As with any great jazz album, it's about interplay.
Louis Pattison 2009-06-29
Whether you class Acoustic Ladyland as a jazz band or not entirely depends on how strictly you patrol the the genre's boundaries. Yes, the combination of saxophonist Pete Wareham and hirsute percussionist Seb Rochford, both also of Mercury Music Prize-nominated Polar Bear, marks this out as a combo steeped in the idiom. But AL's fourth album, Living With A Tiger, shrugs off much of the intricacies of jazz practise in favour of a muscular force and blocky, propulsive 4/4 tempos more identifiable as the building blocks of metal, experimental rock, and no-wave.
The best way to approach Living With A Tiger, then, is as a rock album, albeit one informed by jazz. Wareham's blazing alto and tenor leads erupt with a blazing ferocity, mostly staking around ground right up in the higher registers, but for an occasional spitfire plummet directly down. And while Rochford's drumming here lacks the skitter and flourish that he summons up with Polar Bear, here he simply channels his skills into different areas, be it the concrete backbeat of the title track, a massive backbone for the other players to twirl around, or Gratitude, which pulls off stop-start-stop-start like a goateed cousin of Black Sabbath's War Pigs.
Really, though, as with any great jazz album, it's about interplay, players locking together, and Living With A Tiger assembles a strong cast. Of note is new bassist Ruth Goller, whose chunky low-end – played through a monstrous 200w Hi-Watt bass amp – lends the whole ensemble a remarkable force. And if you're wondering, midway through, if Acoustic Ladyland ever turn the heat down, stick about for The Mighty Q, which commences on a spidery post-rock groove but develops into something more serenely beautiful as Wareham's sax takes flight.