I Think You’re Awesome & Taïga String Quartet – “Suite to be You and Me”
(JaegerCommunity. Download review by Mary James)
What do you get when you join a Danish jazz ensemble with unconventional instrumentation that includes a banjo and wurlitzer with a classically trained string quartet of impeccable pedigree? Quite simply, a joyful, uplifting and endlessly interesting album. I Think You’re Awesome is a sextet from Aarhus, Denmark, formed in 2009, and they’ve honed their quirky sound to perfection in this latest album, the first of three they intend to release this year with different collaborators, aided by the recording and mixing wizardry of August Wanngren. They have joined forces with Berlin/Aarhus based Taïga String Quartet in “Suite to be You and Me”, a celebration of the marriage of bass player Jens Mikkel (founder of I Think You’re Awesome) and Taïga cellist Maria Edlund, and the fusion of the bands. ITYA have twice been nominated for a Danish Music Award and Taïga String Quartet have collaborated with Kronos Quartet so they represent the cream of young Danish musicians.
What characterises the Aarhus Sound? Try to imagine a mix of Brian Wilson harmonies and studio effects, jaunty tunes and youthful exhuberance and you get close! In their first album “Lift Me Up So I Can Reach”, recorded live in 2013, they had already created their own sound with Morten Kærup’s banjo, twinkly electronics, some very distinctive guitar from Alex Jonsson and a few aural jokes, it was simultaneously serene and playful. One track featured the beautiful cello of Edlund so it was surely only a matter of time til ITYA worked with Taïga.
In this latest album there are recognizable elements of the earlier album, the ones that are so endearing such as the banjo, but here Mikkel’s bass has become electric and is more prominent but never overwhelms, providing a gently pulsing (and haunting) entrance in the opening ‘The Distance’ and setting up the tension throughout. This album tells the story of a relationship which starts with ‘The Distance’ and culminates in ‘The Wedding’ with some mishaps along the way, all vividly portrayed. The string quartet provides the strong warp to the tale from the pastoral opening in ‘The Distance’, their ironic commentary in ‘The City’ via some dissonance in ‘The Fight’ to the joyful ‘The Wedding’. And the weft in this fabric is Jonsson’s songlike guitar, Andreas Skamby’s skittery drums. It is a perfect marriage of fearlessly executed ideas, and the sound quality of many tiny details is flawless.
This is a beautiful album of seven connected pieces and one that should be listened to in its entirety to appreciate the delicate tapestry of ten master craftsmen.
Mary James, who lives in Gloucestershire, is a jazz promoter working with John Law and others. Twitter: @maryleamington
Categories: CD review