Get the Blessing saxophonist Jake McMurchie’s first album of his own material joined in his brand new band by Moonlight Saving Time double bassist Will Harris and drummer Mark Whitlam. Recorded in Bristol in July 2012 there can’t be that many albums, if any, that feature a photo of an interferometer in the artwork; or for that matter bands, as Michelson Morley find themselves, named after a 19th century physics experiment that confounded the existence of the luminiferous aether.
Aether Drift begins, a useful piece of signposting, in Get the Blessing territory on ‘Rice Rage’ with McMurchie tearing away with thunderous tribal drum accompaniment and tumbling bass as a backdrop. But the sound then moves into its own space on the long title track ‘Aether Drift’ signalling a whispery dare-I-say Nordic dimension to it as the band enters that soundspace more familiar to bands such as Food or combos led by the dark lord of Sula himself, Nils Petter Molvær. Later tracks draw away from completely buying into this side of things: ‘Cross-stream Roundtrip Time’ more minimalist say; while the quirkily-titled ‘Your Eyebrows Go Well With Your Face’ is nicely uncluttered in an early free-jazz sense with Harris’ excellent low-note tinkering, the spacey electronics compatible with the retro jazz sound.
Aether Drift ingeniously uses new techniques and very old jazz in an interesting way somehow destabilising the listener and certainly short-cutting notions of era or prevailing style. McMurchie has an individual sound on the different saxophones he wields (he’s primarily a tenorist), and the new tender side of his playing, well new to me anyway, emerges on ‘End of Age’ which has some strong emotions embedded deep down. There is an intimacy about this record (some might say a sense of alienation and certainly the dystopian ‘Wish I Knew’ has an element of this) that is fresh and the album successfully bridges a bluesy freebop acoustic jazz sensibility and futurejazz electronica without making too many compromises. A fine debut. SG
Released on 1 May