The questionably-named trio return with an unquestionably great album. While the band do not necessarily take many risks with their sound, they demonstrate clear growth and development when it comes to compositional prowess and emotional depth.
Bolstered by performances on Jools Holland and early championing by preeminent tastemakers like Gilles Peterson, the group’s second album V2.0 earned plaudits across the board. V2.0 arrived as a work of taut yet intricate arrangements, taking inspiration from jazz as much as contemporary electronic music. Gogo Penguin would go on to receive a coveted Mercury Prize nomination for the album, as well as a record deal from Blue Note Paris.
While deserved, the move from Gondwana to Blue Note attracted some interest and excitement from the chin-stroking crowd. The band may take influence from jazz, but there is a question (perhaps a pedantic one, but still worthwhile) of whether they qualify as a jazz band proper. After all, Gogo Penguin have been apprehensive about the use of the tag to describe their music, as so little (if any) of it is improvised. Would their move to Blue Note signify a different direction for the group?
Seven months after the Blue Note announcement, Gogo Penguin performed some of the tracks that would come to make up Man Made Object as part of 2015’s London Jazz Festival. They were accompanied by choreographer Lynne Page and her dancing troupe. Modestly attired in plain whites and greys, the dancers and their movements served as a perfect visual representation of the new music. Carefully choreographed yes, but somehow fluid, joyous, and above all, free.
That is, in a sentence, how I would describe Man Made Object. Much like V2.0, the album’s power does not come from its complexity (although the musicianship on display is astounding), but rather its plotting – its peaks and troughs, its knots of tension and its sighs of release. This is a band that have not so much changed their style but honed it, perfecting their craft with a record that is tightly structured and features plenty of virtuosity but also manages to be absorbing, immersive and uplifting.
Highlights: Branches Break, Smarra, Initiate, Protest
For more information on Gogo Penguin visit their website here.
Man Made Object is available to buy on iTunes here.