Acoustic Ladyland’s latest is the next step in a series of records that has taken them progressively further from their roots as a jazz band, insofar as the J-word can be used to describe what they do. From the squalling fuzz of their breakthrough, 2005’s Last Chance Disco, through third long-player Skinny Grin’s fusion of foreboding atmospherics and guest vocals, there has always been a certain willingness to mix things up and incorporate ideas from diverse areas and genres.»
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much has happened to acoustic ladyland since we last heard from them in december 2006 when the widely acclaimed 'skinny grin' was released. now, pulling their own gem kart in the shape of the strong and wrong imprint, pete wareham acoustic ladyland's catalyst - presents their latest work. just as the last album was due, wareham upped sticks and headed for pastures new in sunny hastings. if moving to the seaside inspires on this kind of progressive level and sets the creative juices to overflow, then london city should be left to the bankers and bo-jo erasing graffiti from the streets. after a period of reassessment and change in band personnel, this fresh incarnation sets the bar even higher and has arguably achieved their most potent and lucid album to date. wareham, accompanied by seb rochford still anchor this phenomenal band, whilst tom herbert left to pursue other projects, namely the invisible and was replaced with the filthy, guttural punk style of ruth goller, tom cawley also left to pursue his own singular jazz path with new outfit, curios. most bands would have buckled with two key players flying the coop, but not acoustic ladyland. if anything, it gave the outfit a fresh impetus, especially when guitarist chris sharkey (he of triovd) joined the band as keyboardist cawleys replacement. an unusual replacement, but as it happens, an incredibly astute move. wareham has occupied his time wisely with a free-flowing selection of otherness. he contributed studio work and playing live with supergrass and along with seb will be heard on a herbie hancock / eno / squarepusher album due out in the near future. and if you were listening really carefully, you may well have heard his baritone emanating from an episode of long-standing fans the mighty boosh when called upon to be the spirit of jazz! the thing that makes this band so unique is their ability to careen back and forth and capture all music forms on the journey. 'living with a tiger' is a bold and brash move onwards. the musical voice is as fresh as ever; hardcore elements still very much prevail, whilst hiphop and grime become a clearer influence on most cuts, and warehams blowing is furious and mellifluous in equal measure, anchored by players that seem to not only understand their voyage, but are happy and willing accomplices to wherever it will take them. acoustic ladyland's new fire can be heard from the very first bars and this powerful quartet have delivered the best jazz album of the year. but this marvellously expansive record is all that, and more. brave, compulsive and soul-searching are words we would rather use. wareham always said that he wanted his instrument of choice to sound like he had the ability to mimic the human voice, thereby creating wordless songs with soaring, high-octane melodies. this has been achieved in spades, but freed of words and aided by such a ferocious unit of players, wareham has been further freed to stretch out into the extra space provided. to witness them playing live right now is to witness something monumental. the rhythm section of ruth and seb clearly enjoying every single second and locking everything down check the groove on glasto whilst sharkey and wareham cut, thrust and goad each other to push further at their boundaries. pretty unique, and thunderously involving. the strength of conviction in this band is overwhelming. the album boasts tracks like sport mode - nailing the sense of adventure and freedom to the mast straight off the bat. inspired by listening to plenty of deerhoof and incorporating a sharkey solo that wareham splendidly describes as everything i love about music - simple, action-packed and sounding like some weird guitar mutant. this is followed the title cut 'living with a tiger' where wareham's love of the yeah yeah yeahs finds release, and the track title lifted from a classic book by akong tulku rinpoche called 'taming the tiger' which is about learning to live with one's mind. judging by these divergent tracks, wareham's mind must be an incredibly packed and splendid place. 'gratitude' finds wareham blowing up a storm and was written whilst immersing himself in plenty of grime - giggs and jme in particular, along with hiphop supremo dr dre. the drums on this cut sound ferocious as we find the perfect cross-section between john bonham and heavy drum breaks that primo would spend an eternity in the dark to unearth. how great is 'death by platitude' as a track title? yes, that's correct, you don't get better. it also makes for a jittery staccato-ridden gem. 'not so' finds the band back in jagged punk territory. a tip of the hat goes to the dead kennedys 'drug me'. the albums centrepiece is 'the mighty'. an earth-shattering four and a half minutes, it showcases the band in full flow, darker, more atmospheric, but no less intense. i think robert harder did an amazing job recording and mixing this track - it just sounds enormous, exclaims wareham. 'worry' showcases a wonderfully restrained performance from ruth goller and contains a mid-section melody change that is attributed to rochford and is quite superb. as wareham deftly puts it, he's sickeningly talented! as 'you and i' rounds out the album, we are left with this most progressive of bands ringing marvellously in our ears: full of sparkling dynamics and heady bombastic phrasing. no other band, jazz or not, is fulfilling the promise they are showing. much more is on the way.
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