Get the Blessing – Pallett
(All is Yes. Vinyl album review by Phil Johnson)
Someone once described jazz-rock fusion as free jazz with a backbeat. It’s a moniker that suits the music of Bristol super-group Get the Blessing perfectly. Named after an Ornette Coleman tune (The Blessing, from ’Something Else!!!!’) but forced to adapt the nomenclature because another band had got there first, GTB tend to use propulsive electric bass and drums as a heavy rhythmic base to be then overlaid by wailing, free-style sax and trumpet, with fiddly electronic bits added on the top, like sprinkles, through various loops and reworked samples. They do this electro-acoustic mix-up live as well as on record, to formidable effect, having reduced the kind of kit that used to take a truck to carry to a few nifty pedals.
The band’s method would not in itself be so impressive if it wasn’t for the quality of the players doing the work. Bassist Jim Barr and drummer Clive Deamer formed part of Portishead, as did guest guitarist Adrian Utley. Deamer also helped pioneer live drum and bass drumming with Roni Size, as well as performing with mega-stars Radiohead. Saxophonist Jake McMurchie and trumpeter Pete Judge – who each double numerous other instruments – have similarly long lists of guest appearances and side-projects. Together, they make for a very strong team.
Pallett is the group’s seventh album and may well be their best, as the real-time live playing and the electronic add-ons have now attained a satisfying symbiosis whereby it’s often impossible to say what’s what or who’s coming from where. It’s also less “jazz with knobs on” than a genuinely new-sounding hybrid form that can exist on its own terms, whether as electronic drone-based ambient doodling or the soundtrack to an imaginary film. The album’s opening track, ‘Oscillation ochre’, is also perhaps their catchiest tune yet, with Jim Barr’s bassline exerting the heavy gravitational pull we might associate with Joy Division’s Peter Hook. Its ear-worm of a constantly repeated riff is chased across a sinister soundscape by menacing horns before eventually dying away into a decay of whispers.
Unsurprisingly, Pallett is a Covid-era album, its tunes developed during lockdown by the Bristol based Barr, Judge and McMurchie, who would then send what they’d worked up so far to Deamer in Oxfordshire, who would add his contributions and send it back again. And so on. The result does have a rather cloistered, even feverish air and you could certainly take a pessimistic, dystopian view as to what Pallett’s closely overworked, painstakingly assembled sound-world represents. It really does sound like now.
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