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Jaga - What We Must


Review: Jack Foley

JAGA, the ten-piece collective from Noway, have been pursing their quest to evole a unique sound which can collectively express their musical ideas for the past decade, amassing plenty of fans along the way.

They set themselves no boundaries and are seldom afraid to experiment, incorporating plenty of instruments, from trumpets, trombones, electric guitars and bass to Fender Rhodes, vibraphone and a number of electronics.

The quest now brings us to What We Must, another epic and deeply atmospheric affair that is sure to appeal to the collective's growing fanbase.

Having toured extensively, the band spent months writing new material for the album, only to rip it up and retreat into an isolated studio in the Norwegian woods, where they recorded a demo known as the Spydeberg Session.

Put down in one take, in one day, it proved a breakthrough moment for the group - conjuring a sound that was closer to their live experience than ever before.

This session subsequently formed the basis for What We Must, which is billed as perhaps the most radical development of their career so far.

Indeed, there are times when the album feels like one long jamming session, occasionally testing the patience with its instrumental excursions into its own musical wildnerness.

At others, however, there is an aching beauty and tenderness about things, as exemplified during the uplifting early moments of Stardust Hotel, or the rousing closing moments of Oslo Skyline.

Both are deeply melodic entries into the Jaga arsenal, made all the more memorable because it feels fresh.

Of the slightly less successful moments, the deeply jazzy, occasionally surreal Swedenborgske Rom feels a little too self-indulgent to be that accessible.

While the overly ambitious Mikado feels a little too like something that Lalo Schiffrin might produce after a few too many hallucogenic drugs.

That said, if you've been a fan of Jaga (formerly Jaga Jazzist) since their 1994 debut, then this marks a suitably impressive progression that suggests the quest remains in good health.

Needless to say, the album is released via the ever-reliable Ninja Tunes label.

Track listing:
1. All I Know Is Tonight
2. Stardust Hotel
3. For All You Happy People
4. Oslo Skyline
5. Swedenborgske Rom
6. Mikado
7. I Have A Ghost, Now What?

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