Keyboardist Jason Lindner is a weirdo. The top of his head is bald but he cuts the back of sides of his hair in crazy parts; he frequently wears a ring with a panda head on it; most importantly, his electronic influences in his work, his ever increasing use of keyboards and synths, creates a shifting, groove-based music that is the highest form of creative music on the fringes of jazz but very much still a part of the genre. It’s difficult to explain how, weird even, because Lindner is a weirdo. My favorite people are weirdos. Time and again with Lindner’s group, Now Vs Now, he has explored these weird, groove-based tendencies
This is music that sounds like it emerged from the ether, because to a certain extent, it did. Bandleader Jason Lindner on synthesizers and keys– still swirling with ideas from his exploratory work on the late David Bowie’s Blackstar album alongside the Donny McCaslin Group — composed and created the works here freely with his trio of bassist Panagiotis Andreou and drummer Justin Tyson (who is replacing this group’s previous drummer, Mark Guiliana) to make songs that have a definite focus and pattern but also seem to have new shapes that one doesn’t stumble upon often. These are jazz songs in that they are improvised, in that they are made by talented jazz musicians who can have played in the jazz tradition, but it wouldn’t be crazy to also hear some Kraftwerk or Aphex Twin or Black Moth Super Rainbow mixed in here. This is an electronic album, unabashedly, and it’s perfect.
The first song, “Cloud Fishing” is a dreamy tune, gliding along smoothly and calmly before plunging into the deep end and relishing in the cool waters below. Sure, there’s a great melody here, but the assorted sounds that creep along the edges here, just beginning to reveal themselves is the real surprise throughout this album as they begin to show just what you’re getting into here. Lead single “Motion Potion” is a sweaty jam– pulsing, grooving, eliciting the same motion is calls for in its name. “Silkworm Society” is just too cool of a song, trucking along in its 4/4 time, giving little mantras about growth, wrapping us up in warm sound and engendering happy thoughts. Lindner’s piano tinkling in, a little fuzzy with short phrases like as if feeding us just as much as we can chew. Andreou’s bass providing just as tasty licks. Their take on the traditional Greek song, “Pergamos”, is raucous and inspired, finding the heart of the folk song and giving it a hard, electronic edge. Closer “Accelerating Returns” is a song that sounds like the future and then actually zooms into with a well-played accelerando near the end. As a whole, the arrangement of the songs are quite perfect, bringing the mood along and still quenching every possible musical thirst. It’s a total experience.
The theme of buffering plays throughout the album, assorted interludes that indicated that this is all just a process, sounds putting themselves together for a final form that by album end just isn’t quite there. The buffering fails, the process restarts. Even this album, recorded, mixed and mastered with care to release this finished process, but with the knowledge that it’s still also steadily building upon itself, reloading in our own ears, our minds, through their instruments in performances, in their own continued ideas of where this music should go next.
This album is perfect for an acid trip, a bike ride, any epic journey filled with inexplicable side quests, most sweaty dancefloors, and any other places you can think of where music this perfect and with such range would be appropriate. It’s an album bigger than the sum of its parts, made with heart from a trio of total freaks led by a weirdo who learned a bunch of new, adventurous ideas from his various travels and found something new to say from a group who always had new things to say. It’s undoubtedly one of my favorite albums of the year, burrowing itself into my ear, my heart, (my radio show,) and my testimony that this is the kind of album that folks of all sorts should hear. It’s too weird not to give it a shot, and certainly for weirdos not to love.
Jason Lindner – Synthesizers, Wurlitzer EP, Piano
Panagiotis Andreou – Bass, Vocals (track 3)
Justin Tyson – Drums
Sasha Masakowski – Vocals (track 11)
Steve Wall – Additional Synths, Percussion (track 10)
Natasha Diggs – Spoken Word (track 5)
Produced by Jason Lindner & Steve Wall
Nextbop Editor-in-Chief Anthony Dean-Harris hosts the modern jazz radio show, The Line-Up, Fridays at 9pm CST on 91.7 FM KRTU San Antonio and is also a contributing writer to DownBeat Magazine and the San Antonio Current.