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Review: Colossal Squid – 28/01/20 – Think Tank?, Newcastle

31/01/2020

On Tuesday night Adam Betts unleashed his brand new project, Colossal Squid to an awaiting crowd at Newcastle’s Think Tank?. Colossal Squid was created when Betts found a way to create a unique style of music by utilising a drum kit and electronic pads. Damian Robinson was down the front, ready to catch the action… 

Apologies to anyone who may be a real expert when it comes to jazz, particularly modern jazz, but my reference points in this tradition are limited. What makes the situation worse is that those artists I do have an awareness/appreciation of, I’m certain most enthusiasts would mock my choices and box me into the ‘safe’ category. Trying to appear like you know what you’re talking about tends to be difficult, as I’ve found when trying to talk about jazz.   

Fortunately, I’m pretty educated in mid to late 90’s electro, particularly the British kind (which in my mind covers genres ranging from trip-hop to drum and bass, to jungle, and back around to big beat). This knowledge comes in handy the second that Slugabed walk onto stage and fire up their range of samples and rare grooves. From the second their first sample starts up, I begin to understand the intent of (some) modern jazz.  This challenge has moved to home turf.

Sonically interesting from the start, Slugabed’s 45-minute opening set blasts with moments akin to Monkey Mark and DJ Shadow.  Dark and claustrophobic in places and light and airy in others, Slug’s instrumental textures find interesting grooves and melodies to lock into, creating ear-catching breakbeat-and-sample sonics. The key reference point of the Slugabed’s set is that it’s always ahead of you; just as you think you’ve caught the melody of the track, it changes, drifting into a new drum pattern or a different tone.   

Driven in places into the saxophone elements of Bowie’s ‘Blackstar’, Slugabed’s live show is deeply interesting and never predictable. 

Following almost immediately, Colossal Squid takes up the momentum of Slugabed, using drums and drum production techniques to create mind-bending and floor-shaking drum and bass styled sonics.  Ferociously wild in places, Squid’s magic is to stop and start break-beats; finding dance-inducing rhythms and then cutting them dead. To my mind this is jazz, yet it’s electronic.

 It’s live yet it’s sampled.  Not to get too zen about it, but Colossal’s sounds are all things and none at the same time.

Joined in places by the forceful vocalist AK Patterson, Patterson and Squid collaborate to equally create live breaks, samples and vocals which are akin to the wildest of drum and bass nights. Dark yet beautiful, their collaborations attack your head and your feet at the same time. Standing out with ‘Agita’, taken from Squid’s new album, the set is both banging and brilliant.

I’m sure my jazz knowledge would be much richer if somebody had told me years ago it would be music which reminded me of smoke-filled clubs and hip-hop intellects looking for new ways to challenge themselves. If this is jazz then I’m a convert.

REVIEW: DAMIAN ROBINSON

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