Sunday 14 September 2014

Gogo Penguin and Mammal Hands

Late last Wednesday, I was very pleased to learn that Gogo Penguin's second LP, 'V2.0', had been shortlisted for the Mercury Music Prize, a thoroughly deserved nod. The evening after the night before, Gogo Penguin played in Norwich, opening for local outfit Mammal Hands, who were launching their own debut LP 'Animalia'. Both bands played out of their skins. It was a night that none in attendance, on stage or in the packed audience, will forget in a hurry.

I featured Gogo Penguin a few months ago (here) and their music has remained on regular rotation round these parts ever since, but was unprepared for the sheer force of their live show. They groove, they swing and, yes, they even rock, Mick Blacka throwing occasional Keef-like shapes with his double bass. The band stretch and push the recorded versions of their repertoire into seemingly uncharted areas before bringing it all back home and finishing each tune on a dime, without any noticeable nods or winks between the three of them. The performance of 'One Percent' was worth the price of admission alone. Totally thrilling stuff. This isn't too shabby either.

Mammal Hands are another three piece, who, like Gogo Penguin, are blessed with an extraordinary keyboard player and drummer, unusually though, they have no bassist. The line-up is completed by Jordan Smart on saxophone who was also group announcer for the night (apparently they take it in turns). Smart is very quietly spoken and, in tunes like 'Mansions of Millions of Years', demonstrates similarly delicate phrasing on the soprano sax. His range is huge though. During an extended tenor sax workout in an untitled new piece later in the evening, he tore the place apart, prompting spontaneous outbursts of applause from the audience everytime he took it up another notch. This was my first encounter with Mammal Hands, but I bought the album after the show and I'll certainly be back for more. Here's a version of 'Kandaiki, recorded last year.

Mammal Hands recorded 'Animalia' back in December 2013 and are clearly already looking towards album number two, in much the same way as Gogo Penguin are pushing forward to album three. It was a memorable night and I'm excited to hear what comes next from these terrific bands.


Anonymous said...

Fabulous on both counts. The talent that some people possess just amazes me: these chaps are blessed. I've heard about Gogo Penguin but Mammal Hands are entirely new to me. This is real, grown up music, played with intelligence and sensitivity. Mammal Hands' sound seems a little more ascetic due to the lack of bass. I prefer my jazz to swing so Gogo Penguin win on that score but I'd imagine Mammal Hands are aiming at something closer to a modern classical/jazz crossover which may account for their bass-less approach. Then again, I'm only guessing and what the heck to I know? Whatever - both are excellent outfits. Must follow them up.

C said...

Whilst not really my cuppa tea I can appreciate how talented they are. Still, I must admit my first thought on seeing your post title was that I really should develop some picture book characters with those names! 'Gogo Penguin and Mammal Hands' is absolutely crying out to be a children's story book, surely?!

The Swede said...

SB. Both bands are already moving on from their latest recorded work and are well worth keeping an eye on the local listings for. £7 for two crack combos - bargain!

C. More intriguing than the traditional Jazz moniker eg. Fred Bloggs Trio or Bert Smith Quartet, the names alone make you want to check the bands out. I'd certainly check out that book too. Get to it C!

Old Pa's Corner said...

Well that sounds like one 'ell of a night C I am not such a Jazz fan but 'thru SB I have listened to a lot more recently.....I can of course appreciate the quality playing most of the time....both these tracks are excellent

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