Album Review

One-Armed Bandit

One-Armed Bandit

by Jaga Jazzist

Ninja Tune
6 / 10
16th April 2010

Reviewed by Karyn Cushen

Jaga Jazzist is a nine-piece Norweigian experimental jazz ensemble that occupies a rare musical territory, rich with sonic textures and free from textbook constraints. One-Armed Bandit is their fourth album, a first in five years, and is perhaps their least jazzy and most prog album to date.

One-Armed Bandit commences with a dainty title track with duelling toy piano and swooning brass, the propulsive percussion drives the seven-minute instrumental track and seamlessly transitions into the Rhodes heavy Bananfleur Overalt. These opening tracks are a testament to the entire album, which comprises of layered instrumentals with an eccentric blend of classical, jazz and prog influences, with a touch of Frank Zappa.

However, there are a few exceptions, notably when the album shifts from pleasant, ambient soundscapes to ego stroking feats of technical brilliance. Take for example 220V/Spektral, it begins delicately with chimes then hastily morphs into an exhausting jazz-kraut-funk-rock menagerie with a whack time signature. On one hand this is extraordinary musicianship, yet on the other it is incredibly difficult to enjoy.

Jagga Jazzist is an exceptional bevy of talented multi-instrumentalist and One-Armed Bandit is an exceptional instrumental album. However, this album will only appeal to those willing to invest the time.