Having been completely gobsmacked by their first full length lp, I couldn't wait for jaga jazzist to return with 'the stix', so I had it sent to me from Norway where it's been out for about a year and a half.
Those who loved 'A livingroom hush' as much as myself will not be dissappointed with this latest effort, although musically it has moved on from the more slow burning, traditionally arranged jazz numbers such as 'airborne' and 'made for radio'. Having said that, it is still an innovative recording, and maintains the freshness of the original album, but without retracing the steps they've already made, which is really the only way this record could have failed.
The stix has a much more electronic sound than it's predecessor. Openeing with 'Kitty wu' (some may have found this tune on 'the wire's free compilation; 'Fjord Focus'last year), a beautifully obtuse mix of looped vibraphone, electronic bleeps and the trademark dry bass clarinet, you could be forgiven for expecting a similar feel to 'a livingroom hush'. But that soon changes with track two; 'Day', which tears straight into an electronic two-step rythmn and ambient guitar sounds, before the trumpet introduces the melody, and the time signature changes for track three; 'Another Day'.
The fact that Martin Horntveth has use more programmed drums on this album is one of its more striking differences from the first, giving it a more dance oriented feel, but this is an easy assumption to make, and with repeated listenings you begin to realise that all the best jazzist ingredients are there; haunting melodies, beautiful arrangements, and blistering energy.
Other highlights include 'I could have killed him in the sauna', which opens with a sparse programmed rythmn and electric piano, sounding almost like a nintendo soundtrack. But then the violins gently creep in, giving a spooky feature film feel. Finally the tune departs into rythmic stabs, with glorious horns, violins and vibraphone creating a spacious mountain landscape for the mind.
I'm obviously a big fan of jaga jazzist, so how much of this review you want to take with a pinch of salt is up to you, but I simply cannot recommend them highly enough, and neither can those who went to their critically acclaimed, sold-out London shows recently. Buy it. Now.