If we’ve learnt anything from the two teaser releases from MABGATE’s EP, it’s that the EP was going to be one special release. Prepare to have that confirmed, and then some.
So, before we go any further we need to get one thing clear. This is an EP that is meant to be listened to in its entirety, in the order the band have arranged the music. There is an intro, an interlude and an outro. You could do the random play thing but let me assure you you’ll be missing out.
The intro – appropriately titled MABGATE- is a mood setter, a classically influenced piano and drums jazz piece that impresses both technically and, more importantly, in atmosphere. It’s smoky, it speaks of darkened, cigarette smoke filled basement venues.
And then the first of the two previously released tracks – ‘I asked’.Following the intro it seems to tell us that this basement venue is not what we quite expected. It’s not quite the jazz venue we might have expected.
The sonic basis of this track seems – at least as far as this release is concerned – to be jazz with just the right amount of funk. You should note here that I said basis because there are hints of desert blues, something kinda Middle Eastern and more than a hint of drug infused jazz based progressive music – like Gong and Soft Machine. And a wonderful return of that classically influenced jazz piano.
This is all downright confusing to be honest, if we’re approaching it from a ‘what does this band sound like’ angle. But that is the bloody wrong way to approach it. This is music to immerse yourself in. There’s that hypnotic pulse of that slightly funky desert blues, a guitar scattering compelling riffs over the track, the frankly wonderful organ floating and it’s sound like a soft pillow. Oh a bass clarinet solo that’s going to blow your freaking mind. It’s mysterious, mesmirising and haunting. It’s visual music, it invokes pictures in your head. Now look I’ve managed to get to this point without mentioning that there are no vocals on this. Why? Because you just don’t miss them, at no point do you find yourself thinking ‘well, this is brilliant but it needs vocals and words’.
A guest vocalist steps up with August Charles on ‘Tell It How I See It’. when I saw that MABGATE had teamed up with August Charkes it made me more than a little excited. August Charles was my random Long Division artist last year, and what I heard was frankly astounding. He has a voice that encompasses jazz, soul and something quite theatrical, a voice that is pure emotion. I just knew that the combination of him and MABGATE would produce something amazing. I wasn’t wrong.
The sound here is a magical mix of desert blues, jazz and soul. The emotion of the track is conveyed in this angular sparse sound where instruments dart in and out over an oddly off-kilter drum. It’s sparse until a piano bursts in with a sound that sits somewhere near big band jazz and classical. Now this sounds as though it’s going to be an awkward fit, and it is to a certain extent. But you see, that’s the entire point; it’s all about communicating the emotion of the song
And over this August Charles weaves his voice into the track, telling a story. He comments “The guys came to me at a time when I was in a situationship with an Austrian girl who came to Leeds to study… immediately when I heard the track, I knew it had to be about how I was feeling in that moment, half of me, was fighting to maintain this lacklustre relationship and the other half was trying to shine a light on the fact that she was in the wrong and I was getting crucified for saying the obvious.”
Now do you see how the mix of feels and sounds conveys the mixed feelings of the song?
‘Interlude’ floats a slightly warped organ over jazz drums and bass. Seemingly moving seamlessly into ‘Inline with featured guest artist Alex Fisher. It’s big classic jazz that evokes sounds of yesteryear and of now. The standout is a frankly jaw-dropping trumpet that wails, it wails good. It’s all so wonderfully loose. This is simply something you must listen to, words are inadequate.
‘Club 45’ takes us to a place that is part organ led cabaret jazz, part freaky late 60s’ club. It is both this, and not this. The part that is not this is a frankly astounding piano solo that drops sparks of glorious sound that swirl around your head. Yes, this is somehow jazz based but then again that’s a leaping off point.
The sultry sounding ‘Outro’ brings the musical journey all too soon to an end
This EP is a journey, a trip, into sound, mood and atmosphere. It’s totally inadequate to describe MABGATE’s sound as jazz based. Yes, jazz is part of their sound but it’s part of an unholy glorious mix of influences that defy listing. The only thing you need to know is that the music they make is gorgeous, compelling, beautiful and all kinds of lovely. It evokes pictures in your mind. It works both as purely wonderful music and as music that you can immerse yourself in, to let it take you to unexpected and fantastic places. It feeds your mind as well as your ears..