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4.7 out of 5 stars38
4.7 out of 5 stars
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on 17 March 2014
THESE ARE EXCITING TIMES for the jazz piano trio – and Manchester-based GoGoPenguin are key movers in a current new wave of line-ups that eschew the traditional idea of pianist leader and supporting rhythmic duo for a totally democratic and, therefore, absorbing concept in sound.

The band’s debut release, ‘Fanfares’ (2012), created considerable ripples of interest on the British scene, as well as much further afield, with their obvious e.s.t.-influenced grooves (confirmed, as Svensson fans would recognise, by the opening track title, ‘Seven Sons of Bjorn’). That tantalising 35-minute recording, hailed by critics, no doubt found a quickly-gathering fan base clamouring for the next chapter, whilst finding the subsequent live experiences every bit as engaging – those present at the band’s hometown gigs at Band On The Wall (that I, too, witnessed) would, I’m sure, be happy to concur.

It’s important to recognise now, though, that GoGo Penguin are not “the next Esbjörn Svensson Trio” (nor could they be, given the Swedish band’s untouchable seminal status) – and I hazard a guess that Chris Illingworth (piano), Nick Blacka (double bass) and Rob Turner (drums) would see it that way, too. So, what is both gratifying and thrilling about this new follow-up release, ‘v2.0′, is that the trio are already clearly honing a sound which appears to be uniquely theirs, Blacka and Turner providing the distinctive and frequently blistering up-front dance-groove edge. The resultant effect is mesmeric and trance-like (think ‘Aphex Twin’), with such breathtaking precision of metre to almost sound electronic… but with the satisfaction that it’s not! Illingworth, too, displays great mastery of his instrument, exploring the gamut of techniques and expression as well as, at times, seemingly employing Roland Kirk’s ability to ‘split his brain in two’ to state one melody with his right hand and another with his left – rapid electronica or anthemic breadth, his grand piano offers it all.

What better illustration of the band’s sparky originality than 'Garden Dog Barbecue'? – Chris Illingworth’s zippy right-hand piano melodies over grungy, leaping left-hand fifths chords shared with buzzing bass, and all sped along by breakneck skittering drums, plus some terrific rhythmic and tempo changes. Opening track, 'Murmuration', reveals the trio’s alter ego – beautifully-considered, sustained and repetitive piano against bubbling bass and drums, intensifying in stature with electronically-echoic arco bass until the flocking avian display it suggests disperses to nothingness. 'Kamaloka' brings to the fore Turner’s extraordinarily complex electro/techno drum likeness which drives a bright, arpeggio-accompanied piano tune, as does the following 'Fort', Blacka’s rasping bass combining so well with drums to its abrupt close. Not sinc'e Stefano Bollani’s live solo piano interpretation of a scratched vinyl LP have I heard the skills that are to be found in 'One Percent; already a compelling, bustling and highly-charged number, the final 45 seconds convincingly simulate, through a variety of closely-timed rhythms, a skipping CD – from an acoustic trio, this is something which has to be heard to be believed, and raises a smile with me every time!

'Home's infectious groove is again down to the brilliant interaction between Blacka and Turner, laying down a relentless and very listenable ground for Illingworth’s strong piano melodies, and Blacka’s big, scampering bass sound resonating clearly at the close. Recorded in total darkness, 'The Letter' is characterised by a heavy, sprawling and perhaps menacing pulse. 'To Drown In You' continues the darker feel with its hint of Philip Glass piano and ethereal bowed bass… and with what is becoming Turner’s trademark percussive sound, his staccatoed rhythms shared with Blacka’s bass, and the huge energy of Illingworth’s ‘split piano’, this is a standout. The brief, spacial 'Shock and Awe', against a tense metronome-like tick, carries a palpable weight of emotion and presents another side to the trio – perhaps something for future concepts. Lucid and vibrant, 'Hopopono' closes the album with an impressive summing-up of this band’s evident empathy and, perhaps even, telepathy.

Credit to sound engineers Joe Reiser and Brendan Williams for clarity of production, this release resembles a huge step forward in GoGo Penguin’s development – and the next gig will certainly be something to look forward to.
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on 2 December 2014
Occasionally I hear something that I want to share with everyone I know - that's how I feel about this album. Go Go Penguin are a three piece who manage to do so much with so little. There are gorgeous, bitter-sweet melodies ('Home'), showy flashes of technical brilliance - for example, the astonishing skip-stuttering on 'One Percent'. Then there are hypnotic, crystalline pieces (e.g. 'Kamaloka'). The playing is perhaps so perfect, the sound so sharp that it can lack warmth, but I love this stuff.
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on 21 November 2014
Have bought lots of albums over too many years to want to remember. This piano trio record comes pretty well near the top of the list. What can I say, memorable tunes, great playing. On a level with the best works of EST which is saying something.
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on 6 December 2014
.... the fusion is great too
track one seemed to echo massive attack in some undefinable way
and two was described by my young daughter as 'a mash-up'
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on 2 October 2014
Heard these guys on Later and love their style
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on 20 November 2014
Lovin' this. Although clearly Jazz, I can hear a Red Snapper type attitude in the compositions. Very cool!
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on 30 December 2014
As someone who buys Jazz albums very rarely, this is, as the title of the review suggests, a simply beautiful collection of gentle, soulful jazz. Every track is a subtle yet complex interplay between Piano, Double Bass and Drums. I am, by no means a Jazz expert but this appealed to me having listened to the short list for the Mercury prize and it is far more than just the token Jazz album on the list. Very accessible and appealing to fans of the likes of Pat Metheny and Bill Brufords Earthworks. (Very 80's references I know!)
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on 30 November 2014
Great album. Am looking at others of theirs to purchase. Pleased it came with digital version too.
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on 15 January 2015
Purchased after seeing these guys on Jools Holland. A really nice collection of tracks with Garden Dog Barbeque and One Percent being my favourites. Not sure what category of music I'd put this in, which I think is a good thing!
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on 15 June 2015
Fallen in love with their sound. Have seen them live in Brighton and will go and see them again. Really nice energy music - not too jazzy and easy to listen to in my opinion.
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