You have to admire musicians who aren’t prepared to belong to one particular given musical style rather than another. Datadyr are one such group. There have been plenty of prog rock bands that have strong leanings towards jazz, King Crimson and Yes come to mind, but there aren’t too many jazz bands that have such an overt progressive rock element. There are some of course (and if you think of any, I don’t really need a list of them!), and plenty that have jazz associations because of particular participating musicians or because the prog rock community has taken to them (Miles Davis, John McLaughlin etc).
This is the debut album from Datadyr, although individual members have been involved in other projects, notably Kryptograf, Dreamarcher, Atari, Cort Piil and Shakai. They are from Bergen in Norway, and met while studying jazz at the Greig Academy which gave the band a thorough grounding in traditional jazz whilst giving encouragement to explore varied new directions and improvised music. Many of the tracks that have made it to the album were born at the beginning of their studies together and developed as the band evolved, and so date from 2018. The band was able to employ more song-writing and arranging as time progressed, taking these skills into rehearsals whilst balancing them with an inherent need to be spontaneous. It could be rightly said that playful expressionism is the starting point for the group.
The resulting music is lively and energetic with great range. The sound can, and does, shift from subtle heartfelt gentle studiousness to a powerful explosiveness. It is a tumbling jumble of Blues, jazz, free jazz, rock with hints of electronics and Americana. As the band says themselves; “It was a conscious choice to record everything in the same room, with as few overdubs as possible. We wanted to have good communication between us to make playing as easy as possible, and to capture the energy that comes from the joy of playing music. We wanted the instruments to bleed into each other to get an organic room sound”.
The opening track, Tier, is a fidgety antsy piece that shifts continuously whilst Woolgathering is much gentler and almost bucolic. Daybreaking, a descriptive piece, has something of John Coltrane about it, while Low Hanging Moon has a feel of the slow lazy Blues that Pink Floyd used to engage in, although here it is in a much more jazz based setting. The trio have brought in some guests to help out with the sound. The saxophone in particular changes the feel of the music, the combination of guitar and saxophone bringing to mind early King Crimson at times.
The three band members are all excellent musicians, but inevitably it is the guitarist that stands out as he is the only soloist. He has an extremely varied sound, a lively combination of John McLaughlin, Jimmi Hendrix and Grant Green along with Dave Gilmour’s louche blues style. There’s a lot of himself of course though. The bass player uses an upright bass besides electric, and the drummer underpins a lot of the momentum of the music. It is the interplay of the three that catches the ear, and they have a collective deftness that brings to mind the piano-led stylings of Esbjorn Svennson Trio, though with obviously different end results.
This is a colourful impressive album full of intriguing musical pieces. It’s not the sort of jazz that you could use as background music. The dynamics of it are such that the quiet parts would be too soft, the powerful moments too strident for that. This is an album that has to be heard. But it has an impish quality to its character that is engaging. Above all though, it is not an overly technical album but one that emphasises what music should be all about – enjoyment. This certainly is an impressive debut album that bodes well for a band that easily stand astride of an overly imagined jazz and rock divide.
- Low Hanging Moon
Øystein Høynes – bass
Amund Nordstrøm – drums
Odd Erlend Mikkelsen – guitars
Ketil Møster – saxophone
Mathias Marstrander – guitar
Release date: 10th June 2022
Label: Is It Jazz? Records
Formats: CD, red vinyl, digital