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Music Reviews

Screaming Females - Castle Talk
»Screaming Females
Castle Talk
Don Giovanni
Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross - The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
»Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross
The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
The Null Corporation
Deerhunter - Halcyon Digest
Halcyon Digest
No Age - Everything in Between
»No Age
Everything in Between
Sub Pop
Robyn - Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
The Walkmen - Lisbon
»The Walkmen
Fat Possum
Jaga Jazzist
What We Must
Ninja Tune/Smalltown Supersound

Rating: 8/10 ?

June 8, 2005
It's about time the world started to take notice of Jaga Jazzist. Having established themselves as heroes in their native Norway, topping charts and regularly gracing airwaves, What We Must displays many signs of Jaga's intention to spread its wings and captivate an accommodating mainstream audience.

Jaga Jazzist enjoys exploring the drawn-out effects of instrumental hooks and pop sensibilities, which naturally require the patience that many music fans are unprepared to offer. With seven songs, each averaging at approximately six or seven minutes in length, this ten-piece may ask the listener for a substantial amount of input, but it goes without saying that the rewards are ample.

What We Must, Jaga Jazzist's fourth full-length, displays a clear progression from earlier ventures. It has a definite live feeling to it, with the presence of drum machines and synthesisers, when compared to The Stix or A Livingroom Hush, being peripheral. Horns (a trumpet, tuba, tenor sax, trombone, flute and bass clarinet, to be precise) act as a focal point and spearhead the rich wall of sound created by the ensemble. Although most people would regard Jaga as an instrumental band, vocals are newly employed during "Swedenborgske" and "Mikado" as scapes rather than conventional lyric-conveyers.

"All I Know is Tonight" exudes a loose post-rock ambience, with instruments working off of one another, propelling the song from A to B in a somewhat roundabout route. The jazz elements to the Jaga Jazzist sound remain subtle, residing in quirky key changes and the formidable musicianship. "Stardust Hotel" is an eerie number, led by a guitar line that slips in and out of key and supported by a structure that regularly subsides and delegates atmospheric licence to the horn section. The scene constructed is futuristic and entirely fresh.

"For All You Happy People" represents Jaga at their most sparse and least extroverted. It hypnotises and relaxes in equal measures, progressing from a murky horn-driven environment to a calming yet rigid jazz-rock finale. The harmonies created by guitars and a vibraphone in "Oslo Skyline" are quite spectacular - perhaps a modernization of classical avant-garde jazz musicians such as Charles Mingus and Gil Evans.

Although Jaga Jazzist are often compared to Godspeed You! Black Emperor, their sound is not quite so crushing or intense. The band's beauty is not quite as explicit, and, although their craft does not appeal to the emotions in the same manner as GYBE, What We Must is entirely uplifting, dynamic and eccentric. It represents a solid stepping stone in an already remarkable discography, and, given its success in Jaga's home country, suggests that the world should be taking more lessons from the Norwegians.

Reviewed by Mike Wright
A staff writer based in London, England, Mike Wright is eternally troubled by the American bastardization of the English language.

See other reviews by Mike Wright



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