Review Summary: Motorpsycho and Jaga Jazzist have previous experience together and it shows. They collaborated and created a fantastic jazzy album in just 2 days.
In the Fishtank is, in theory, a terrible idea. Let’s take two or more low-profile, usually post rock related artists, and put them together in a studio. OK, good enough. But to only give them two days and then put out whatever they record, no matter how much it sucks? That is the tragic flaw of the Fishtank series. Luckily, Konkurrent, the record label that sponsors these recordings, picked the right two groups to come together for their 10th installment. Motorpsycho and Jaga Jazzist are both from Norway and played together various times before the Fishtank sessions. The horn section of Jaga Jazzist provides a great melodic centerpiece for Motorpsycho’s quirky blend of rock, electronica, and ethnic grooves.
Despite their previous experiences and shared nationality, the mix is strange. They hardly ever truly come together on this album; there are the Motorpsycho sections and the Jaga Jazzist sections. The only time that the jazz and the rock truly come together is on Theme de Yoyo
, a cover from the Art Ensemble of Chicago. It’s strange, with the Motorpsycho rhythm section throwing down a funky yet very rock styled groove. Lars Horntveth, Jaga’s premiere songwriter and the tenor saxophonist, takes the horn feature in the song and puts out a Coltrane-worthy solo that takes the chord changes and throws them out the window. That makes the middle of the song, but the rest is a strange mix of Motorpsycho’s groove and a few moments of a chaotic mix of horn blasts and cymbal crashes. Including some raspy vocals that get a bit too stylish for their own good, it comes across sloppy and improvised because it probably was improvised; they only had two days to record these 45 minutes of music. Still, it somehow works. Some of the sections, with the strange chaos, anthemic vocal harmonies, and memorable horn melodies resemble The Mars Volta. Theme de Yoyo
is what happens when The Mars Volta and John Coltrane in his Love Supreme days have a lovechild.
Conversely, Bombay Brassiere
serves as a downtempo and brooding album opener. Light percussion and a slow bass groove lay the background for the song, while Mathias Eick, Jaga’s trumpet player, opens the song with a very Miles Davis styled solo. As the song progresses, more horns add in to aid Eick and the rhythm section lays down a more solidified groove, with rim clicks on beats 2 and 4. Bombay Brassiere could easily pass as an outtake from What We Must, with horn melodies that seem to go on with no real direction, yet they still revolve around the same themes. Eick’s trumpet playing is perfect, just the right tone and detached style. It very well may have been an idea that Horntveth played with while writing What We Must, as he did write the song. However, Motorpsycho’s Hans Magnus Ryan wrote the album’s centerpiece, Tristano
. It is over 20 minutes long, and it delves into a strange free jazz area. It grows as more elements that don’t fit together add in, including haunting high piano melodies, harp sweeps, and hard, low piano chords. Some sense comes to the song in an ethnic percussion groove of timbales and congas, but still, the melodies are strange and don’t flow with the rest of the song, obviously intended. Tristano
grows for all 20 minutes, before everything capitulates into a harmonically peculiar horn melody with a rapid and spastic groove from Motorpsycho. The final 2 seconds are pure chaos, as Håkon Gebhardt pounds on his drums and the horn section plays as loud, high, and obnoxious as possible.
The tenth installment of In the Fishtank finds both bands involved experimenting in new genres. It draws a lot of influence from the jazz greats, including Coltrane and Miles. Overall, it gives a more jazz fusion style, especially with Motorpsycho’s grooves. Even Pills, Powders, and Passion Plays
, a Motorpsycho song that they redid with Jazzist during the recording sessions, gives off a laid back jazz groove that brings Jaga’s horns to prominence for much of the song. The vocals on the track fit perfectly, floating in the milky atmosphere of the groove and instrument melodies. The performance on the album is stellar, as expected from two bands with this much experience and songwriting ability. For the most part, the album is very soothing, but the last two tracks are intense listens, with Horntveth’s incredible soloing and the free jazz progression and style of Tristano
. Fans of Jaga Jazzist and Motorpsycho should definitely give this a listen; each track is enjoyable and excellent, albeit a bit unrefined.
Theme de Yoyo