Jaga Jazzist Can't Find Their Focus on 'Pyramid'

Jaga Jazzist Can't Find Their Focus on 'Pyramid'
Since the release of their debut LP in 1996, Jaga Jazzist always felt like the most forward-looking members of the Scandinavian jazz scene, sharing more in common with their Norwegian experimentalist brethren like Supersilent and Food. But on their latest LP, Pyramid, the octet come off more "progressive rock" than "progressive."

Over four tracks and 40 minutes, Jaga Jazzist craft a style of angular, synthetic, silky jazz that would satisfy fans of Return to Forever, the Weather Report or even Emerson, Lake & Palmer.

But that's not to say that their seventh LP (and first in five years) isn't adventurous or alluring, because it certainly delivers on both fronts. Released on Flying Lotus-curated label Brainfeeder, tracks like the funky "The Shrine" and the electronic closer "Apex" take cues from post-rock, Afrobeat and modern jazz, which finds the group locking into a dense groove to close out the album.

Wholly produced by the band and recorded in just two weeks by core members, rather than their traditional weeks-long sessions, Pyramid works best when things feel spontaneous and energy-fuelled. But the 14-minute opener "Tomita" and the eight-minute follow-up "Spiral Era" come off a but too heady and intricate for their own good, as if the musicians are too concerned with staying out of each other's way than actually playing off one another.

The result is that Pyramid is an imperfect and uneven album that satisfies two different audiences, as the front half is packed with wandering jam band noodling while the second half tightens into a slightly more focused and rhythmic set. It's just a shame that Jaga Jazzist wasn't able to give the listener a more cohesive and unified version of what they were trying to achieve with Pyramid. (Brainfeeder)