Review of debut album ‘Blind Fury’ by Glasgow-based doom jazz band, AKU.

AKU – Blind Fury

(SupahSaiyan Music 2020)

Marvellously-monikered Bohren and Der Club of Gore is the only doom or dark jazz band this writer (of circumscribed tastes) is familiar with. Cross that band with the one death metal band known to this writer, Climate of Fear, leaven with a handful of Japanese cultural references and a clear jazz improvising sensibility and you have: AKU!

Of course, the above is a simplistic description, for the sounds from this newly emerged Glasgow-based trio are really quite distinctive, indeed one wonders where their musical curiosity will take them in the future. But for now, their pugilistic (perhaps in reaction to pandemic quarantining?) debut release Blind Fury, due out on 6th November, picks up on this current somewhat febrile zeitgeist, and is likely to be well received.

AKU’s band members are already well known in Scottish jazz: Harry Weir on saxophones & electronic effects; Liam Shortall on trombone and electronic effects; and Graham Costello on drums and percussion. Weir also takes composition credits, while Stevie Cossar does an admirable job mixing and mastering.

Eight tunes in all, opening piece The Great Awakening is a belter (and there are many such in the album) initially with an ‘every man for himself’ quality, bringing early Loose Tubes to mind. Brilliant fun and often sounding larger than a trio, the echoey electronics at the close are a pleasant touch.

Highlight In The Bath, Having A Magnum likewise opens strongly and from the accompanying artwork, a tasty ice cream treat is not the only magnum being referred to. Costello opens with frantic drums, before Weir’s sax ostinato is in turn subsumed by Shortall’s trombone phat farts. Skirling sax and electronically altered sound drift into calm waters for the final 30 seconds. Phew.

Third piece DubTing opens with insouciant, mid-tempo trombone blurts, some minimalist vocal yipping invoking vigorous sax extemporisation from Weir. A minute from the end a brief moment of calm predictably breaks down into a screaming end.

The short and appropriately titled drum solo Kraken (Interlude) showcases Costello in fizzing form, thereafter the ante continues to be upped in Burnett Down, with some impressively fulsome sax from Weir.

The title track, another highlight, to this listener’s ears sounds very free, Shortall’s trombone notably playful, the barking vocalisations curiously feeling appropriate. The ensuing collapse anarchy-wards is however constrained by Costello’s superb encompassing web of textures and at the last by a welcome bout of unison sax/bone.

Penultimate Spaced opens slowly with some lovely play from both Weir and Shortall, a gentle coda tailing off in a downwards slide.

Final tune Clawing the Earth Apart has a big, thrilling trilling opening, the wheels threaten to come off the rails at 2.40 but don’t and the tempo diminishes in the last minute to a satisfyingly contained ending.

Blind Fury is a highly energetic, passionate and at times angry album, full of wit and evidencing multiple musical references. It will likely particularly resonate with those jazz aficionados whose musical tastes are as wide as the band’s.

Blind Fury will be released on 6 November 2020, digital only.


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