REVIEW: Adult Jazz – ‘Gist Is’


Artist: Adult Jazz
Title: Gist Is
Genre: Indie
Label: Spare Thought

To Adult Jazz, their debut album is one part philosophical debate, one part literary exploration, and one part experimentation. To me, it would make an ideal soundtrack to an indie film (in the woods with lots of handheld camera shots). And I do mean that as a compliment.

Adult Jazz may not be on your radar yet, but they’ve been building momentum in Leeds for some time. Formed at Leeds University, the band (made up of Harry Burgess, Tom Howe, Tim Slater and Steven Wells) has been chipping away at the album for four years. In that time, Adult Jazz worked to produce an experimental yet accessible album. To pin down a single, over-arching influence, to slap a single genre onto their name is a difficult feat. Frontman Harry Burgess perhaps explains it best, “We don’t see ourselves as having a sound, it’s more aspects that we agree are within the scope of what we do…Something melodic and friendly, but with an uncommon character.”

The album is lovely and atmospheric. I was often reminded of twelve bar blues, a clear if subtle influence, for the song structure and because many of the songs almost get repetitive. These songs in the hands of lesser musicians may have gotten boring very quickly but the boys of Adult Jazz are intelligent songwriters and change it up just in time, often subverting expectations and introducing unanticipated elements. The reason so much of the simple pop music that gluts the radio airwaves is so disposable because of the predictability of chord progressions, not to mention instrumentation and the subject matter. Adult Jazz’s music is simple overall, but that just means you can hear the cogs and the thought processes behind each song; their (appropriately) meticulous effort is evident throughout.

If we continue with the thread of Gist Is as the soundtrack to my untitled indie film, then the second track on the album, “Am Gone,” would open the film. My imaginary, moping protagonist wakes up, slightly hungover, to the jangly instrumentation of the track, and drinks his coffee. He rides his bike and is thoughtful to “Springful.” The beginning of “Springful” is reminiscent of the blues spiritual: Burgess’ warbling, but impassioned voice singing a simple repeated refrain. The song was inspired by a passage from Herman Hesse’s Siddhartha. “Donne Tongue” eases our protagonist out of his reverie; cut to a happy montage as the song speeds into vibrant chaos. Race ahead to graceful “Pigeon Skulls” and he’s falling in love and by the time the album hits its last tune, “Bonedigger,” he’s riding off into the sunset.

With Gist Is, Adult Jazz have produced a line-up of interesting and thoughtful tracks that immerse the listener. At times sweet and melodic, at others jagged and dissonant, Gist Is is an art piece, the kind of album you can listen to repeatedly and never quite hear the same thing twice.

SCORE: 7.5/10
Review written by Meaghan O’Brien

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