At a time when the amount of new music being released each and every month is at an all-time high, it's hard enough for artists to get their music heard, let alone maintain momentum between releases. For many, gigging is the only way to ensure their names remain on the radar, but for bands like Jaga Jazzist, that's no small challenge. Hovering between a nonet and dectet, and featuring some of Norway's busiest young players, the cost of touringand finding times when everyone in the group can commit to hitting the roadmakes it all the more remarkable that Jaga Jazzist has been gigging so much since the release of One-Armed Bandit (Ninja Tune, 2010), playing over thirty dates so far in support of its first release since What We Must (Ninja Tune, 2005), and with more dates in the schedule for later in the year.
Jaga also has a strong fan base that's grown over the years, since the Horntveth siblingsdrummer/mult-instrumentalist Martin, multi-instrumentalist/composer Lars and tubaist/vocalist/multi-instrumentalist Linefirst formed the group while still in their teens, creating a complex musical mélange that, in addition to its skewed jazz-centricity, features touchstones in the music of artists including Frank Zappa, minimalist composers like Steve Reich and Philip Glass, progressive rockers like Gentle Giant and post-rock instrumental group Tortoise. But Jaga knows that it's easy to become irrelevant, though its 2010 comeback, after a near-five-year break, has been very successful indeed, as critics and fans alike rave about One-Armed Bandit and performances like the group's closing concert at the 2010 Kongsberg Jazz Festival.
As Jaga Jazzist continues recording shows in pursuit of a follow-up live album, there's Bananfluer Overalt to keep it fans sated with new (well, new-ish) music. A vinyl-only release, this 12" EP features remixes/reinventions of four tracks from One-Armed Bandit, including "Bananfluer Overalt (Prins Thomas Discomiks)," a dance-floor-intended, 11-minute remix that maintains a thumping groove throughout, with pieces of the original's more complex arrangement used as fragmentary melodic snippets rather than interweaving counterpoint. "220 V/Spektral (FINAL Mix)" is equally booty-shaking, though Magnus August Høiberg does break up the relentless rhythm with bits of dub, drum 'n bass and soaring electronica textures.
More interesting, perhaps, are reinventions, rather than remixes, of "One-Armed Bandit (Sprutbass Mix)"and "Touch of Evil (Cuckoo Mix)." Eivind Hensum dispenses with Jaga Jazzist's multi-instrumental wizardry; delivering, instead, "One Armed Bandit" with synths and programmed beats. It's a curious alternative to the original, as is "Touch of Evil," where Andreas Paleologos applies a faux-reggae rhythm initially, before bolstering his equally synth-driven interpretation with an occasionally staggered, four-on-the-floor beat.
Bananfluer Overalt isn't so much a Jaga Jazzist album as it is a reimagining of Lars Horntveth's distinctive writing for the club crowd. Crossover has always been part of Jaga Jazzist's broader appeal, making this vinyl release (with a code to download the tracks in 320Kbps MP3 format inside) serve as a means of keeping its fan base stoked, while getting its music heard in a context that might actually bring them some new listeners. And that's a very, very good thing.
Track Listing: Bananfluer Overalt (Prins Thomas Discomiks); One-Armed Bandit (Sprutbass Mix); 220 V/Spektral (FINAL Mix); Touch of Evil (Cuckoo Mix).
Personnel: Andreas Mjøs: vibraphone, guitar, Korg MS10, marimba, glockenspiel, crotales and percussion (1, 3); Martin Horntveth: drums, drum machines, percussion, bulbul tarang, marxophone, mandolin harp, psaltery, bells, temple blocks, spike piano and programming (1,3); Lars Horntveth: guitars, clarinet, bass clarinet, tenor saxophone, soprano saxophone, baritone saxophone, flute, Roland SH-2, keyboards, piano, lap steel guitar, eBow-banjo and programming (1, 3); Stian Westerhus : electric guitar, baritone guitar, 12-string guitar, harp, effects and percussion (1, 3); Line Horntveth: tuba, flute, percussion, glockenspiel and vocals (1,3); Even Ormestad: bass, keyboards, glockenspiel and percussion (1, 3); Erik Johannessen: trombone and marxophone (1, 3); Mathias Eick: trumpet, upright bass, keyboards, piano and French horn (1, 3); Øystein Moen: synthesizers, piano, organ and percussion (1, 3); Jørgen Træen: Korg Ms-20 and additional programming (1, 3); John McEntire: analog synth processing (1, 3); Prins Thomas: remix and additional production (1); Eivind Hensum: performance, mix and production (2); Magnus August Høiberg: mix and production (3); Andreas Paleologos: performance, mix and production (4).