The Rebirth of Kobayashi
Published Jan 01, 2006Like a death tarot card, the fascinatingly morbid press photo for seven-piece Montreal acid jazz group Kobayashi with nooses around their necks isn't a call for a premature obit, but a signifier for change. Strange Lights and Resolutions, their first full-length after two EPs and three years together, sees the group shedding overt hip-hop and funk references and growing into jazz-centred confidence. Buttery horns twin and glide at times; at others they're up front and forceful. The drums swing nonchalantly, masking their solidity. The keys dab mellow punctuation, the bass plucks sturdily and the turntablism has become less forthright and more atmospheric but stays just as integral to the group's sound.
"It was a growing process where we really found what we wanted to sound like," says saxophonist Josh Geary. "We had a clear idea when we were going into the studio, Okay we're going to do this, this, and this, and we're going to do it analog,' which is something we'd never done. Our engineer was an advocate of tape, and it added a really rich sound."
Around recording time, Rosina Kazi of Toronto's South Asian electronic soul group LAL, happened to be in town, so she hit the studio in her snow pants to offer an off-the-cuff vocal on "Shadows."
The group have had a line-up change, too. Their rapper departed to pursue an acting career before the LP, and singer Hadiya "Dee" Roderique left the group after the recording to head to law school in Toronto. Eleni Gogas, who was in a ska band with Geary when they were teens, now steps up to the mic with verve.
The photo may have been intended as a comment on the so-called death of acid jazz, but with more jazz than acid in the headphones, Kobayashi need not be penning epitaphs any time soon.