Adult Jazz: "Springful"
By Conrad Amenta | 5 February 2014
UK quartet Adult Jazz released a 12” vinyl of “Am Gone” and “Springful,” both wonderful songs that you can listen to here, and the latter accompanied by a similarly wonderful music video. And, really, that’s about all you need to know to start a relationship with this group, letting their evident talent for arrangement and the fearlessness of a voice hanging out there without support to germinate for days. If you need a morsel, how about: “Dirty Projectors without the self-conscious artsy-fartsiness that requires every review to mention the fact that David Longstreth went to Yale.”
But what makes me most excited about this band isn’t just how hooky they can be without building too much into the process. It’s also how their minimalist approach doesn’t necessarily shrink the ideas that underpin. They’re using space more strategically, but you still get the sense of Big Idea lyrics about sensuality, about ecstasy, about identity. Underneath the “Springful” video is a passage from Herman Hesse’s 1922 novel of spiritual self-discovery, Siddhartha:
“Siddhartha had learned how to transact business affairs, to exercise powers over people, to amuse himself with women; he had learned to wear fine clothes, to command servants, to bathe in sweet-smelling waters. He had learned to eat sweet and carefully prepared foods, also fish and meat and fowl, spices and dainties, and to drink wine which made him lazy and forgetful. He had learned to play dice and chess, to watch dancers, to be carried in sedan chairs, to sleep on a soft bed. But he had always felt different from and superior to the others; he had always watched them a little scornfully, with a slightly mocking disdain, with that disdain which a Samana always feels towards the people of the world.”
While the songs themselves are appearing somewhat innocuously—just two more pings in a universe of interesting and free music—it’s setting up an ambitious scope of exploration. I don’t know if it’s ridiculous to expect a band to say anything useful or novel about transcending materialism to achieve self-actualization, but I know that if they fail it won’t be because they’re confusing self-important themes with self-important sounds. Nine Inch Nails (to use one convenient example) makes big, melodramatic gestures while using the same embarrassing lyrical signposts year-after-year, and the whole thing sinks under the weight of its portentousness. Adult Jazz, by contrast, have a sort of buoyancy to their minimalism. Their spare percussion, tactfully selected sound effects, and precise guitar lines bounce around and off of one another.
It reminds of other intersections of the soulful and indie rock—a bit of Jamie Woon, perhaps some James Blake, and yes, Dirty Projectors—but there’s something about how the band is already effortlessly occupying this space, as if there were nothing more natural than this. That bears keeping an eye on.