GoGo Penguin is a young Manchester-based jazz trio comprised of Chris Illingworth (piano), Nick Blacka (bass) and Rob Turner (drums). Released on 17th February 2014 last on Gondwana Records, v2.0 is the band’s second album which, like a software update, also signals a new line up with Nick Blacka replacing Grant Russell on the double bass. At the same time, the recent inclusion of v2.0 to the 2014 Mercury Prize shortlist for “Album of the Year” alludes to the wide crossover appeal of the band.
While remaining an entirely acoustic band and never losing sight of the traditional piano-driven jazz trio ballads, GoGo Penguin’s music is totally steeped in a contemporary electronic sound (Aphex Twin and Squarepusher are often quoted as major influences) and powerfully led by an impressive and quasi-jungle/drum’n’bass rhythm section.
Tunes like “Garden Dog Barbecue” or “To Drown in You” are replete with skipping break beats while more melodic songs like “Hopopono” pay tribute to the music of the late Esbjörn Svensson Trio, another major influence on the band’s sound as hinted by the first song (“Seven Sons of Björn”) on their début album Fanfares (2012).
Interestingly, a lot of the band’s motifs and variations are derived from algorithmic compositions written on synthesisers or music sequencers and reproduced acoustically. This challenging and almost mathematical approach associated with the free-spirited ethos of improvised jazz music puts forward a very exciting proposition, all the more so in a live situation.
The concluding bars of “One Percent” for instance are notably exhilarating – a breathtakingly precise acoustic take on modern electronics.