Available on: Studio !K7 LP

Jazz and techno. The two go together like bare feet and gritty dancefloors. Not even Carl Craig and his Innerzone Orchestra project could detract from the inherent discord between techno’s rigid inevitability and the organic freeform of jazz. Then Cobblestone Jazz came along with ‘Dump Truck’ in 2006 and preconceptions fell away – only to be gathered back up again when confronted by the aspirations of the group’s debut album, 23 Seconds, to be nothing more than ornamental minimal that made Berlin cafés seem even more Berlin than they already were.

Now Mathew Jonson, Tyger Dhula and Danuel Tate are back for another pop, recruiting old sparring partner Colin de la Plante aka The Mole but keeping the formula much the same: program a kick drum and then improvise over the top with an array of analogue equipment, layering sound and shifting focus while the beat marches on. If it sounds a bit conservative, that’s because it mainly is. Much of The Modern Deep Left Quartet continues down the same safe road plotted by the group’s debut – particularly ‘Sun Child’, with its ticklish hi-hats and lounge keys proving that your worst jazz-house fusion fears can be made perversely palatable. ‘Children’ fares slightly better, its Detroit chords and gunmetal sleek groove scuffed by whirring clicks and vocoder, so long as you’re willing to ignore how sanitised it all sounds – those micro-details emphasising the lack of character, like woodgrain painted on MDF.

It’s curious that for a record that relies on improvisation, the band sound best at their most unyielding. Tapping into the subtle darkness that underpins their most interesting records, ‘Mr Polite’ converts it to kinetic aggression with its rubbery bass warps and scuzzy vocal building steadily into a low-slung monster that works its way from your periphery vision until it’s dangling its balls in your face. Likewise ‘Light Spike’ throws taste to the wind and ramps up the bpm to distinctly unfashionable levels while splintered pitch-bent synths ebb and flow, creating a sickening wooziness that recreates that feeling of urgency normally only experienced by addicts waiting on a fix.

It’s these dips into strange, unsettling tempos and unexpected textures that continue to keep Cobblestone Jazz interesting, while at the same time showing how staid the rest of their output is. On a debut you call this potential, now it seems more like frustration.

Louise Brailey



Share Tweet