5

GoGo Penguin: A Humdrum Star

Ian Patterson By

Sign in to view read count
In GoGo Penguin's universe distance is a particularly relative concept. From the beginning of its voyage the trio has orbited musical worlds seemingly light-years apart; jazz, classical, dance, electronica, game soundtracks and minimalism -all fall into GoGo Penguin's gravitational pull to create a singular sonic constellation. With A Humdrum Star (Blue Note Records, 2018), Chris Illingworth, Nick Blacka and Rob Turner adopt largely the same raw material that fostered v2.0 (Godwana Records, 2014) and Man Made Object (Blue Note Records, 2016) and effectively polish the same stone. If anything, there's perhaps less post-production soundscaping here than on previous releases and greater emphasis on organic, interlocking dialogs.

The peaceful "Prayer," with its chant-like piano mantra, bowed-bass drone and quasi baroque melody sets a meditative tone, though one that is soon dispelled by the more urgent "Raven," where Turner's blistering pressed rolls and Blacka's consistently probing bass provide bustling counterpoint to the measured lyricism of Illingworth, who toggles between circling motifs and finely sculpted improvisation. "Bardo" follows a similar path, though the confluence of contemporary influences that GoGo Penguin embraces—dance rhythms and electronica, the minimalism and looping patterns of Brian Eno and Philip Glass—are more pronounced. By contrast, shaker and hand percussion imbue the beautifully hypnotic "A Hundred Moons" with an earthy, ritualistic quality.

Amongst the polyrhythmic layers pockets of repose surface here and there, as in Blacka's lyrical bass solo midway through "Strid," which provides stark diversion from the ripping bass ostinato, relentlessly circling piano motif and choppy beats that frame it on either side. Sharp, metronomic cymbal pulses provide the rhythmic template for the driving "Transient," with Turner switching to familiar galloping snare patterns as Illingworth slips the mantra-like motivic tether to stretch out. A timely change in tempo and mood via Blacka's bass solo saves "Return to Text" from slipping into monotony, but like the dance-floor beats that inform GoGo Penguin's music, repetitive grooves and hooks that don't let go are part and parcel of the band's DNA.

There's a hint of the Esbjörn Svensson Trio's influence on "Reactor," an epic fusion of insistent melody played in unison and unrelenting rhythmic drive. "Window" too, is built upon similar blocks, though Illingworth's simultaneous repeating patterns at the outset give way to greater freedom as the music swells grandly before gradually dissipating and concluding with a soft landing.

With A Humdrum Star GoGo Penguin broadly sticks to a tried and tested formula that has won it fans globally. There are some great, vibrant tunes here and plenty of the infectious interlocking grooves that are the trio's stock in trade. And, as pre-release gigs demonstrated, the music gains even greater potency on stage. A Humdrum Star underlines the fact that GoGo Penguin is less interested in experiment for experiment's sake than it is with gradual evolution. For some that may spell a lack of risk-taking, for others it will no doubt signify the refinement of an already distinctive crossover sound. Regardless, GoGo Penguin's star is firmly in the ascendancy.

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

Watch

comments powered by Disqus

Shop for Music

Start your music shopping from All About Jazz and you'll support us in the process. Learn how.

Album Reviews
Interviews
Album Reviews
Live Reviews
Album Reviews
Year in Review
Album Reviews
Extended Analysis
Live Reviews
Extended Analysis
Album Reviews
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

Upcoming Shows

Date Detail Price
Oct11Fri
GoGo Penguin
SFJAZZ Center
San Francisco, CA
Oct24Thu
GOGO PENGUIN
Café De La Danse
Paris, France
€38 - 38

Related Articles

Read The Turning Album Reviews
The Turning
By Bruce Lindsay
July 20, 2019
Read Reveries and Revelations Album Reviews
Reveries and Revelations
By John Eyles
July 20, 2019
Read Live/Shapeshifter Album Reviews
Live/Shapeshifter
By Don Phipps
July 20, 2019
Read Vol 3 Album Reviews
Vol 3
By Phillip Woolever
July 20, 2019
Read First Nature Album Reviews
First Nature
By Troy Dostert
July 19, 2019
Read Sacred Kind of Love: The Columbia Recordings Album Reviews
Sacred Kind of Love: The Columbia Recordings
By Jakob Baekgaard
July 19, 2019
Read Perhaps Album Reviews
Perhaps
By Don Phipps
July 19, 2019