Capsule Review: Gist Is – Adult Jazz

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This piece was originally published on the 9th of December 2014 by The 405, as part of their ’30 Best Albums of 2014′ feature. It’s fine; a bit wanky, but I’ve certainly written worse. Their PR people seemed to like it, though, as they offered to send me a copy of the vinyl, which was very nice of them. This record is still fucking ace, by the way. 

With its labyrinthine constructions and outright denial of rigid classification, Adult Jazz’s debut album Gist Is may be unfortunately characterised as ‘intelligent’. You know, intelligent like Alt-J. Intelligent because it’s considered to be deliberately ‘weird’ in the very loose sphere of pop music. Intelligent because the band has the audacity to employ obscure-time signatures and fart around with discordant noises. As if that’s the apex, what we should strive for. As if that’s the best we can do.

Well, bollocks to that. Gist Is is not intelligent. To label it as such would be an insult to an album that’s deeply felt, joyful, and unreservedly beautiful; that gleefully encapsulates the experiences of self-discovery during the gradual waning of adolescence. It‘s music not of the brain, but of the heart. An album that never tries to be intelligent, but instead feels refreshingly instinctual. There’s an urgent, vital feeling that’s pervasive throughout; the songs are wild and unbroken, as if they came from some primal place within the band. It’s like they’re playing deep in the moment, letting the songs take control and expressing ideas that would have been impossible to express otherwise. It’s for this reason that it doesn’t work as most records do; instead, it moves and contorts with all the spontaneity, fluidity, and delirious unpredictability of a dream.

Adult Jazz bear no marks of calculation or cynicism, their music is not an empty exercise in instrumental dexterity or vocal elasticity. Rather, there’s a sense that this album needed to be made, and that every creative decision was fundamental to the band’s articulation of their primal thoughts. This is even evident in the album’s background. It was developed during the four years the band spent together at university in Leeds, self-recorded and produced during their summers, and self-released August this year via Bandcamp. There was no way these songs weren’t getting out there, which is something to celebrate. With Gist Is, Adult Jazz have made an album that sounds like some ecstatic, fascinating hybrid of Dirty Projectors, Bjork, Joanna Newsom and Grizzly Bear – a unique spin on artful pop that’s difficult not to fall deeply, madly in love with.

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