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Adult Jazz: Gist Is

It may be because as a nation we tend to take ourselves a bit too seriously, but we Brits seem to have trouble making intelligent, arty music that doesn’t bury itself under the weight of its own importance. In recent years, various American bands and artists – Grizzly Bear, Dirty Projectors, Joanna Newsom, Vampire Weekend – have successfully fused rock, pop, jazz, folk and neo-classical elements with a warmth and lightness of touch that has made “intellectual” music approachable and entrancing, a concept that their peers on this side of the pond have largely failed to grasp, favouring instead the tried and tested post-punk combination of angles and attitude. Redressing the balance in subtly spectacular fashion are Leeds-based Adult Jazz, a brainy bunch – teachers and the like – whose debut album Gist Is (out this week on their own Spare Thought imprint) locates the common ground between the head and the heart and proceeds to romp around in it like a hippy in a hay field. Utilising a mix of acoustic and electric instruments and digitally processed sounds, the quartet create epic, shapeshifting soundscapes that start out as auto-tuned Gregorian chants and clattering tribal drum circles and invariably blossom into wide-eyed hymns to the wonder of human existence, songs whose sprawling ebb-and-flow anti-structures belie their prog-like complexity; on the one hand it’s all very OK Computer, strings of zeroes and ones and nerdy precision, whilst on the other it’s a bit Astral Weeks, a lazy, winding narrow-boat ride downriver on a muggy summer day. It’s a poetic, pretty record but like those aforementioned touchstones (and others like Wish You Were Here or Grace) it doesn’t subscribe to the notion that pretty and poetic should equate to “fragile” or “maudlin”. Yes, it’s deep and meaningful stuff, but it couldn’t be further from the “heartbroken beardy loner holed up in a cabin in the woods” stereotype; rather, this is spirited, celebratory, communal music, frontman Harry Burgess cooing his “idiot mantras” like a molly’d up Buckley one minute and whooping and scatting like Bjork the next, vocally mirroring the knotty, Ribot-esque guitar lines as the rest of the band casually unspool a riveting tangle of awkwardly funky pastoral psychedelia around him. Perhaps it’s the result of being written from a teacher’s – as opposed to a student’s – perspective but Gist Is makes supposed art-rockers like Alt-J and Wild Beasts sound like the class dummies by comparison; Adult Jazz seem to understand that intelligent, emotional music shouldn’t be precious or pretentious and as such they have produced a beautifully clever debut album – with the emphasis very much on “beautiful”. Check out a bunch of tracks below.
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About foamhands

My name is Michael Dix; I'm a decade or so past being down with the kids, but to me new music never gets old. Apparently I like music that sounds like faulty kitchen appliances and ritual slaughter; really I just like what I like, whether that happens to be indie, pop, punk, hip hop, metal, electronica, Afrobeat or jazz. Follow me on Twitter @FoamHandsBlog to receive notifications of new posts and the occasional random brain-fart, and please share links wherever you can. Enjoy!

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