Album Reviews

Get The Blessing – OCDC

(Naim Jazz) UK release date: 5 March 2012

One of many popular British jazz acts currently exploring hybrid musical forms, Bristol’s Get The Blessing (featuring the touring rhythm section from Portishead – drummer Clive Deamer and bassist Jim Barr) are pitched somewhere between the punk immediacy of Acoustic Ladyland and the groove music of Medeski, Martin and Wood. It is the sort of music consciously designed to irk purists. The band’s third album OCDC may not necessarily be 2012’s most harmonically sophisticated or adventurous release, but it would be churlish indeed to deny its visceral thrill and sheer memorability.

With their lithe, sometimes distorted basslines (think of the Radiohead of The National Anthem more than most other contemporary jazz acts, especially on Between Fear And Sex) and atmospheric themes, there is a cinematic quality to this band’s music. The Waiting is both poised and graceful, a carefully executed balance of restlessness and movie soundtrack elegance. At times, the music here hints at the moody orchestrations of David Axelrod. Get The Blessing’s success is largely based on energy and the spirit of communication. It is bold, frequently loud and highly attacking. There is a carefully executed balance between the brightness of the band’s frontline players (saxophonist James McMurchie and trumpeter Pete Judge) and their brooding rhythm section.

By jazz standards, these pieces are mostly succinct (the longest is eight minutes and the average duration is around the five minute mark). Extemporisation is kept on a tight leash, and is often used more for sonic effect. Yet delve beneath the surface and there are some wonderful ideas that occur as a result of this. The dubby echoes on The Waiting are spellbinding, fusing textures from a variety of musical disciplines, whilst the superb trading of phrases between the always excellent Deamer and Barr on Torque is blisteringly exciting. There’s also some important dynamic and textural contrasts, especially on the propulsive Low Earth Orbit.

The band may find themselves reaching a whole new audience by virtue of a guest appearance from Robert Wyatt. The legend adds wordless vocals to American Meccano, one of the album’s highlights. This is another example of the group’s awareness of sound and timbre. The use of vocals considerably enhances the effect of American Meccano’s lilting melody.

One consistent element throughout is the group’s brilliant sense of groove. The opening title track is ushered in by the urgency of a dancehall beat. Low Earth Orbit skips fluidly between fast tempo and half time thrash. They are also not averse to challenging audiences with the odd tricky time signature. In fact, with Pentopia, the album may arguably close with its most adventurous and carefully arranged composition. OCDC is a further development of the band’s agenda, opening up the world of improvisation and integrating what can often appear an isolated field with other worlds of musical thinking. It’s also tremendously enjoyable.

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