Norwegian quartet Wibutee's third album for Bugge Wesseltoft's Jazzland label is a (micro)chip off the new block, as the group continues its exploration of electronica, jazz, and backbeat-driven rhythm.
In the main, we're dealing with grooves heresome of them chilled, some of them urgentand what improvisation there is, most of it coming from Haron Kornstad's Stax-meets-free improv tenor sax, is concerned with maintaining an electronically defined ambience or soundscape rather than developing linear or harmonic ideas.
Played in the background while you're cooking or whatever, that's what Playmachine sounds like: background music. But there is substance here, and the more closely you listen, the more you discover.
The album kicks off with an arrestingly urgent funk groove, Kornstad playing the theme on what sounds like a conch shell (but is more likely a synthesised effect) before he introduces his acerbic, ruff 'n' tuff tenor. The overall vibe is one of restrained ferocity, and it's repeated on "We Are In Space, So Are You" and "Rodeo Activity"both featuring more of Kornstad's tenor, with "We Are In Space, So Are You" also fronting some tongue-in-cheek theremin-like effects.
But the most rewarding tracks are the lazier, neo-balladic "Country Practice," "Gerewol" and "Figment." These have an off-centre, late night, at times downright eerie feel to them, and showcase the group's electronic and programming skillswhich are at least as important as their instrumental onesto more singular effect. These skills are notably combined, by the way, on "1.800.SKAUEN," in Kornstad's flutonet, which sounds, as the name suggests, like a cross between a flute and a clarinet.
Likely to appeal equally to electronica buffs and the more "out" end of the jazz audience (anyone who likes the altogether wilder Critters Buggin', for instance, will probably get off on Playmachine ), Wibutee offers a welcome and refreshing sound from the Oslo underground.
Playmachine; Glor; 1.800.SKAUEN; Country Practice; We Are In Space, So Are You; Gitlat; Gerewol; Ear Traffic; Figment; Rodeo Activity; Mummy.
Haron Kornstad, tenor saxophone, flute, flutonet, melodica, whistling, keyboards, electronics, programming; Wetle Holte, drums, percussion, programming; Per Zanussi, double bass, electric bass, electronics, programming, spin dryer; Rune Bronbo, keyboards, electronics, programming. Havard Wilk, Fender Rhodes, electronics on "Gerewol" and "Ear Traffic;" Bjorn Charles Dreyer, pedal steel guitar on "Country Practice;" Hild Sofie Tafjord, vocals on "Gitlat," French horn on "Country Practice."
In addition to writing and editing for All About Jazz, Chris is editor of the British style/culture/history magazine Jocks&Nerds and consultant Afrobeat historian for Google Arts & Culture and Partisan/Knitting Factory Records.