Thursday, April 27, 2023

GoGo Penguin "Everything Is Going To Be OK" & US Tour: Apr 27 - May 13

Chris Illingworth, Jon Scott, and Nick Blacka have been on an upward trajectory since their auspicious beginnings as Mercury Prize nominees and Gondwana Records artists. At the time sharing a label with such contemporaries as bandleader Matthew Halsall and modern neo-jazz chamber ensembles like Portico Quartet. As GoGo Penguin they have since released a string of albums on the luminary Blue Note Records label and most recently for Sony's XXIM Records. On their newest, "Everything Is Going To Be OK", they embark on a rare US tour with a night at Seattle's Neptune Theatre, presenting a sound which owes as much of a debt to the repetitive minimalism of Philip Glass as it does techno, drum and bass, and big rock-oriented crescendos sourced from such bands as Godpseed! You Black Emperor and Explosions in the Sky. Theirs is a sound that has cannily adapted this rush of electronic and indie rock music to a traditional acoustic lineup of piano, double bass and drums and produced a fusion that leans heavily into the quadrant of jazz. Other references can be heard in the ECM Records sound of Jon Scott's spare yet dynamic approach to the drums, and specifically in Chris Illingworth’s Esbjörn Svensson Trio influenced piano sound. The rhythm thrum of Nick Blacka's bass may be the most central jazz-focused of their characteristic sounds, but even he varies widely between laidback flow and breakneck pacing. As many of GoGo Penguin’s tracks shift between an inclination to speed up tempos, allow them to cool off, and then only return at even higher speeds. Yet their albums often shine the brightest as their least hurried, and it's these passages that define their strongest works like "V2.0" and "A Humdrum Star". When they move into the rhapsodic territory that they share with the late Svensson’s trio, they are at their most compelling, building slow ascents back toward percussion and bass grooves that underpin the lightning flashes and small accents of Illingworth's piano.