Bastard Jazz Recordings, 2016
Review by Kent Manthie
Out of the aether it fell, just about two weeks ago; I’m talking about this new EP from Manatee Commune, called Thistle, on the Brooklyn-based Bastard Jazz label. One look at the Bastard Jazz website, and you can tell that Bastard Jazz Recordings are less of a “Blue Note” or “Verve” type of jazz label, but more of a hip-hop, “urban” music gateway (I, personally can’t stand that tag: “Urban Music” -it’s like, “hey, wait a minute: I’ve lived in urban areas my whole life and I have been into so many types of music since I was a toddler and by now I’m really into almost- I said almost– anything, so, when someone describes something as, or tries to make a sub-genre label out of calling something “urban music”, well, it sounds just a little too phony, a little too, uh…,maybe euphemistic? As in, they really mean black-oriented, for the most part, even though more and more of hip-hop, etc. is made by people of all looks, all types). When you check out the various artists, you see that many, if not all of them are younger artists and bands who are not necessarily embedded in a strictly jazz ethos, but are nonetheless pushing musical boundaries and thinking forwardly, trying to set down something that can be seen, years hence, at least for the ones who are good and have what it takes to go the distance. So, bravo to Bastard Jazz Recordings for providing an indie context in which these guys can spread their wings, get their feet wet, whatever. It’s better than getting demo after demo sent back from some corporate label until you eventually “get it”, that they’re looking for something that’ll sell records, fill big arenas, and make money on the back end with merchandising, and so forth.
A local critics’ darling of the Pacific Northwest, Eadie piqued the interest of New York-based Bastard Jazz, having shown up with his string arrangements, synthesizers queued up and some other tricks in his bag. When the label gave him the go-ahead to jump-start what would become the Thistle EP, Eadie went ahead and put together this interesting assortment of the music that his fans up in the Seattle area had loved so much. He self-produced the album, with a good ear for the fluidity and continuity in creating his own brand of ambient/hip-hop/jazz stylings.
After the sort of somber opener, “Brick Orange”, we get an earful of a playful and loosened, kind of danceable poppish “Blueberry”, which is full of upbeat synth hooks and some cool-breeze rhythms. Then, on “Clay”, which is, incidentally, the first single from Thistle EP, Marina Price, one of the friends and cohorts Eadie asked to come down and provide their assistance. Then, two songs later, on the song, “Contain You” features another golden-voiced singer, by the name of Maiah Manser. Both singers add this sexy, chanteuse kind of vibe over the respective songs on which they appear.
Anyway, Grant has really, quite beautifully, blended an ambient sort of backdrop with this loosened up, jazzy kind of feel to it. The electronica of it is a real switch for a jazz audience. No freak-out sax solos or thumpa-thumpa-thumpa bass picking, instead, opting to use synthesizers, sequencers, some strings, and the baddest in bad ass drum machines and, no doubt, much usage of some computer music software, but, not in a way that makes you cringe, a la the eschatological, dead-eyed pop you hear on the radio; no, Grant is much more adept in a way that someone with some great chops can rarely fail to please.
It’s as if (and I don’t know this to be a fact, I’m just guessing here), Grant were just as big a fan of ambient heroes like Brian Eno, Jon Hassell, Harold Budd, Moebius, etc. as well as the continuation of the “free-jazz” style, but with one eye towards the post-post-avant-garde, something I read somewhere, in relation to something else, dubbed “apres garde” – that is a term I’d like to use more often.
Speaking of Jon Hassell, what a coincidence, because I just happened to listen to one of his albums, it’s an album with quite a long name to it, but it came out, just to be clear, circa late 90s and, my goodness – it was just beautiful! I was listening to it as a backdrop & at a couple intervals of not doing anything, I realized just how awesome this particular album was. So much so, that it got me in the mood to go through some of the other Hassell albums I have and, in a way, rediscover their beauty and more than that, the depth and the intricate, musical chiaroscuro.
Sorry, I did it again. Got away from the focus of the review. So, from what I’ve been able to glean from this album by Manatee Commune, Thistle, there is an admixture of blissful reverie made under the influence of electronic/ambient fashion as well as a mixing in of a looser jazz feel to it, one with sweet , tender melodious female vocals, a perfectly pitched, “big voice”, as opposed to one of your typical (temporarily) popular, “top 40”, “junk music”, i.e., the stuff one would hear if one listened to the radio, specifically, your average repeat-the-same-10-songs as many times as possible in any given eight hour period (especially between 7am and, say, 5pm).
One thing which makes Thistle EP so inventive, so spontaneous in its swimming from this end to that, etc. is that, besides producing this album himself, Grant Eadie’s also, besides playing so many instruments, invited as many friends and potential collaborators down to the studio as possible, to lend hands and many heeded the call, which, in turn, led to a flux of creativity which jumps all over – within some intended limitations and self-set boundaries.
I wish I knew more about Mr. Eadie and the iconoclastic, boundary shifting ambient-jazz with the vocal beauty, to be able to run down a bigger bio, but, being this is my first exposure to the guy, I’m hoping that there’ll be more occasions for me to indulge in his contemporary brand of “no-box” music.
If you’d like to get some more information on the man or on how to order his music, visit https://manateecommune.bandcamp.com/album/thistle-ep. or http://www.bastardjazz.com/artist/manatee-commune-2/ – a link to his page on the Bastard Jazz label webpage. Enjoy!! -KM.
Oh -and, P.S., his single “Clay” (the one featuring Marina Price) is also on sale and can be had at the same places you can get Thistle EP. -k