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Jaga Jazzist, Animal Chin EP (Gold Standard Labs)
The Norwegian jazz collective are getting plenty of good press at the moment for their strange amalgam of big band jazz, '70s jazz-rock, post-millennial digitalism, and a vaguely anarchic "spirit of '68" avant-gardism. I'm not wholly convinced, but there's no doubt that Jaga Jazzist are another name to be added to the growing list of worthy and adventurous projects emerging from Scandinavia. Inventive soloists, an ear for a hook line, and a definite energy are the band's most positive features. There is also the packed, densely-layered nature of the arrangements. These are sometimes a bit too "everything but the kitchen sink" and can result in a complete mess ("Animal Chin"). On the other hand, on tracks like "Real Racecars Have Doors" or "Toxic Dart", they allow an untidy but melodically charged excitement, reminiscent of the Mothers of Inventions's best Uncle Meat-era extemporisation. Star of the show Lars Horntveth's fondness for baritone sax and bass clarinet somehow reinforces that impression. "Low Battery" shows that there is a quieter more contemplative side to their music and the long re-mix of "Going Down" sums up most of the attributes, good and bad, so far mentioned. All in all, this EP gleaned from various recent albums provides a useful sampler of one of the more extravagant outfits currently invigorating the European nu-jazz scene.