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The birth of the quartet Dark Star Safari (named after a 2003 Paul Theroux travel book) dates back to a December 2017 session at the Candybomber studio in Berlin, initiated by Swiss drummer Samuel Rohrer who invited along two Norwegianssampler and keyboardist Jan Bang and guitarist Eivind Aarsethaving previously played with them at gigs including Norway's annual Punkt festival. The open improvisations resulting from the session were examined and then used as the basis of further manipulations. Bang made two important decisions that contributed to the end results heard here: firstly, he decided to give additional shape and colour to the music by singing it, a role he had not undertaken for some years; secondly, he sent the results to his fellow Norwegian, and Punkt band mate, Erik Honore, who helped shape the music and became the fourth member of Dark Star Safari. Given Rohrer's past experience with Bang and Aarset, and the three Norwegians' history togetheras on Arve Henriksen's Towards Language (Rune Grammofon, 2017) and Places of Worship (Rune Grammofon, 2013), for exampleit is unsurprising that Dark Star Safari is a tight, like-minded ensemble. What may catch some listeners unawares is the prominence of vocals throughout and the shortness of the songs, which vary in length from just under a-minute-and-a-half to just under six minutes, together totalling thirty-eight-and-a-half minutes. The songs' melodies are largely carried by Bang's vocals, with the results of the open improvisations being used for coloration and atmosphere, and Rohrer's drumming giving them a pulse (as heard on the YouTube clip of "Resilient Star," below.) Bang proves to be an accomplished vocalist who employs a variety of voices to suit the content and mood of different songs; at times, his delivery and phrasing have a plaintive edge that is reminiscent of the late, great Scott Walker; and we should not forget that Bang and Honoré have also worked closely with David Sylvian. Aficionados of Walker and Sylvian will certainly find much here to interest and engage them. As a debut album, Dark Star Safari is a clear indication that this quartet has a promising future ahead of them, producing innovative and original music. The prospect of their second album is already mouth-watering.
As a songwriter and vocalist, I love jazz for the experience of being in the center of intense creativity. It is the most potent form of music for keeping the artist and the audience in the 'now. Being in the moment is essential for humans, and we need help in learning how to do that. As a songwriter, I need the depth of musicality that jazz voicings can give my stories. My songs seem light and whimsical, but the message is not.
I met my main collaborator, Mark Fitzgibbon, at one of his gigs. I needed to do my first original album, and his playing was masterful, robust, and beautiful. At the time, I didn't realize how suited we were as a team. We're onto our 4rth album together.
My advice to new listeners is to listen to a really clear and simple version of a song so you can then hear what the musicians are doing and enjoy their creativity and musicality. Also, you have to see jazz live to appreciate it fully. You'll never feel it the same way listening to a CD or online. You need the vibration to go through your body to really get it!
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