GoGo Penguin – v2.0
(Gondwana Records. GONDCD 009. CD Review by Nicolas Pillai)
Assured and exciting, the delightfully named GoGo Penguin go from strength to strength. Now comprising pianist Chris Illingworth, bassist Nick Blacka and drummer Rob Turner, the trio’s second album is technically superb but never cold, emotionally rich but never mawkish, by turns contemplative and frenetic.
It’s little wonder that these ten tracks have been attracting the attention not just of jazz fans but also club DJs. But to praise GoGo Penguin for their crossover potential is to condemn them to cliché. And this is a real jazz band, brimming with ideas communicated with panache.
On the first track, Murmuration, Turner’s drums are wingbeats which, over Blacka’s urgent bass, fly Illingworth from measured rhetoric to anthemic crescendo. Garden Dog Barbecue and Kamaloka pick up the tempo, evoking drum loops and breakbeats that agitate Illingworth’s glacial tone. In Fort, a simple echo effect suggests the infinity of space. The band’s evident interest in the acoustic/digital relationship finds apotheosis in One Percent, in which their instruments brilliantly mimic the sound of a CD skipping.
The second half of the album takes a somewhat more introspective tone, reflected in the song titles. Home, The Letter (recorded totally in the dark) and the heady To Drown In You all build to Shock and Awe which ticks ominously, a promise of death. Throughout, the listener is gripped by the drama of these compositions. Their collective impact makes the final track Hopopono seem yet more playful and welcome. The album ends on a high, showing off this young band’s charisma and energy with a song both lyrical and incisive.