Polar Bear – In Each And Every One (The Leaf Label)

Polar Bear – In Each And Every One (The Leaf Label)

There is jazz music. There is experimental music. And there are many, many points that lie in between. But then there is Polar Bear. After a four year recording hiatus, the quintet of Pete Wareham and Mark Lockheart – tenor saxophones; Tom Herbert – double bass; Leafcutter John – electronics; and Sebastian Rochford – drums are back with their fifth album In Each And Every One. And with it they continue to defy simple categorization by flying at the outer limits of sonic exploration. Polar Bear occupy a musical airspace that lies just beyond the more established systems of standard air traffic control.

Outside of Polar Bear, band leader Rochford continues to work with what has fast become an ever-increasing and diverse roll-call of musicians from Spoek Mathambo and Roscoe Mitchell to Babyshambles and Brian Eno, and it is the latter-named’s influence that can be heard on opening track ‘Open See’. Where Eno’s ambient textures may have once been confined to the departure lounge of airports, here Polar Bear’s spatial impressionism belongs in a much wider, far more abstract cosmos.

This gentle introduction to both time and place, though, gives precious little indication of what is to follow. On the ten remaining musical scores – the word song would be barely recognizable in the world inhabited by Polar Bear – Rochford and crew chart a flight path across a sonic universe that stretches from the wide open spaces of the African Savannah to the more claustrophobic intensity of Coltrane-era jazz clubs and, further inspired by Leafcutter John’s evolving electronica, imaginary dancehalls of the future.

‘They’re All Ks And Qs Lucien’ merrily skips along with the twin saxophones zig-zagging their way across its pulsing, percussive path. Much darker in tone, ‘WW’ erupts out of the album’s ether in some barely controlled post-bop, post-apocalyptic fury before disappearing into a whirlpool of burbling bass, timpani, horns and asperous electronics. Yet for all of its out-there metaphysical construct the music of Polar Bear is still firmly welded to the fundamental elements of rhythm, melody and colour, something to which the elegant and imperial ‘Maliana’ and concluding majesty of ‘Sometimes’ will firmly attest.

Polar Bear have long held dear the central tenets of honesty, integrity and expressiveness in their music. With In Each And Every One the ingredient of raw emotion can now be added and as their sound continues to evolve this development would appear to mark a shift in emphasis from what once was the head to what now is the heart.

Rating: ★★★★☆

In Each And Every One will be released via The Leaf Label on 24th March 2014

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