One of the latest trailblazing contemporary UK jazz labels oversees this stunning debut EP from Dundundun, which features some of the most inspired grooves and remixing work you will hear all year.
Of all the genres that have persisted throughout the 20th century and beyond, perhaps none have had such a enduring impact as Jazz, which has filtered through into pretty much every single significant movement of dance music since. Jazz is a genre of half steps, unbounded experimentation, off-the-wall compositions and perhaps most importantly, the concept of free flowing instrumentation that challenges convention and re-writes how we perceive and understand music. Its a genre that found roots in the African-American communities of New Orleans before spreading outwards to many of the major cities in the US, with tight knit scenes forming that would lead to further sub-genres emerging that would see traditional jazz fuse itself with more conventional forms of music, leading to the development of genres like Bebop, Free Jazz, Jazz-Funk and Jazz Fusion, all of which sought to pair the by now iconic free expressionism of jazz with longer structured compositions. As the 20th century flowed onwards, the emergence of dance music would lead to jazz stylings becoming a prevalent feature in genres like House and Techno, with producers within these genres blending the spirit of Jazz into their works via intense key work and skipping choppy drumming patterns, all the while retaining the divulging nature of the genre that has become one of its signature features. This absorption of Jazz as a key feature of genre development has continued into the 21st century, with not just the continued pairing of jazz with electronic leaning genres but the complete resurfacing of jazz orientated scenes, with many cities now boasting a world class contemporary collection of musicians and groups who are looking to push the genre further into the modern age. Whilst not enormously big on the kinds of daring risks that many traditional jazz musicians would make, this new sound is big on the rhythms, the intricacies and perhaps the most important contemporary trend, the usage of gorgeous melodies that help to life segments of tracks to brilliant heights. One of the countries that has overseen a brilliant ascent to the top in this regard is the UK, which has seen in recent years the rise of the now iconic South London Jazz scene, with other cities like Manchester and Bristol also containing further bands and individuals of note. Not only is the UK scene bountiful, its also eclectic, diverse, musically broad and of course, filled to the brim with exquisite musicality, with the sound permeated by beautifully emotive moments paired with the bombastic instrumental sections we all know and love. It very much feels like every artist is bouncing off one another, lifting and encouraging one another as sounds rebound off each other in an action that continually expands the scene into new and exciting territories. We are certainly lucky to be able to live through such a gloriously beautiful time in the UK jazz scene, with a heck of a lot of excellence to pick from only going to show just how much depth and substance there is to it all, with many of the records released having enormous staying power. Its a tradition that runs deep through the UK's musical DNA, one that has always found the time to pair differing tropes together in order to discover new ground and keep the ball rolling. Jazz serves as the frame, and its the musicians within that frame who will continue to push the boundaries continually forward.
Within a sea of unique voices and sounds, Bristol Label Worm Discs has done a fine job at building its own little space within the enriching UK Jazz scene. From the off, the label was concerned with releasing cutting edge music from across the UK, and judging from the sounds contained within their discography you would be hard pressed to argue with that sentiment, with an incredible plethora of sounds abounding from each record that keeps the audial spectrum continually expanding. Its always a good sign when a label begins with ambitions at the beginning of its life to seek out the most expansive of sounds to feature in its discography, as it makes the journey in which we undertake with its works all the more intriguing and exciting. The label features many forms of not just Jazz and its various incarnations but other infused genres, that includes doom jazz, electronica laden jazz, jazz fusion, ambient and hip hop to name but a few. The resulting discography is one of inherent brilliance, where each record opens up to us with a new tonal atmosphere to dive into before unleashing a series of unravelling groove laden soundscapes that display so much musicality, thought and blending. Its the feeling of blends that really sell the ideals of the label to us, in that the sounds come across to us with so much tone and mood, spreading itself across the membranes of musical existence to come out the other side with a presence of originality. The groups who release on the label all contribute in their own way to the label's audial identity, all bringing something new to the table but when placed alongside one another they hold their own as much as they stand shoulder to shoulder as siblings in the groove. Constantly searching, expanding and considering, Worm Discs is a label that has it really going on, with a sense of excitement flowing through our veins whenever they announce a fresh addition to the family, and in the end that's a feeling we should have with every label - an acknowledgement that something significant will happen on a frequent basis. That's a remarkable position to be in, but when you bring together some fine fine talents indeed, magic will always rear its head within the music being presented to us. Their discography is all worthy of a mention, starting off with their 2019 debut release from Glasgow based AKU!, 'In The Bath, Having a Magnum', a powerful blend of up tempo rock guitar and frenzied drums that is sure to get the blood pumping. This was followed up by the glorious 2020 compilation