Review Summary: GoGo Penguin’s GoGo Penguin is GoGo Penguin GoGo Penguining
There's a point in a band's career when, as a listener, you know what you will get. Revocation will always deliver great thrash and Nils Frahm will similarly craft meditative modern classical pieces. GoGo Penguin lies in the same category. The Manchester nu jazz trio (piano, double bass and drums) rose to fame in 2014 thanks to v2.0
and its Mercury Prize nomination. The record epitomized the band's sound: jazz that draws influence from post-rock, electronic, trip-hop, rock and even minimal music. Since then, GGP did not stray away from this template and continued to drop great output throughout the years. Whether this remark drops or raises your interest, this self-tilted record successfully furthers the band's style, but without altering it much.
encapsulates the band’s soundscape: nu jazz tunes punctuated by minimalist passages and bombastic flashes. The greatest example of GGP's ethos is exemplified in early highlight "Atomiser". Unfurling their technical abilities, a UK garage beat dictates the rhythm while the piano is deluging its notes before a sudden change in tempo leads to a contemplative coda. This kind of exercise in dynamic has already happened in the band's catalogue, but they once again prove they are capable of making it engaging. Elsewhere, “Kora” is the theatre of electronic textures challenging the organic instrumentation, without the latter ever being less than the main focus. While I thoroughly enjoyed my ride through these tunes, an awful sense of deja vu slowly rose as I approached the end of the record. When my album listening was done, the conclusion was evident: it's a GoGo Penguin record.
Sure, these fine lads know how to write songs, play their instrument, and successfully bridge the organic and the electronic. But the overall lack of adventurousness is the main gripe I have with this album. While all tracks are enjoyable per se, the record falls in monotony territories and does not allow each of its tracks to be fully discernible. Likewise, the group's post-rock influence manifests itself not only in their sound, but also in their structure: while crescendocore sometimes is chastised for its formulaic loud/quiet/louder dynamic, GGP operate within the fast/slow/faster one and tend to fall into a too-easily-recognizable canon.
It's however worth mentioning that no moment in the record's 43 minutes is poorly executed. Those unfamiliar with the band might thus be impressed by large sonic palettes, engaging songwriting and rhythmically complex structures, but to the GGP connoisseur, this is just another great addition to their discography. This is a great record, consistently good, never bad nor amazing. It’s GoGo Penguin.