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Jaga Jazzist - A Livingroom Hush CD (album) cover

A LIVINGROOM HUSH

Jaga Jazzist

Jazz Rock/Fusion


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chamberry
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars What a refreshing sound!

Jaga Jazzist are a ten piece collective from Norway that mix jazz rock with electronica. Yes, you heard right. It might sound a little strange in words, but when the music starts playing mouths stop talking and ears start listening, and what a great sound it is!

It grabs you from the very first seconds of the opener "Animal Chin" with its fierce, quirky and complex melody that will make you dance as if you were having an epileptic attack. The rest of the songs don't get as energetic or aggressive than the first one (except "Midget"), but this isn't really a problem. The album is pretty varied within the context of their sound. It has very nice electronica beats, atmospheres and effects, a decent variety of wind instruments and different moods and styles. The album also has a very modern feel to it too, but not in a futuristic way. The songs are rather short. Most of them being at the 5 minute mark, but every song shines in it's own special way and all of the songs have a breezy feel to them often reminding me of Puerto Rican summers at the beach. It's actually a bit funny since they are from Norway which isn't really the atmosphere one might expect Scandinavian bands making, but they actually do it very well.

This a very interesting band that should appeal to fans of jazz, electronica and even every person that can get their hands into their sound will enjoy it too. I'm not a serious jazz fan nor a serious electronica fan and I greatly enjoy it. Their sound is fun, engaging and the melodies are catchy and memorable. It's also very accessible and great all the way through. The closest band I can compare them to is TNT era Tortoise if they were more electronic, energetic and jazzier, but don't let that comparison side-track you. You'll have to listen to them to really know what they sound like.

Check this guys out and see what the big fuzz going on in Norway is all about.

Report this review (#110341)
Posted Thursday, February 1, 2007 | Review Permalink
5 stars Here we have it... jazz, electronica, and a little bit of post-rock in one giant beautiful mix! While their post-rock influence shows through on their later albums, the aesthetic is still present on this album.

The electronica aspect of their music is especially impressive since Jaga utlizes a lot of drum beats previously only played by drum machines. Since they are played by a human, however, it increases the "wow" aspect of listening to such technically impressive percussion.

The instrumentation is pretty traditional for jazz, with a lot of horns, sax, bass clarinet, keys, and guitar... while some of the instrumentalists are not exactly at the top of their game, they don't make any mistakes. The solos, while not absolutely mind-blowing, are very musical and intelligently done. They manage to impress without going too far out of this realm.

The reason I rate this as a masterpiece is not because it is absolutely impressive, but because it's NEW. It's something that hasn't really been done before... a mix of jazz, electronica, and post-rock? The closest thing is Tortoise but they're less straight jazz and more atmospheric music with some latin beats. This has a solid jazz background that's refreshing to hear in such modern music.

Report this review (#110349)
Posted Thursday, February 1, 2007 | Review Permalink
laplace
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars Here's a really appealing and smooth piece of jazztronica, carefully split into tunes with enough sense to end when they've cycled through their variations. Jazz has scared this reviewer away before, in two notable ways: 1) theme/improv/theme maybe bread and butter to some but if you're like me and prefer more tightly composed music, you might find it a shame that so many jazz tunes adhere to the rule, and 2) some fusion-style songs don't have the decency to end, instead extending towards the virtuoso noodle horizon. Jaga Jazzist neatly avoid both of these pitfalls with a sensitive, ensembled approach to writing - when there is a solo, it doesn't steal centre stage for minutes on end because, as the pace is kept mostly subdued, there's no need for any of the musicians to give a masterclass in improv performance because it simply wouldn't fit; each instrument's role counterpoints another and all slot in directly, to the song's progression and benefit. This is also why the album has such a relaxing corona to it even though there's so much going on at once.