record 'New Horizons - A Bristol 'Jazz' Sound', that draws the focus to the city's expansive jazz orientated sound, with artists featured including Run Logan Run, Waldo's Gift, Snazzback and many more. As a compilation, it works beautifully as a cohesive unit yet finds the time to deviate to new territories, creating a vibe that operates on so many levels and demonstrates the label's willingness to look beyond the realms of jazz and into other audial narratives. AKU! would feature once again with their debut LP, 'Blind Fury', which expanded upon their debut single to draw us into a world of hard hitting rhythms, bombastic horn and brass sections and explosive transitions, keeping us locked in from start to finish on a no-hold bars journey through all kinds of energised contexts. Finally, the label also released two records from Glasgow based corto.alto, which included 'Live From 435, Vol. 5' and '435', with the vibe here being more softer but equally packing a punch, as the rhythm section blow your mind as vocalists like Soweto Kinch, Luca Manning and more provide beautiful narratives to flow on top. In all, there's a lot to marvel at in the Worm Discs back catalogue, with their offerings populating a colourful spectrum of Jazz tinged sounds that continually find room for more innovation, concept and mood. Its the kind of label that gives your mind a big embrace after a long day toiling away, providing you with melodic and rhythmic release that turns the down time into a spectacular saunter through all the contemporary jazz scene has to offer. The label stated that it wanted to shine a light on some cutting edge groups, and they have certainly achieved this in spades, resulting in a discography that we cannot recommend enough, so why not kick back and let the infectiousness take you away.
And now we turn to their latest effort, the debut EP from the group Dundundun, which features perhaps some of the label's most ambitious pieces of music to date. The band might be new but members of the group are incredibly well versed in the tropes of all things groovy, with a decades worth of touring and recording with the likes of The Heavy, Alice Russell, Pete Josef, DJ Die and Dele Sosimi to name but a few. The resulting record is a revelation in modern day electronic rhythm and groove, with sweeping movements swinging us between key heavy instrumentals through to horn laden climaxes, with the kinds of musical intricacies on display that you would expect from a group with so much knowledge and skill. Featuring an original cut, a reworking of a classic Sun Ra track alongside edits from label mate Ishmael Ensemble and Glaswegian taste maker Rebecca Vasmant, its a celebration of the power of the groove and all that its capable of, and this record was certainly made with capable hands. So, prepare yourself as we dive into a melting pot of musical excellence, from Bristol right up to Glasgow - all in the name of the groove.....
Up first comes 'Dun In Outer Space', a reworking of Sun Ra's track 'Love From Outer Space', and we are greeted with a very serene scene indeed. The chiming keys ignite the shakers to craft a welcoming density, inviting us behind a curtain of sorts and into a world waking up to the flows that persist on its boundaries, as the bass line gets things going to bring the rest of the track into the light, which occurs as the drums and horns come into view. The beat quickly emerges on this kind of swing beat, the horns crafting this beautiful call back feel with the lightly applied keys that reside on the centre right of the pan, with the contrast between solidness and flickering beauty a real joy to listen to. The instruments then drop their intensity down for a moment but quickly re-emerge with a fabulous intensity, the pace now quickening as to signify a switch in direction, meaning and tone, with that feeling quickly developing as the track descends into a very dubby place indeed. The drums and fat as hell bass line are all that remains, their bare bones rhythm a beautiful sight indeed as their segment provides a very suitable stage indeed for the horns and keys to return from their slumber, with the choruses a real triumph in bombastic jazz. The track then slips between the two sections, with the second chorus featuring a wicked sax solo that extends beyond as the hypnotic feel of the horns isn't quite done yet, but it all winds down so naturally into a keyboard led section that just shines so brightly indeed. No sooner had the last note played then we are plunged right back into a whirlwind of feels, a mesmerising tour de force that sees the sax once more take charge as the instrumental lead before the cut moves into one final foray into the chorus, and its truly epic. That ending could last a lifetime, what an opener! Up next comes the Ishmael Ensemble remix of the opening track, and this one begins in similar tonal territories. The distant permeating melodic glow moves towards the front of the picture in the form of a arpeggio like key line, as galloping squelches and sounds filter themselves across the bottom end of the track, with glimmering keys aligning themselves on top of the track. Its a beautiful embrace to the listener, a feeling that holds on to us, signalling that the next movement will be from the calming right through to the energetic, and the track grabs us by the arm as the drums come sliding into view. The power of the rhythms is still just as enchanting as the original cut, as the horns make their appearance to craft further links between the original and this excellent remix, with the big difference coming as the focus turns to the drawn out sonics that have featured from the very off. These extended experimental sections provide a beautiful contrast to the clear cut horns, with the Ensemble capturing the bombastic moments of the original impeccably as the climatic rises are nurtured and added to in terms of weight and feel, with frantic synth lines underpinning our rise to the very top of the mountain. One final saunter through the main riff remains for us, as we reflect on how considered this reworking is. Stellar work.
