THE SMALL Norwegian city of Tønsberg, 100km south-west of Oslo, isn’t somewhere you necessarily think of when you think of grand centres of jazz. New Orleans, yep, New York City? Of course; but Tønsberg?
Yes, Tønsberg: which is where, back in the ’90s, a 14-year-old Lars Horntveth, his brother Martin and early fellow traveller Ivar Christian Johansen put together Jaga Jazzist, the sprawling, free-thinking, questing collective as likely to cite Tortoise and Stereolab as influences as they are Coltrane or Don Cherry.
After a long and fruitful relationship with Ninja Tune, with whom they released three albums over the past 15 years including 2015’s awesomely widescreen Starfire, they’re off to pastures new. Next Friday will see the release of a quartet of long, exploratory tracks collected together as Pyramid for Flying Lotus’s Brainfeeder label.
They’e just unveiled a single edit of “Tomita” – down to four minutes from the near-14 of the album – with an intriguing little animation from director Jengo, in which our be-cloaked hero quests towards the Pyramid.
The track has those classic Jaga Jazzist elements in place: a multi-instrumental prog-jazz groove, unafraid to let it all hang out and go exploring, spliced with a Morriconesque space-age wordless vocal melody.
It is, of course, named for the Japanese electronics explorer Isao Tomita, who pushed out the envelope of classical music in the early 1970s by pairing Debussy and the like with more exploratory electronica such as “The Engulfed Cathedral”.
Taken together with the last single, the magnificent Prins Thomas space-disco rerub of “Spiral Era”, of which we said “Prins takes the track out for a spin to a place where silver catsuits are a very real and very enticing prospect”.
Taken in tandem with the band promising knowing for contemporary artists as diverse as Norwegian synth guru Ståle Storløkken, Tame Impala and Jon Hopkins, it’s looking likely that August 7th will deliver a magnificent, inventive sprawl of a record.
Lars says: “I felt that this album is a small symphony, each part containing its own rooms to explore.”
Jaga Jazzist’s Pyramid will be released by Brainfeeder next Friday, August 7th, on mp3, WAV, CD and clear vinyl formats. Order yours up at the Ninja Tune shop, here.