I have to say that the concept wasn’t one that I initially warmed to. Heavy metal through a jazz lens, or is that jazz through a heavy metal prism. One way or the other Moop bring these two august genre together to form what may at first sound lead you to think it may be something of an unappetising combination… until you hear it and you realise that there is more going on here than first advertised. With guitar, drums and two baritone saxophones; this is by no means a standard line up from Moop… who are by no means a standard band.
Hailing from Poitiers in France this quartet first released, what I believe is, their only album to date back in 2017. Originally out on digital formats and cassette, Tonzonen Records have now come forward with a vinyl pressing which is how I have come across it.
From the very beginning (‘Méfions-nous d’Épicure’) this feels like an album that is going to be different with sax flourishes creating a meditative drone-like environment until the rest of the band really kick in and create something that reminds me of early Blurt. It’s only after a nicely abstract free-jazz improvisation though that you see the ‘heavy’ influence coming in. This is not particularly subtle until you realise that, actually, it is… because that really isn’t the main thing that’s going on here… rather it is an ingredient of a greater whole.
‘La Bécude’ feels much more firmly placed in the jazz side of things with some really funky flourishes that mean that it wouldn’t be out of place on a 1970s cop show at times… although it would probably fit better with something a bit more postmodern taking in the track as a whole… love the ending though.
After that ‘Spoon’ begins in an altogether different manner with a slow yet simmering start which gradually jerks into action. You can see here how the band are channelling heavy metal through a free-jazz filter at times, but at others the sound is less tangible with the band heading off on some really far out diversions which challenge the listener in a really rather thorough way.
Feeling disorientated I wondered where the band would go next with ‘Where is my horny car’… crazy title, although music that is strangely meditative and disorientating. It’s like Moop are leading you through some strange topography before hitting you with some great moments of clarity when they just launch into something more coherent, before splintering off again into sonic fragmentation. Ace!
It arguably wouldn’t take much to make the next track feel like tune, but probably ‘El Chupacabra’ would win on that level anyway. A relatively short piece that relies more on coherence than fracture, it nicely kicks the album forward, as does ‘Tourments d’un socialise sous un gouvernement rom’. Probably my favourite track on the album, there is a really great balance here between the abstractness of free-jazz, and the more methodical improvisations.
‘Joe reste cool’ has a more languid feel to it. It may be that, by this stage of the album my brain has become more accustomed to the band’s sound. It is certainly the case that this track fairly bombs along… although when you stop and think about it there really is a lot going on here.
The final track, ‘Zo dus’ is a really low key track that you can totally zone out to. A real opportunity to think about this album… and the more I hear it the more I realise that this is a necessary thing to do. This really feels like the right way to finish such a set as you pick out the strands of music and flow away with them.
For me this is first and foremost a free-jazz record which is a pretty broad, and for some also a potentially scary, hook on which to hang it. I would, however, urge you to give it a listen at least a few times to see how these tracks begin to prove in your brain… to see how meanings and ideas rise within what at first often seems like a cacophony. This is certainly not an easy record by any means, but it is one that will ultimately reward you.
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