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Good grief, Slow As An Eyeball is fun. Not fun as in "quite enjoyable" or "this might bring a smile to the face," but fun as in Fun. The sort of immediate, raw and inescapable joy that leaps out of the speakers to demand smiles, dance action and increased volume all at the same time. The trio of musicians who form Quack Quackbased in Leeds in the northern English county of Yorkshireinhabit a musical world on the fringes of jazz, techno, dance and even progressive rock, creating atmospheric and downright catchy tunes with a refreshing lack of pretension. As the cheap '70s record label had it, this is "Music For Pleasure."
"Perpetual Spinach" sounds a little like the Americana style of Calexicothere's even some lap steel guitar from Richard Formbyuntil the entry of Richard Morris' simple keyboard line. The sound of jazz originals like Sun Ra, and the gloriously eccentric electronica of '60s visionary Joe Meek break through as multiple rhythms create a rich, welcoming ambience.
"Toc H" is a medium tempo tune with a simple and straightforward structure and is perhaps most typical of the Quack Quack approach. Much of the tune is underpinned by a pedal electronic drone over which Stuart Bannister adds a funky, repetitive bass to take charge of the rhythm. On top sits Neil Turpin's light and vibrant drumming and Morris' stabbing keyboardwhich is, itself, replaced occasionally by a denser, lower register keyboard sound that adds just a hint of menace. This thoughtful, multilayered approach is repeated consistently across the album's ten tracks, ensuring that their immediacy doesn't become tired as repeated listening can uncover new sounds and ideas.
Towards the middle of the albummost notably on "Phonehenge"the pace drops, repetition comes over too strongly and the vibrancy of the music suffers. But the quality soon recovers when, half way through "Big Sounds," Morris enters with a beautiful rolling keyboard riff. The album closes with three of its strongest tunes. "Bird Parliament" has a slinky central keyboard riff while its structural approach suggests a strong jazz influence. The band's jazz credentials are stated clearly when Polar Bear's Seb Rochford and Pete Wareham guest on drums and tenor sax respectively on "As Slow as an Eyeball," while Wareham adds some heavy tenor riffs to the splendidly cheery and upbeat closer, "Jack of None."
Slow As An Eyeball took three years to record, but the cohesiveness and consistency of the tunes sound like they were created in a much shorter period. Quack Quack brings a welcome freshness to the fringes of jazz, with a sharp reminder that technical complexity is not the only goal. Ohand it's fun.
Track Listing: Perpetual Spinach; D Motherfucker D; Three; Toc H; Phonehenge; Big Sounds; Cakes Are Easy; Bird Parliament; As Slow as an Eyeball; Jack of None.
Personnel: Stuart Bannister: bass; Richard Morris: keyboards; Neil Turpin: drums; Richard Formby: lap steel guitar (1), oscillator (4, 10); Sebastian Rochford: additional drums (9); Pete Wareham: saxophone (9, 10).
Years ago now--in Rhodesia--listening to Voice of America with Willis Conover I heard Bunk Johnson play When The Saints Go Marching In, and Billie Holiday sing Don't Explain. I knew then there was no other life for me than jazz.