Village of the Sun unites modern jazz and electronica stars
Village of the Sun is a new collaboration between the saxophone and drums team Binker & Moses and producer Simon Ratcliffe, best known for his work with electronica duo Basement Jaxx. Their debut album First Light was released a month ago, and you'll hear it on The New Cool this week.
Binker Golding and Moses Boyd are a known quantity, releasing their critically acclaimed fourth album Feeding the Machine this past spring. That album added electronics and tape loops, and First Light takes a bold next step in that direction.
Basement Jaxx created some of the most interesting electronic music of the first decade of this century. Their underground house music style found success on pop charts as well as critics circles and gained popularity with live performances featuring electronic and acoustic instrumentation.
In 2010, they recorded Basement Jaxx vs. Metropole Orkest, a collaboration with the famous jazz big band from The Netherlands. The blend of classical orchestrations with big band jazz, operatic chorale and big beats was well received and promised more electro-jazz experimentations to come as Basement Jaxx co-leader Ratcliffe takes that experience to another level with Binker & Moses.
First Light opens with a combination of synthesizer wash and crying saxophone, Ratcliffe builds a subtle melody on piano that lifts the free explorations of Golding and crashing improvisation of Boyd.
That song, "Cesca" sets a mostly ruminative mood for the album. The instruments ebb and flow like the tides even as the tempo finds a groove on the subsequent title track. The melody is stronger here, but still more of a modal riff than a traditional song structure.
The tension and release of the trio's improvisation combines intensity with atmospherics in a compelling way. The group's theme, "Village of the Sun" bobs and weaves with group interplay while remaining surprisingly tuneful.
One of the group's early singles is the up-tempo "Ted," a spellbinding repetition of four chords that provide a launching pad for impassioned flights on saxophone and dynamic support from the one-man rhythm section. Ratcliffe's electronic music expertise is a perfect match for this exciting new sound in jazz.
Combining often cold-sounding electronica to fiery acoustic improvisation of free jazz has been attempted for more than fifty years. Village of the Sun have created a brilliant example of how thrilling that sound can be with First Light.
The New Cool airs Fridays at 9 p.m., hosted by Abe Beeson and produced by KNKX Public Radio in Seattle, Washington. LISTEN ON DEMAND