Learn How

We need your help in 2018

Support All About Jazz All About Jazz is looking for 1,000 backers to help fund our 2018 projects that directly support jazz. You can make this happen by purchasing ad space or by making a donation to our fund drive. In addition to completing every project (listed here), we'll also hide all Google ads and present exclusive content for a full year!

13

Mammal Hands: Floa

Phil Barnes By

Sign in to view read count
Mammal Hands debut album Animalia from autumn 2014 impressed with its emphasis on the overall collective effect over solo pyrotechnics, a choice that perfectly complemented the build and release of tension in the music. Of course in a trio set up the contributions of each member are always discernible and the twist of substituting Jordan Smart's saxophone for the bass position in the traditional piano trio gave the space that their sound needed. Floa, a Norse word for deluge or flow apparently, is the follow up to that promising debut and builds on that effective foundation while still sprinkling a few hints as to where the band might go next across its 9 tracks.

If you wanted to sum up the sound of Mammal Hands you could do a lot worse than opening track "Quiet Fire." Even the title hints at the tensions and emotions absorbed through the way Nick Smart's piano builds a minimal motif out of some light percussion before negotiating the rhythmic challenge set by Jesse Barrett's drums. The music shifts with the piano leading the rhythm until the tension is released by Jordan Smart's saxophone solo. The patterns are minimal, repetitive and extremely effective in combination pointing to a more modern concern with texture that has some parallels in modern classical, electronic and ambient music. The absence of bass though pushes this away from the more directly rhythmic path taken so successfully by, say, GoGo Penguin and more towards the feel of some Nik Bartsch, Penguin Café Orchestra or even Matt Winn's later work as D*Note in the 1990s.

Yet for all these references there are many elements that hark back to an influence from the spiritual jazz of Alice Coltrane or Pharoah Sanders, especially when Jordan Smart's saxophone is at its most expressive. "Hourglass" in particular features some invigorating tabla playing alongside a breakbeat from Barrett, set against a sax solo that has the joy of breaking free from a particularly onerous restriction. The Alice Coltrane feel is further emphasised by the addition of strings to tracks such as the relatively brief "In the Treetops" by several Gondwana Orchestra alumni. It is also worth noting that Matthew Halsall is once again in the producers chair with George Atkins, who did such a sterling job on the recent "On The Go" special edition, covering off the recording and mastering.

There is even something akin to the flow of a more traditional jazz tune on the eminently hummable "Think Anything" that sways gently through an engaging melody that remains in the head long after the CD has left the player. That this could peacefully co-exist on the same album as the more experimental, possibly metallic, percussion samples used on album closer "Shift" is a tribute to both the coherence of the group sound and the quality of the playing.

This is an album whose strengths accumulate over an extended period, the repetitive melodic motifs hooking the ear into progressively more discoveries over repeated listens. It's the sort of record where genres are shown as the artificial constructions, designed to sell us stuff, that they really are. So for all their melodic invention Mammal Hands do not, in truth, sit in the most commercial position in the market place -not wholly fitting any of the genre constructs that the lazy will fall back on. The flip side of this is that they have made a record that channels many different influences, subtly shaded by clever experiments, that if given a chance will give many hours of enjoyment. "Quiet Fire" indeed and highly recommended.

Track Listing: Quiet Fire; Hillum; Hourglass; Think Anything; In the Treetops; Eyes that Saw the Mountain; Kudu; The Falling Dream; Shift

Personnel: Jordan Smart: saxophone; Nick Smart: piano; Jesse Barrett: drums & tabla; With: Gavin Barras: bass; Natalie Purton: violin, viola;

Title: Floa | Year Released: 2016 | Record Label: Gondwana Records


Tags

comments powered by Disqus

More Articles

Read Rain or Shine CD/LP/Track Review Rain or Shine
by Jack Bowers
Published: December 15, 2017
Read Copenhagen Live 1964 CD/LP/Track Review Copenhagen Live 1964
by John Sharpe
Published: December 15, 2017
Read Somewhere Glimmer CD/LP/Track Review Somewhere Glimmer
by Glenn Astarita
Published: December 15, 2017
Read Lighthouse CD/LP/Track Review Lighthouse
by Mark Sullivan
Published: December 15, 2017
Read Lattice CD/LP/Track Review Lattice
by John Sharpe
Published: December 14, 2017
Read I Think I’m Going To Eat Dessert CD/LP/Track Review I Think I’m Going To Eat Dessert
by Mark Corroto
Published: December 14, 2017
Read "Double Strike" CD/LP/Track Review Double Strike
by James Nadal
Published: May 31, 2017
Read "The Things We Did Last Summer" CD/LP/Track Review The Things We Did Last Summer
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: August 5, 2017
Read "Live" CD/LP/Track Review Live
by Roger Farbey
Published: September 9, 2017
Read "Hybrido - From Rio To Wayne Shorter" CD/LP/Track Review Hybrido - From Rio To Wayne Shorter
by Roger Farbey
Published: April 12, 2017
Read "Fly Or Die" CD/LP/Track Review Fly Or Die
by Karl Ackermann
Published: April 28, 2017
Read "Combsy" CD/LP/Track Review Combsy
by Doug Collette
Published: October 28, 2017

Support All About Jazz's Future

We need your help and we have a deal. Contribute $20 and we'll hide the six Google ads that appear on every page for a full year!