Formed in 2015, Bog Bodies is an international trio comprising tenor saxophonist Robert Stillman, guitarist Anders Holst and drummer Sean Carpio. The band moves freely between the composed and the improvised, the abstract and the figurative, and the acoustic and the electronic. Is it jazz? Is it La Monte Young-inspired drone? Is it noise? Is it Eivind Aarset-esque dreamscape? Take your pick(s).
Recorded in 2019, Bog Bodies is the band's second album, following Sligo (Migro, 2017). Gritty and at times touching on the volcanic, it is also fundamentally lyrical. In other words, it has nothing to do with the gruesome associations that may spring to mind from the titular reference to mud-shrouded human cadavers long-buried in some backwater swamp.
The LP is a game of two halves. Side one, which consists of three suite-like tracks, is the least abstract and the most compelling. "Superman 3 In Our Time" is slow and dreamy and mellifluous. "Bog Bodies" takes a variation on the opening tune's melodic motif, runs it though a grungometer, and towards the end gets borderline freak-out. "Bog Bodies-Pater Dreamwalk" returns to the dreamy vibe of the opening track, made more ethereal by Carpio's wordless-vocal introduction. Stillman plays tenor on the first two tracks and bass clarinet on the third.
Lord knows what Stillman plays on side two, a two-part suite which takes the band further into electronic abstraction and post-production sonic manipulation. It is to these ears less compelling than side one.
At the time of writing there is no YouTube on Bog Bodies. So, below, is a clip of Stillman standing in for Shabaka Hutchings on a live version of "The Journey" from ex-Sons of Kemet drummer Tom Skinner's outstanding solo album, Voices Of Bishara (Brownswood, 2022).
Superman 3 In Our Time; Bog Bodies; Bog Bodies-Pater Dreamwalk; One That is Reflected in the Image Becomes All; Cave Painting 2019 AD.
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Chris May is a senior editor of All About Jazz and editor of the style magazine Jocks & Nerds; he was previously the editor of Black Music & Jazz Review magazine; he is Afrobeat consultant for Partisan Records and Google Arts & Culture.