Review of One Armed Bandit Album by Jaga Jazzist

Sometimes, technical dexterity and a virtuous striving for perfection don't always necessarily endeavour to produce the most pleasurable of experiences. Bearing that in mind, it makes a record such as 'One Armed Bandit' extremely difficult to listen to even in the most comfortable of environments whilst making it equally as painstaking to harbour criticism on its protagonists either. Jaga Jazzist, you see, are something of an elite force when it comes to creating music. To call them anything short of proficient would be a massive injustice, as there complex arrangements and diverse assemblages come across as being labours of practiced perfectionists. Indeed, it would be hard to imagine a group so conscientious to their art as this lowering themselves to producing anything that conjures up ideas of pleasure or entertainment in mass consumption.

Jaga Jazzist One Armed Bandit Album

Having been around for just over fifteen years now, Jaga Jazzist, centred around the Horntveth brothers, Martin and Lars, have become a name that is highly revered among the avant garde community, whether that be the nu-jazz fraternity of their native Scandinavia or experimental post-rock community that's spawned a host of inventive collaborations heavily indebted to the Norwegian ensemble in one way or another. Certainly its predecessor 'What We Must' owed more to the projected skyscrapings of a latter day Explosions In The Sky or Godspeed! You Black Emperor's formative years, so for 'One Armed Bandit', the now slimline (by their standards) nine-piece Jaga Jazzist have concocted possibly their most diverse record to date, and while that may look appealing on paper, as a listening experience it can often be heavy going.

Sure enough there are moments of sublime musicianship that excite and invigorate in equal measure. The backwards-masked guitars and looped drums of 'Prognissekongen' often prove reminiscent of Battles in their more recent 'Mirrored' phase, while the colossal multi-segued '220 V/Spektral' combines math-rock style breakdowns with mazy basslines that actually sound as if they were recorded using panpipes rather than four-stringed instruments. The beat heavy 'Music! Dance! Drama!' meanwhile is possibly the most unexpected departure the group has taken to date, owing more to the DFA/LCD sound than anything classically trained or otherwise.

Sadly, these are intertwined with nine-minute pieces such as 'Toccata' that while faultless in execution or eloquence, don't exactly function as causes for celebration whilst struggling to maintain any interest for a long period of time. In fact, the general feeling with 'One Armed Bandit' is that its creators often purvey a sense of being too clever for their own good, often missing the point of music's existential purpose as a recreational pastime rather than being an exercise in superior complexity.

Nevertheless, there is something here that should appeal to anyone with a broad palette, however minimal that may be. Nevertheless, don't expect 'One Armed Bandit' to be on repeat play either, otherwise one's love for music may gradually subside.


Dom Gourlay

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