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Fans of Hitch-Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy may remember that the designer of the planet Earth (Slartibartfarst) was rather pleased with his work on Norway, particularly the fjords. he must have put something in the water too, judging from the incredibly fertile nature of its music scene. This lot are just one manifestation of it.
Jaga Jazzists's debut A Living Room Hush (which got a UK release last year) won the hearts of many who probably wouldn't be seen dead in the Jazz section of your local Megatower CD emporium. Fusing 21st century electronica with airy horn parts and succint, considered solos, it was a joyful, intricate noise stuffed full of stop-start dynamics. Clever stuff, and all the more impressive when you see them doing it live.
The recipe stays pretty much the same for The Stix; interlocking brass, flutes and bass clarinet patterns thread their way through piles of shredded, hyperactive beats. Again, the melodic writing owes much to a rarified strain of jazz rock rather than anything else; Soft Machine or Frank Zappa's Grand Wazoo spring to mind. With a sound as distinctive and fully formed as this, it'd be unrealistic to expect too much change this time around, but there are subtle shifts in emphasis.
There's less improvisation; all the effort seems to have gone into creating even more detailed writing.Some pieces are almost geometric in their construction but there's always a sucker punch round the corner; Jaga Jazzist can beguile with lovely, translucent melodies then give you a swift kick up the behind. Summery acoustic guitars jostle with squirts of digital noise, arcing horns and what sounds like a solo played on a giant kazoo shoved through a fuzz pedal. It's all charged with a nervy, hyperactive energy that'll have the more mobile amongst us cutting a rug on the living room floor. Luminously, predictably brilliant.