Live review

Julian Sartorius & Dan Nicholls + Y-Otis (2019 EFG LJF)

Julian Sartorius & Dan Nicholls + Y-Otis
(Dalston SET, EFG London Jazz Festival, Monday 18 November. Review by Peter Slavid)

The Dalston SET is a rather chaotic, pleasantly seedy small box of a venue, with low ceilings and a standing audience and it is ideal for synth and drum drenched sounds that completely wash through the space.

Publicity image for the Dalson SET gig

Walking in to the sight of an empty stage issuing drones and warbles, the programme started without announcement when Julian Sartorius & Dan Nicholls came on stage. What followed was an uninterrupted programme of sounds, noises and complex interlocking rhythms that was often mesmerising. Sartorius delivered a physically impressive non-stop barrage of clicks, rattles and heavy beats, whilst Nicholls contributed an equally varied range of sounds which sometime swirled around the drumming and sometimes took the lead.

These sound-based sets rely a lot on pacing the build up and release of tension and power, and the duo managed that admirably. It would have been nice to hear from the musicians at the start or the end – but the performance was a powerful one.

Y-Otis is led by Swedish saxophonist Otis Sandsjö, and is more conventionally avant garde (if that isn’t an oxymoron). He’s an interesting player with a distinctive wavering sound who was last here with the Swiss singer Lucia Cadotsch whose band Sweet Low was a big hit at Cheltenham last year. He has an interesting history as a child actor and reggae singer before concentrating on jazz.

I was impressed by the band’s debut album, released last year on the Finish WeJazz label, and this was a similar programme with some added new tunes. The band comprises keyboardist Elias Stemeseder; bassist Frans Petter Eldh, well known here from his work with Django Bates, Kit Downes and others; and drummer Tilo Weber.  With the exception of the drums all the musicians seemed to make use of electronics but here they were used around and alongside more conventional instrumental sounds. 

The music features some conventional melodies with rhythms that were one of the defining characteristics. There were complex interlocking beats, hip-hop derived breaks, some heavy beats, and some delicate meandering all washed around with those electronics in an unusual and impressive combination. There weren’t many solos in the conventional sense – this is an ensemble performance although occasionally Sandsjö’s saxophone did burst through.

Sadly, the state of travel between Dalston and West London meant that I had to leave shortly before the end, but I’m glad I got to see this band live, and hopefully they will be back before too long.

Peter Slavid broadcasts a programme of European Jazz on mixcloud.com/ukjazz and various internet stations 

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