Jack Bowers
Published: September 23, 2018
Read The Nobuki Takamen Trio CD/LP/Track Review
The Nobuki Takamen Trio
by Mark Sullivan
Published: September 23, 2018
Read "Daddy Said So" CD/LP/Track Review Daddy Said So
by Jim Worsley
Published: March 2, 2018
Read "Live from Stern Grove Festival" CD/LP/Track Review Live from Stern Grove Festival
by Chris M. Slawecki
Published: January 7, 2018
Read "Perfectly Unhappy" CD/LP/Track Review Perfectly Unhappy
by John Eyles
Published: June 4, 2018
Read "The Velvet Rage" CD/LP/Track Review The Velvet Rage
by Roger Farbey
Published: June 28, 2018
Read "Veterans of Jazz" CD/LP/Track Review Veterans of Jazz
by Mark Sullivan
Published: November 22, 2017
Read "Influences" CD/LP/Track Review Influences
by Don Phipps
Published: February 17, 2018