Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Three Kinds of Heavy

Black Sabbath
Black Sabbath
Vertigo, 1970

Le Noise
Neil Young
Reprise, 2010

Moxxy
Troyka
Edition, 2012

I love the London Jazz scene, but there really is more to it than the seemingly unbroken string of four-star reviews it seems to have notched up in its very own section of the Guardian. Sure, this music can be difficult. And if anyone covers that well, it's the Guardian. But while these players are completely dedicated to the cause, it is so important to remember that they are not in a world of their own. I have stayed up with some of these players until early hours of the morning listening to Bowie, to the Blues Brothers - I have seen them swap Bach scores and live Led Zeppelin DVDs: They were not raised in a bell-jar of Jazz. To listen to them as such - if that were even possible - would be an awful waste.

Perhaps my example is obvious, but I think it serves my point: Troyka's new album would not have happened if the members had not taken in so much of the world - musical or otherwise - around them. The band's blurb pitches them as "Tony William's Lifetime remix by Burial." It also name-checks, among others, Steely Dan and Aphex Twin. The point is not that they necessarily sound like any of those artists. Nor do they want them to. What's going on here is that these players are all listening to and engaging with music which a lot of listeners - in the press and in the pubs - distinctly separate them from.

I've recently found that bringing CDs closer together on the shelf - iPhone playlists, whatever - is what really helps me get the most out of them. I won't write too much about these three - it's a combination that works for me, and just seems to highlight what's great about each of the records. In their first album, Sabbath defined what it meant to be heavy in rock music; on Le Noise, producer Daniel Lanois sculpted an entire sonic landscape in which Old Shakey stood and sang. These are both records that challenge the listener in several different ways, and the same can be said of Moxxy.

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