Twisting explorations leading to dizzying explosions of sound.
Chris Jones 2009
Barely a year after their first album, All Is Yes, won the BBC's Jazz Album Of The year award, Bristol's jazz rock heroes Get The Blessing return with an extended name and album number two. The same line-up of Jim Barr (bass), Clive Deamer (drums), Jake McMurchie (saxophone) and Pete Judge (trumpet) aided in spots by Portishead's Adrian Utley (Barr divides his time between both outfits) turn in a similar combination of pulse-quickening vamps that plough headlong into more reflective, modal mid-sections or slower, twisting explorations leading to dizzying explosions of sound.
With only the addition of some diaphanous vocals to colour the mix on the opening blast, Music Style Product - another 70s car chase contender - their modus operandi is little changed from the debut. While the explorations of McMurchie and Judge will give the most pleasure for fans of free form jazz of the more cosmic persuasion if there's a fault it's that the formula belies a certain tentativeness. Wrapping their 'unidentifiable' work within a comforting rock sandwich as if to slip it past the cool police merely makes you long for some more 'out-there' moments as on the spacey shenanigans of Tarp. A particularly dry production adds to this feeling.
Barr's bass-as-lead approach is still an essential element, its drive always adding that certain extra, and his Holger Czukay-like twang on The Word For Moonlight Is Moonlight is hypnotic. But where the band really strike gold is on the closing slow meander of Bloom which suddenly lifts ecstatically to the rafters as it seques into Yes I Said Yes I Will Yes (brilliant title by the way, boys).
Ultimately Bugs In Amber is probably too close to its predecessor in tone and style to make it stand as proud as it should for a band with such singular talent. That's no criticism; it's a complaint common to many second albums where bands include work that's been tried and tested on the road or on b-sides (in this case The Unnameable) or stick to tested working methods that don't truly push them beyond their comfort zone. Bugs In Amber is a great album, but Get The Blessing are capable of more. This is business as usual: let's hope album number three throws caution to the wind.