Review of Key Album by Red Snapper

Red Snapper are a hidden gem fuelled with much variety, contrast and originality; one definitely worth discovering. Their latest offering, Key, opens with 'In Your Backs', smooth saxophone and clean guitar gesture over a ground of double bass, drums and electronics, complete with vocoder vocals. Red Snapper's blend instantly sounds like a more menacing version of The Cinematic Orchestra; the same prog-meets-jazz-meets-electronica vein, but with a much heavier beat and strut, in fact, the beat frequently breaks into double time nodding almost towards the fast and furious pace of drum and bass. 'Chimee', on the other hand, opens with arpeggiated toy piano sounds twinkling above the contrasting foreboding growl of bowed double bass; the track gradually picks up pace before trip hop-esque beats kick in and the bass drops into a funky plucked riff. Emphasising a musical blend that's very much about interlocking layers, 'Chimee' sounds a higher bowed lower string instrument over a mass of interlocking beats and grooves that are later joined by melodic clarinet motives. There is no doubt that Red Snapper's blend is the kind of music that would undoubtedly offer an entrancing live performance with lots of contrasting timbers interjecting and gesturing between one and other but also holding together as a whole. 'Biffa Bacon' features whispered female vocals a la Portishead, then funky bass and sax licks kick into the blend, sounding a fantastic jazz/dance/trip-hop fusion to lose yourself in; toe tapping, funky grooving and, at times, downright dirty.

Red Snapper Key Album

Later, 'Jack' sounds solo male vocals over whispers of gently tapped snare that continue once the bass, electronics and beats kick in. The track is much more of a song than the preceding more experimental, improvisation like tracks but contains absolutely no less conviction and throughout this, as with the entirety of the album, Ali Friend's bass playing is very central to the blend amongst the beats and electronics. With echoing, delayed, rhythmic sax sounds over bowed double bass, 'Spikey' brings to mind a Garbarek-esque, world music inspired feel mixed with the electronic drenched minimalism of Steve Reich with its' interlocking repeated rhythms, then, in contrast, 'Architectonic' sounds bongo/conga Latin percussion accompanying a reggae bass line offering yet another different fusion. During 'Architectonic', Red Snapper lay down yet another infectious, movement inducing cool groove beneath heartfelt male vocals; they combine many elements of a multitude of a genres and bands from Portishead to Bonobo to The Cinematic Orchestra to Steve Reich. A more dominant and melodic saxophone line is evident in 'Take Your Medicine', above the bass driven, multi-layered rhythm section ground, whilst 'Loveboat' sounds more of a driven, up tempo feel which pushes along beneath attitude-ridden vocals combining yet more influence.

The lower saxophone growling in joint force with the low fuzzy guitars of 'Eye Liner Stab' offers a more scratchy, growly, uneasy sound with less of a toe-tapping beat in comparison to preceding track; as its' title perhaps suggests, this track has much more of a menacing, stabbing, evil quality to it which is then counterbalanced by the mellow, smooth clarinet introduction of 'Great First Touch', before it's funky beat kicks in together with a busy, dominant bass riff and Red Snapper settle back to their previous form with their cool and solid groove. This return to security, however, is once again contrasted by 'Off Balance' which is more down tempo with atmospheric guitars amongst the blend to offer a more post-rock like flavour, almost like an interception from a different album.

Key then closes with 'You Read My Cards Wrong' which opens a picked double bass intro that is then joined by smooth saxophone echoing similar melodic gestures in conversation with the bass over held organ chords and trademark electronics and beats, and even suggestions of smooth strings creeping into the blend.

Red Snapper are a hidden gem fuelled with much variety, contrast and originality; one definitely worth discovering.

Hannah Spencer

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