Jazztronica act, JRBB, have stepped up to the plate with their latest EP, Moebius Strip earlier this month. The Waveform Transmitter’s Niall Johnston takes stock of five leftfield jazz numbers.
15-person big-band, German, play a blend of Jazz and electronica. Yes you read that correctly. JRBB is a 15 piece Jazz group made up of musicians from Germany that has a very novel way of combining Jazz and electronic elements.
Their work comes in amongst a growing scene of musicians such as Moses Boyd and Yussef Kamaal that are experimenting with new forms of the historic genre of Jazz. The JRBB sound is complex and filled with emotion, but is mostly fun, as can be seen from their raucous live performances. They manage to demonstrate the incredible instrumentation characteristic of a big-band, whilst also creating music you can really move to. One New York newspaper even coined a new genre based on JRBB’s sound: Organic Dance Music.
The dance-ability of the music on the Moebius Strip EP is based around the beat production, which is provided by upcoming house producers from Munich – COEO (Toy Tonics).
The producer behind the Toy Tonics label – Mathias “Munk” Modica– is also responsible for Kryptox: on which Moebius Strip is released. Kryptox is a new Berlin-based label for Neo-Krautrock, Jazz-Electronica and experimental music. The aim of the venture is to expose new artists and groups that go beyond musical boundaries whilst maintaining a loose connection with traditional dance music.
The four compositions on Moebius Strip imitate the structure of traditional dance tracks with breakdowns, DJ tool dynamics, and 4/4 rhythms. Over the beat foundation are multi-layered arrangements of ostinato horns and bass. An ostinato is a technique used commonly by contemporary Jazz writers and is classed as a motif that persistently repeats in the same musical voice, usually at the same pitch (can be heard on Donna Summers’ I Feel Love). The compositions are finished off by powerful vocals in both English and German that sparingly accompany nearly all the tracks.
Trust In Me opens the EP strongly with a moody, swinging composition that gradually escalates into a crescendo built around rising horns and increasingly frantic vocals.
The Euclidian Trip through Paintings by Escher is more up-beat -the influence of the COEO input heard clearly- but the frantic nature of the previous track remains. The Brandt Brauer Frick remix adds syncopation to the drums, hints of acidic squelches and filters, creating a pleasing result but the least organically sounding entry on the EP.
However our favourite has got to be one of the B-side creations Punkt und Linie sur Flaeche and Moebius Strip. The former is a high-energy 10 minute workout with a backbone of techno percussion which takes centre stage occasionally, but is mostly a base for the skills of the musicians to be exhibited. The arrangement has sections of different instruments taking the lead, matching the style of live jam sessions often conducted when playing Jazz. This style is seen again in final track Moebius Strip, in addition to extra electronic elements and mutated vocals. The track builds to an emotive conclusion with a real sense of finale, drawing the EP to a lovely conclusion.
The music of JRBB is very hard to describe and this review has certainly not done them full justice. It is a fascinating project from some very talented musicians experimenting in the young field of Jazz Dance Electronica, Organic Dance Music, or whatever other name could be given to these enigmatic creations. JRBB are creating a real buzz from their energetic live shows, even being invited to the Lincoln Center in New York: the holy place of Jazz in the USA. They would be a wonderful act to see at a festival or concert hall, but until that time comes this release will keep us going.
Moebius Strip was released on the 1st of December on Kryptox. We implore you to listen to it.