Up next comes 'Anansi', and this one begins in more relaxed yet equally groovy territories. The drums are loose and delivered in an Afro Beat kind of style, with bongos adding weight and feel to the structure, as a high line synth progression aligns itself in the spaces between the drums with emotion and mood. The percussion drops out to provide some space to the new keys to begin their journey, and its the start of something special indeed as the horns rise up through the motions to craft a series of breaking waves that wash over the listener, with the end result leading into the drums returning into the picture to provide the backbone for some of the best jazz funk laden melodics you will hear all year. The layering of components is transfixing, with all kinds of spaces being created for which we can dip our head into and get to know, with the switches between segments providing a continual engagement as the song passes us by. The movements in density provide a meandering feel to proceedings, with the flows and transitions so natural in their application, the song really wrapping itself around our heads at this point as we move into a drum led segment once more. The stripped back feel provides some breathing room to the melodics, which are represented here by the joint lead of the keys and horns, their feel and tone always building to something and that certainly arrives as the switch up comes and changes everything once again. The drums move into a double time of sorts that encourages all the instruments to really bring the energy, with the flow now being dominated by this incredible movement through differing sections, places and tones. Just incredible. To wrap things up, we have Rebecca Vasmant with her 'Vibration' remix of the previous cut, and this one begins with the lush vibrancy of soft synths and instrumentation to start us off. The track becomes one long tonal exercise, moving gracefully between continually shifting layers that just set the vibe so so SO well, with the vocalist spinning a hypnotic line across the top. The application of keys do much to craft a sense of pulse, with the climax arriving so naturally as a result as the vocalist calls out 'Feel the vibrations', which encourages all the other elements to align into view with more urgency, and from there its all systems go. The drums arrive to provide the backbone to the smooth unravelling of proceedings, with the resulting blend something we could marvel at, as Vasmant keeps on finding inventive ways to move in and out of time and space, with climaxes spewing forth from every corner of the cut. The track takes a breather around the 3:30 mark, which provides us once again with a time to reflect on the intricacies that abound from the varying layers found within the track, and before long we move back into the groove that sees the vocals lead the way on top of the horn section. This creates a real sense of euphoria, a contrast to the soft unravelling of all that came before, with the track then moving quickly into a double time segment that keeps the groove going on so very strong. As the track reaches its final act, the density of the track filters away to move into yet another incarnation of the groove, and its still as addictive as the very beginning. Fucking hell, that was something else.
Its not often we leave reviewing a record utterly transfixed and eager to re-listen over and over again, but this record just has so much quality and depth as to make repeat listenings an absolute given. The source material provided by the band is of such brilliance that the two remixes had so much to work with, and they too also knocked it out of the park by capturing the rhythmic flows of the band with their own spins on what they heard, with the results making up for a cohesive set of tracks that cater for a huge amount of contexts. The music itself is inventive, joyous and groovy to the point of ecstasy, as grins and tears emerge in response to the emotion, the switches, the beats, the horns. Its how jazz influenced music should be - bombastic, effortlessly intricate, and never afraid to take risks, and here we have a record that does all three but in their own image. Perhaps the word 'refreshing' is the most pertinent, or maybe 'triumphant', who knows, but what we do know is that is record will leave a lasting impression on the scene and this year in general. There are no more words, other than we encourage you from the bottom of our hearts to go and listen to this record. Fucking incredible.
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