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Disc review: Jaga Jazzist, Starfire


Jaga Jazzist


[Ninja Tune]

4 stars

You move from Norway to Los Angeles, you soak up the culture shock, and spit it back out in the form of one of the most startlingly inventive albums of recent times. If only it was all that simple.

In reality, Lars Horntveth – who, with siblings Martin and Line, forms the core of Jaga Jazzist – arrived in L.A. in 2012, and found himself driving around alone at night rather often. He took the opportunity to soak up the neon atmosphere and begin the composition of the five interconnected pieces that form “Starfire.” The city’s influence on Jaga’s already expansive and ambitious sound is instantly identifiable as a shift away from the orchestral works that comprised “One Armed Bandit” and the breathtaking 2014 release “Live with Britten Sinfonia.”

“Starfire” boasts an experimental bent that welcomes myriad synths, aspects of electronic music, multilayered guitar figures, aspects of ambient music and minimalism, and relentless, propulsive grooves. This is instrumental music, so the vocals that do appear buried in the mix at various points are of the wordless variety, but make no mistake – this is music hellbent on forward motion and the development of thematic material over time. Which is to say, this is about as far from aimless jamming as one is likely to get.

Though the Horntveth siblings are the prime movers throughout “Starfire,” special merit is due guitarist Marcus Forsgren, who masterfully moves from subtle figures within the framework, to positions of prominence in front of the eight-piece ensemble, always adding a new slant to the musical conversation.

“Starfire” is an ambitious and exhilarating work from a band that has created its own niche within the broader world of modern music. We have all heard the common complaint that “There’s no great music being made these days.” If you have someone in your life who is prone to making such claims, send “Starfire” their way.

– Jeff Miers

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