GoGo Penguin – GoGo Penguin (Ltd Edn Clear Vinyl 2LP)
When a musical ensemble chooses to self-title an album mid-career, it usually signifies their conviction that they’ve struck upon the motherlode, hit the jackpot, stepped up and generally arrived at a point they’ve always striven for but never quite attained before. Coming from GoGo Penguin at this stage in the game, it’s quite a bold statement: the Manchester, England trio have fielded rave reviews for inspiration and originality at every turn since 2013, when they settled on their dream line-up of Chris Illingworth (piano), Rob Turner (drums) and Nick Blacka (bass). Fusing jazz, classical and electronic influences (amongst others) with a thirst for innovation, they won the Mercury Prize for album of the year in 2014 and have enjoyed a success matched by precious few vocal-free groups post-millennium.
GoGo Penguin’s music has always defied categorization. In their sound, there have been detectable traces of latter day developments in jazz, such as Sweden’s free-thinking Esbjörn Svensson Trio (aka E.S.T.), or minimalist classical composers like Steve Reich, John Adams, even Erik Satie. Yet, all in their mid-30’s, you can hear that they have grown up in the golden age of electronica, with echoes ranging from rarefied techno (think Aphex Twin; Carl Craig’s Innerzone Orchestra), and the emotive melodies and crescendos of European house, through to Roni Size’s jazz-infused drum ‘n’ bass.
“Because I play the double bass, I think I always wanted to have jazz in our music,” Blacka says. “But as we’ve moved through the albums, it’s been a very gradual thing for me where I’ve now finally come to accept that we really just aren’t a jazz band. This new album is the one where I thought, ‘fuck it, there’s no point even worrying anymore!’ That has been really liberating and freeing for all of us.” A big part of GoGo Penguin’s impact derives from the way they employ computer technology to compose with, then find ways to record (and perform) the results on acoustic instruments, with help from a surprisingly limited arsenal of effects pedals and delays. Rob confesses, “I spend way more time on my laptop than I do on my drums.”
- Signal In The Noise
- F Maj Pixie
- To The Nth
- Don’t Go