Release Date: Apr 1, 2014
Record label: Leaf
Polar Bear, the cryptically lyrical British two-sax quartet, have waited four years to release the follow-up to their memorable fourth album, Peepers, and this sometimes dreamy, sometimes fierce set is the slow-cooked result. Electronics plays a bigger role, with the introductory Open See a sonic vapour of airy whistles and glowing, pulsing effects. Be Free and Chatpot are delightful rhythm games on delicate sax motifs, distant hoots and synthesised vocals, set against Seb Rochford's clappy drum grooves or soft clatters; the snappy rimshots and lazy tenor-shruggings of They're All Ks and Qs Lucien are irresistible all the way to their finale.
In the years since releasing fourth album Peepers back in 2010 the various members of Polar Bear have featured in bands such as Sons Of Kemet (drummer Seb Rochford), Melt Yourself Down (saxophonist Pete Wareham) and The Invisible (double bass player Tom Herbert). That they have assumed central roles in bands that have been so highly regarded and widely lauded is no surprise – since releasing debut album Dim Lit back in 2004 Polar Bear have come to represent a guarantee of quality of sorts, establishing themselves as one of the leading names in modern British jazz in the process. This recent history makes their reuniting for their fifth album In Each And Every One feel even more significant.
Head here to submit your own review of this album. There's a moment when you listen to a truly great album, where everything suddenly falls into place. The textures, the ideas, the suggestive qualities of the music finally make sense and you realise that all of a sudden you're wide awake, ever so slightly more enriched than you were just moments before.
London-based quintet Polar Bear are often tagged as an "avant jazz" group, which is both correct and incorrect, leaning further and further away from being an accurate description of the kitchen-sink genre combinations that make up fifth album In Each and Every One. While still heavy on saxophone from tenor players Mark Lockheart and Pete Wareham, this album sees the band looking deeper into textures, sound manipulation, and the use of editing and electronics to expand their sound, moving farther away from anything resembling run-of-the-mill jazz. The album opens with "Open See," a seven-minute passage of angelic, ambient textures, water sound effects, and airy, floating sax lines.
Since debuting a decade ago with their ‘Dim Lit’ album, Polar Bear have successfully retained a foot in both the modern jazz and experimental rock camps. Most bands attempting this hybrid get dragged one way or other, but in this case not even Polar Bear founder and grindcore enthusiast Seb Rochford drumming in an early Babyshambles line-up could tip the balance. This, their fifth full-length, is affecting and stylistically broad, but the dreamlike trumpet, blurry electronics and hard-rock drums form an evolving landscape, rather than showily leaping between styles.
Ahead of this year's Mercury prize, DiS in partnership with Naim Audio's new wireless music system, mu-so, will help you GoDeeper into 2014's nominated albums. Today, we would like to turn your attention to the fantastic In Each and Every One by Polar Bear. Here is Ben Philpott's review of the record, originally published back in March. Visit our Mercury mini-site for the band's guide to their gear they used to make this album, and more coverage of all of this year's nominees.
Polar Bear's fifth full studio album comes after what seems like quite a gap – it's been four years since Peepers – but it's not as if the individuals who make up London's most acclaimed jazz outfit have been taking it easy; last year members of this outfit contributed significantly to a number of outstanding records, from saxophonist Pete Wareham's excitable Nubian party band Melt Yourself Down (which also featured Polar Bear electronics guru, Leafcutter John), to Polar Bear honcho Seb Rochford drumming on the outstanding debut album by Sons Of Kemet, and Rokia Traoré's excellent Beautiful Africa. The mess of bands that surrounds Polar Bear – Acoustic Ladyland, The Invisible, Basquiat Strings, Fulborn Teversham, etc, as well as Melt Yourself Down and Sons Of Kemet – is deliriously incestuous and collaborative, members helping each other out by both playing on and producing each others' records, moonlighting in three or more different bands at once. To an outsider trying to keep up and follow the various creative career strands it can be as confusing as it is exciting; I'm not sure when I saw Melt Yourself Down play live in Bristol last November exactly who, apart from Pete Wareham and Kushal Gaya, was onstage who'd also played on the record, due to clashing touring schedules.