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Animal Chin EP by Jaga Jazzist (Review)

The group’s intriguing use of jazzier elements ensure that their sound more than stands on its own.
Animal Chin EP - Jaga Jazzist

Like Four Tet, Jaga Jazzist is another one of those groups that I’ve heard others raving about for quite some time now. And within listening to the first minute of this CD, I can see why. “Animal Chin” kicks things off with an exuberance that sounds like Stereolab’s Dots and Loops suddenly tossed into a blender set to “puree.” Skittering drums and vibes scurry to and fro beneath bouncy synths, woodwinds, and horn arrangements.

As the track continues, it feels like some of that energy starts to leach off. The sounds grow a little darker; the atmospheres a bit more restrained. However, as if the track suddenly realized it didn’t like where it was heading, everything resets itself back to the original settings.

“Real Racecars Have Doors,” however, does take a bit more of a restrained, atmospheric feel. After an intro of fuzzy bass and swirls of knob twiddling, the track settles into a relaxed pose of glassy guitar chords and trilling flutes. “Low Battery” could almost be a Broadcast track, with its sparse drumbeat and tense, noir-ish atmospheres. However, Jaga Jazzist doesn’t keep the track permanently standoffish, as the creeping synth line periodically gives way to a haunting bridge of woodwinds and horns.

“Toxic Dart” is probably the spaciest of the tracks. The Stereolab comparison feels incredibly obvious here, as shimmering synths and glitchy beat dance around airy vocals and a breathy clarinet. However, Jaga Jazzist keeps it from feeling blatant with their own use of jazzy textures and filigrees. “Tristar” continues this trend, as Jaga Jazzist take a track that comes this close to being a Stereolab rip-off and subtly inject their own style. Again, a lot of it has to do with their horn arrangements, but there’s also that funky “wah” guitar that snakes its way along the song’s underside.

The disc closes out with two remixes, which add some interesting permutations to the group’s sound. Martin Horntveth’s remix of “Lithuania” adds a healthy dose of cut n’ paste, turning the track into a glitchy pastiche of buzzy tones and metallic beats. The group’s horn arrangements are filtered and processed throughout, turning the track into something more than just a normal glitchfest.

However, it’s the closing track, Kim Hiorthøy Spillejob’s nearly 16 minute remix of “Going Down,” that really throws you for a loop. Opening with conversational samples, the piece builds on a sparse, repeating guitar loop and sparse drones. At first, it almost sounds like the whole thing is heading towards Stars of the Lid territory (albeit a bit more uptempo). By the 6 minute mark, slowburning guitars à la Mogwai and a more pronounced rhythm begin to make themselves felt.

Once that happens, the piece rapidly picks up a steam as the frenetic programming kicks in, and by the eight-and-a-half minute mark, the song is in full swing. It’s considerably more restrained than the rest of the EP, and the band’s horn arrangements are noticeably absent. As such, it’s definitely the odd track out on this EP, but that doesn’t mean it’s a bad song by any means.

Clocking in at nearly 43 minutes, Animal Chin certainly gives you your money’s worth, and Jaga Jazzist gives you quite a few sounds to wade through. While there are many similarities to the likes of Stereolab, The Sea and Cake, and Tortoise, the group’s intriguing use of jazzier elements ensure that their sound more than stands on its own.

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