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Blue Fields - Ghost Story

Haunt Music


There must be few genres that have been serially murdered with electronics more than jazz, and nu-jazz stands as the smoothest killer of all; the Ted Bundy, if you will. The name redolent of red-eyed undergraduate tokers and their loft-living descendents; of course I always preferred the hi-tech or insane sample variants. Or maybe nu-jazz just leaves a nasty taste in the mouth following a bout of post-millenial paranoia that ended with a hallucination of a rampaging, machete-wielding J. Swinscoe.

I digress, but in my defence, when the press release for Blue Field’s Ghost Story dangles such a worm you can’t help but bite. And, truth be told, it’s mis-selling: this album is not entirely formed of bland dumplings of yer nu-jazz. Meatier, more abstract offerings raise it just above the average, which might be the least you would expect from a collaboration between Mike Shannon, Takeshi Nishimoto (I’m Not A Gun) and previous Shannon vocalist Fadila.

It’s just a shame the first half of the album is such a massive vanilla blancmange. Fadila’s voice pours the requisite caramel, brushed drums give some jazzbo something to do, and Berlin provides the electronic backdrop, the insouciant air of studied cool - and the resulting dead-eyed boredom. Only on the fourth track, “Carmens Ghost”, do things bob briefly into interesting, as a frankly appalling lack of commitment to the correct use of apostrophes (see also the egregious “Bones & Butterflys”) is partially outweighed by a glitchy but spacious bit of minimal house that dials the tempo up and the chin-stroking down to acceptable levels.

Luckily the album picks up remarkably towards the end, with a few “hot numbers” (as I believe they are known in nu-jazz circles). “The Hive (Nothing To Hide)” is a mid-tempo jam with some excellent abstract guitar work from Nishimoto, a couple of great drops, and a typically Shannon-esque bumping groove that all comes together beautifully. And “Eternal Fields” and “Close Your Eyes” are scratchy, bluesy, languid pieces that come across like Badalamenti gone minimal glitch. Even the interludes are better.

In summary, four good tracks and, er, some others. But really, it’s not bad. The worst I can do is damn with the blandest of praise: “Put it on at your next dinner party and no-one will complain.”; “If you liked New Forms, you’ll not be exercised unduly.”; “Not as bad as real nu-jazz.”.
Sam Stagg

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