Mathias Heise Quadrillion – Quadrillion
(Giant Sheep Music. Album review by Rob Mallows)
The Clash, by The Clash. The Beatles, by The Beatles. The Smiths, by The Smiths.
The release by any recording artist of an eponymous album is frequently a sign of brimming confidence and overflowing musical creativity, such that when it comes to the small but nonetheless important task of naming their next album, they can confidently make the easy choice and not bother.
Quadrillion, by Mathias Heise Quadrillion, is a prime example. No need for such ephemera as a meaningful title; just let the quality of the music tell its own story.
And, boy, what a story it is. This Danish four-piece – which I’ve been lucky to see live in London at the Sounds of Denmark festival – has hit the mother lode on this, their third album.
The previous two albums – Decadence and Sudden Ascent – had lots to commend them, but also included a few tracks you could easily skip over. This album, I’m pleased to say, offers the musical equivalent of the “hazelnut in every bite” promised by the once popular Topic bar
His name’s on the band moniker and keyboardist and chromatic harmonica player Mathias Heise is undoubtedly the star draw of the band, its life-force. But it’s not a case of the front guy and three others: bassist David Vang, guitarist Mads Christiansen and drummer Aksel Stadel Borum all bring their own special mix of musicianship and energy to the band, making for a real ‘group’ sound.
The opening track Blue City has a lively up-and-down bass rhythm, sumptuous keyboard chords and the sort of guitar riffs by Christiansen that would make even atheists give thanks to the Lord. Borum’s drums are simple and effective, especially his hypnotic tapping on the snare rim. It is such a strong opening statement by the band that I listened to it twice in succession, just to make sure I’d heard everything in it.
Bad Luck is the first harmonica track: Heise makes it easy to appreciate the sonic value of the harmonica in jazz, which up to this point I have always overlooked. He makes it sing. Soft Mind, the first ballad, in contrast, is atmospheric and gloomy, with a dark, but intensely listenable, 3am vibe reaching all the way through the track like a stick of Blackpool rock.
Jazz, rock, funk? This album is all these things – a classic fusion of styles, of course but with an obvious, but detectable Danish twist to it. Heise’s even coined his own word for it: FuRoJazz. It’s certainly infectious.
A Call from Quad is pure eighties jazz funk (remember Mezzoforte? Yep). Carsten Kalder – who he? – has some of the stretchiest, sinuous and downright bendy keyboard sounds I’ve heard in a long while, that scream for your attention. The sort of track that would be great live.
The Beast is all groove, groove, groove, and unashamedly so, while Bisse Funk starts off with torpid bass, drums and guitar, a track that feels like it’s going to pick up pace but doesn’t really; instead it lopes along with its hands in its pockets; but its still enjoyable. The album equivalent of a half-time break.
The highlight of the album is the last track, Hopeful Monsters, in which the four-piece expands into a mini big-band with the addition of five Danish up-and-coming brass players: Anders Malta (trumpet), Jonas Due (trumpet/flugelhorn), Oilly Wallace (sax), Frederick Menzies (sax) and Yohan Ramon (percussion). It’s a super charged, knock-out punch of a track. Listen to it, and I challenge you to keep your feet still.
Unashamedly modern and funkified, there’s plenty in Quadrillion to appeal to hardened jazz fusion fans like me, while being entirely accessible to those jazz fans for whom the word fusion is something of an expletive.
Norway and Sweden have proved a rich open-cast mine of great contemporary jazz over the last decade for me, but Quadrillion offers a reminder that there a plenty of rich seams of jazz to dig for across the Øresund.
When Marcellus tells Horatio that “something is rotten in the state of Denmark”, he clearly isn’t referring to its jazz scene, which on the basis of this album, sounds like it’s in rude health.
Categories: Album review