The more modern elements that Jaga introduce bestow "A Livingroom Hush" with a general chance at pleasing the ears of a casual listener (and in this case, the casual listener is me because I haven't the taste for jazz!) - drum patterns usually associated with drum and bass or trip-hop often surface in this selection of songs and there's a definite "looping" feel throughout. This magic underlines the anachronistic inclusion of double-bass, tuned percussion and clarinet parts and I find that charming. The (often acidic) jazz elements still provide the basis for each song and you'll find that the role of the keyboards, along with the smooth, often clustery and augmented chord progressions work in a way that would never be acceptable for straightforward pop music. I have often wondered if the music would be further improved by wordless backing vocals - and you can catch me la-la-la-ing along to the memorable melodies in places - but perhaps this desire comes from my love of zeuhl and might not be in the band's best interest...

You may worry that, being so immediately accessible, you may grow out of Jaga Jazzist's music after a few spins, but do remember that these songs are complex and thoughtful beneath their catchy surfaces. You'll initially come to love their superficial sound, and once you've delved deeper you'll appreciate the band for their subtleties. Do try to acquire a Jazzist album just to bring yourself up to speed with this impressive new jazz approach - hopefully it'll be much more enduring than any simple acid jazz effort.

Report this review (#136170)
Posted Tuesday, September 4, 2007 | Review Permalink
snobb
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars First Jaga Jazzist release on major label. Excellent melodic and atmospheric music combining jazz elements with relaxed electronics. Whenever the result sound is somewhere in between of two genres, I believe this music could please jazz lovers and electronics lounge fans both.

Songs are very different, perfectly arranged, and in different places accents vary from pleasant house/lounge electronics to atmospheric jazz. Possibly, some songs are a bit too "lounge-oriented", but the album in common is different and pleasant.

I believe one of main strong point there ,beside of melodies, is attractive combination of soft electronic beats and sounds with "true" acoustic jazzy elements. Still not full-bodied and matured as later works, this album contains some excellent rhythms and generally is less polished, then what will come later.

Includes beautiful composition, dedicated to my home country (recorded soon after they visited it with live show).

Interesting and competent work, not less than 3,5.

Report this review (#267555)
Posted Tuesday, February 23, 2010 | Review Permalink
Rune2000
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Prog Metal Team
5 stars With the release of A Livingroom Hush Jaga Jazzist had become a force to be reckoned with! After BBC named this release to be the best jazz album of 2002, the band had finally started to get the recognition they deserved among the renounced critic circles. Unfortunately the commercial success didn't follow, but it's not often it actually happens in the Jazz music circles and so one step closer to the goal is definitely better than nothing at all. Especially when the Allmusic review cited that "Jaga Jazzist is the very first group to successfully meld the lineages of the electronic frontier with big band jazz aesthetics."

Still, one can't help but pity the unaware masses who were too busy listening to the latest Destiny's Child single while missing the very existence of this kind of magnificent new music that was now pushed by a major label. A Livingroom Hush is definitely worth the recognition that it had received from critics since this is exactly the album one would dream of, but never actually expecting to hear, after experiencing the very promising Jaga Jazzist Magazine EP. From the opening sounds of Animal Chin the listener is transported to a completely different dimension that is adventurous and exciting while still somehow managing to sound very familiar. But this initial four minutes long bliss of a composition is only a teaser of the great things that are just about to unfold in front of the listener!

Jaga Jazzist have not only become much more electronica driven but the addition of softer jazz textures really brought out the best out of each of these compositions. This much softer approach does remind me a lot of the general Scandinavian experimental music's direction that have been pushed into the limelight with the release of Sigur Rós' 1999 critically acclaimed release Ágætis Byrjun.. This inspiration is undeniable even on A Livingroom Hush, that is not to say that Jaga Jazzist doesn't push the music a step further by adding their wild experimental sound to the recording. There are quite a few instances where we get aware glitches in the electronic drum sound that might not appeal to anyone expecting the lighter jazz sound to be southing.

It's obvious that Jaga Jazzist were set to break another career barrier with A Livingroom Hush and after listening to the album this quality really shines though on every single one of these compositions. Even if it might not be the prog purist's first choice of a masterpiece I certainly don't have any doubts on the issue!

