We haven’t talked a whole lot about the Norwegian prog kings Jaga Jazzist on this site, understandably so perhaps given they don’t exactly fit an easily-describable heavy or progressive mold similar to other bands we discuss here. However, it’s that inability to pin them down that makes them so utterly fascinating and thrilling as a listener. If you were to create an insane venn diagram mapping jazz, progressive rock, post-rock, IDM, and classical forms ranging from Wagner to Glass, Jaga would fall somewhere in the center of it all. Over the course of 4 albums in the better part of 2 decades, they’ve dabbled in lounge/nu-jazz, skittery, off-the-rack electronics, symphonic post-rock, and breakneck rhythmic acrobatics that would give even the most-skilled math rock bands pause. And now, 5 years after the release of their most complex and dense work to date, One-Armed Bandit, the experimental 8-piece group are back with a new track that combines all of that in utterly unpredictable and exhilarating ways.
On Thursday, BBC Radio 1 premiered ‘Starfire’ during one of producer/beat-magician Flying Lotus‘s in-residency mixes. You can listen to it here (the track starts at 50:55). Possibly more so than any of their previous material, ‘Starfire’ is virtually impossible to describe. In its 8 1/2-minute runtime the group traverse through massive horn hooks, vertigo-inducing riffs, cosmic synths, and whiplash-inducing glitchy runs. There are certainly plenty of touchstones of previous material present throughout: the epic post-rock of ‘Oslo Skyline’ off of What We Must, the smooth winds of A Livingroom Hush, the brittle electronics that defined The Stix, and the labyrinthine and mysterious structures that turned One-Armed Bandit into their most challenging work to date. It’s all here, but in ways that feel utterly fresh and uncharted. Jaga have always excelled most in a live setting, and this jam just feels immediately built for that, rave-like lightshow and all.
According to updates from the band in the past year as they’ve put together the still-unnamed LP that this track will appear on, ‘Starfire’ is actually one of the shorter of the new pieces, most of which exceed over 10 minutes. There is always concern for bloat and excess when it comes to longer tracks like this, but if the rest are anywhere near as air-tight and action-packed as ‘Starfire’, then be prepared for some heads to explode.
This track (and whole program) are available to listen to for the next few weeks only, so get on it now (and while you’re at it, just listen to FlyLo’s entire mix because the man knows what the hell he’s doing). Details on the new album are still scant, but the band promises more will be coming soon. FlyLo alludes to a release in the summer though, and it will be released on Ninja Tune. In the meantime, if you are just being introduced to the band now, now is the perfect time to run through their entire stellar catalog. Allow me to recommend this brilliant cut off of their recent live album with Britton Sinfonia as an entry-point.