(Released 27th March, 2015)
Arriving at meaning with newer jazz is as hard, as resorting to interpretation is dangerous. The latter, in addition, is useless. But here’s my interpretation of Polar Bear’s Same As You.
It is cooled-down jazz which is different from cool jazz because the intensity shifts upwards towards the last two pieces and you might as well call certain movements bebop-ish. All six tracks, beginning with the spoken-word, ambient-rap of “Life Love And Light,” are about being born, gaining and losing childhood, and longing and remembering what was perhaps the Oceanic feeling of limitlessness as an infant – in first-person. The all-interesting cover, too, is an exploding tree, grown beyond its depth. Or so it seems; this is where the undemanding interpretation ends and meaning-making begins.
Same As You is in no way bathed in dissonance, and the sound is steady and secured within clearly demarcated movements; listening to a fugue-like use of melody is always delightful, but it is Sebastian Rochford’s drum-work which makes this album what it is. The muffled sound of “We Feel The Echoes” (presumably, inside the womb [?]) has a faint rhythm and bits of sporadic saxophone melody. The drums and cymbals, deftly touched with brushes, nails, sticks, I would think, form the most steady and jazzy core of the song; it is very satisfying to let the melody be taken over by percussive sounds which are audible even in the “silent” parts of the piece near the middle. The sound is as ambient as those crickets which crip from the bushes on an empty night, and soundlessness seems to be very important to what Polar Bear is trying to do here.
The drums transition to thunk and thunks in “The First Steps,” the texturally homophonic piece whose well-ordered and sincere intentions are almost ironically chirpy if not brilliant. It would be unfair to consider this piece without conjunction with “Of Hi Lands,” for the rhythm goes from one to the other almost seamlessly (not that the transition is anywhere near the brilliance of the one between the first two pieces of Jaga Jazzist’s One Armed Bandit). It is as the 2:35 that the major movement takes place; you realize, now, that all that came before was just the exposition. This is where the pale beginnings of dissonance in this album are to be found, for this is the descent into more complicated patterns, and a forewarning of the final dive into the controlled chaos of the final track, “Unrelenting Unconditional.”
It is, however, the penultimate “Don’t Let The Feeling Go” which I consider to be the apotheosis of drum-work and melody in Same As You; the groove here is something else altogether, and a neat touch of hip-hop is all but apparent. The vocals are the coda for this and for the last piece, although much faded in the latter; what began as an affirmation of life, light, and love, ends in longing.
Same As You is beautiful, Polar Bear.
Image Source: The Viewspaper