Polar Bear - In Each and Every One - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

Polar Bear - In Each and Every One

by Rich Morris Rating:8 Release Date:2014-03-24

Beginning with the gorgeous, celestial synth washes and lonesome sax of ‘Open See’, Polar Bear’s fifth release serves notice of the jazz band’s headfirst dive into electronica. Lest you think In Each and Every One is going to be a work of pure, Eno-esque ambiance, second track ‘Be Free’ plays fast and loose with rhythm, chucking chugging, whiplash beats against cheeky, flirtatious sax to create a sound at once urban and frivolous.

The following ‘Chotpot’ pushes things even further; it’s glitchy and murky, yet witty. It sounds like a wasp trapped in a tin, except that the wasp is actually Bumblebee Man from The Simpsons and the tin is Public Image Ltd’s Metal Box. That probably doesn’t even make sense, but that’s what this album is like. Listening to it all in one go feels a bit like going mental. In a good way.

Bandleader and drummer Seb Rochford beats even his own excellent previous form in producing rhythms which are constantly surprising and inventive, switching between aggressive, metallic, playful, and rain-drop soft. Unfortunately, the melodies don’t always have as much impact; the likes of ‘Lost in Death Part 2’ and ‘WW’ are more impressive for their sounds than their tunes, and unless you really enjoy the sound of duelling saxophones trying to out-squawk each other, In Each and Every One may become a chore around the halfway mark, probably during the eight-minute ‘Maliana’, which switches from low-key industrial dirge to hellish, swirling jazz-mare at the drop of a trilby.

That said, there’s no denying that Polar Bear remain a uniquely brave group. Along with Portishead side-project Get the Blessing and Neneh Cherry collaborators The Thing, they are one of the few jazz bands carrying forward the sonic exploration Miles Davies began on classic works such as Bitches Brew, dragging jazz’s comfy, well-padded arse into uncertain, hostile territory and forcing it to adapt and mutate.

It’s impossible not to be impressed by their fearlessness, the sheer energetic verve with which they approach such fiendishly out-there music, and wish more artists working in such supposedly evergreen genres as rock and electronica showed half as much tenacity. 

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