***** star songs: Animal Chin (4:07) Going Down (5:20) Airborne (5:13) Real Racecars Have Doors (4:15) Made For Radio (5:22)

**** star songs: Press Play (1:16) Low Battery (5:50) Midget (2:32) Lithuania (8:38) Cinematic (6:21)

Report this review (#284497)
Posted Tuesday, June 1, 2010 | Review Permalink
Bonnek
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
2 stars I was really looking forward to this album. The mix of fusion with electronic music, mostly drum&bass in this case, sounded very alluring. And given the high rating I had expected something of the magnitude of Squarepusher, with a freshness and originality to match. But all I can hear is a fairly uninvolved and easy-listening clone of the Cinematic Orchestra.

Much of the band's attention went into arranging and producing the material, and it sure sounds right in those aspects. The jungle beats are mixed very well with the acoustic instruments. The sound is very lush and bright, very pleasant.

The song material however is very poor and predictable; it never goes beyond classic lounge-jazz tunes, pleasantly funky but forgettable. Even though few songs are longer then 5 minutes they get dull before they are halfway in. The electronic element of the music could have salvaged this problem but the beats and electronics are made to sound so pleasant and harmless that it condemns this music to elevators and shopping malls.

From a group of youngsters I had expected to hear more inspiration and passion in their performance, but apart from mixing their classic jazz-dance standards with electronics (just like Cinematic Orchestra had done 10 years earlier), there's little creativity going on. No, I'm afraid this is rather cliché jazz-muzak. Livingroom Fluff if you ask me, only recommended if you like lounge a lot.

Report this review (#286443)
Posted Monday, June 14, 2010 | Review Permalink
Warthur
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars Norway's Jaga Jazzist offer a dizzying variety of sounds on A Livingroom Hush, seamlessly integrating lush, organic acoustic instrumentation with cutting-edge technology. On the album you'll find classic jazz textures to energetic and fast-paced fusion-inspired stretches reminiscent of Frank Zappa or some of the Canterbury Scene bands (I particularly note a hint of National Health and the Muffins), along with very modern-sounding dance music influences - and often you'll hear all of those happening at once.

What makes the album such a brilliant success to me, though, is the way they are able to seamlessly blend all of these styles together; the stylistic shifts in the album aren't abrupt and don't exist solely for showing off, but flow smoothly and organically and come across as part of a careful process of composition. If this is the "future jazz", as the Norwegian scene which spawned it is referred to, I can't wait for the future.

Report this review (#798779)
Posted Friday, August 3, 2012 | Review Permalink
BrufordFreak
COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Why didn't anyone ever tell me how good the older Jaga Jazzist albums were? When you read something like, "The BBC named it the best jazz album of 2002," you want to check it out.

1. "Animal Chin" (4:07) (8.75/10) 2. "Going Down" (5:20) My favorite song on the album. (10/10) 3. "Press Play" (1:16) (5/5) 4. "Airborne" (5:13) KOOP with orchestration. (8.75/10) 5. "Real Racecars Have Doors" (4:15) (8.5/10) 6. "Low Battery" (5:50) (8.5/10) 7. "Midget" (2:32) (4.25/5) 8. "Made for Radio" (5:22) (8.5/10) 9. "Lithuania" (8:38) A top three song for me. (17.75/20) 10. "Cinematic" (6:22) totally experimental glitch editing á la Ryuichi Sakamoto, Carsten Nicolai, Christian Fennesz. Great if what you're wanting for your jazz takes place in the editing/production room and can't be replicated in a live setting (without computers). (8.25/10)

Total Time 48:55

Employing glitch technology is clever (it had to happen sometime, right?) but it's not, IMHO, the answer that jazz was needing.

B+/4.5 stars; a near-masterpiece of Jazz-Rock Fusion coming from the NuJazz sub-sub.

Report this review (#2455779)
Posted Monday, October 12, 2020 | Review Permalink

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