On their respectable but patchy debut Earthling, jazzy-dub heads Wet Cookies jam to academic sounds shot through with looseness and flavor. For all its hip tradition, jazz remains an insider-ball genre, whose appeal stems as much from its in-the-moment heat as from the craft’s technical demands. To no surprise, several of the featured players, including band co-founder Bjoern Klein, were professionally trained in this style. Jazz is their subject matter, their sacred cow abounding in sonic possibilities. The sense quickly emerges that, while skilled and passionate, Wet Cookies are performing largely for themselves. Improvised flourishes run through the ambling sax-trumpet interplay of “One More Step” and the sensually restrained “Lucky We Were” but fail to excite. These tracks tow a precarious line between spirited free-form and aimless tedium. As a whole, Earthling features too much of the latter. Though, being dub, its jazz comes in hybrid varieties: reggae (“Chicken Lickin”), R&B (“Sundazed”), melodramatic classical (title track), and thud-heavy electronic (on the album standout “Slutmachine”). These crossover twists are welcome and provide the swagger that Earthling doesn’t always muster with its more purist jazz.
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