An experience packed with energy and drama, Jaga Jazzist’s Starfire is a nocturnal journey taking you across a well-lit city, with bright lights flickering in step with each musical outburst. It’s a record determined as it is frenzied, starting strongly and continuing to drive along in relentless fashion, but ultimately lacking any real purpose as a whole.
Most of the tracks, whilst pleasant enough, seem muddled and somewhat aimless. There are memorable moments scattered across all five tracks, but the real highlight of the album comes at its most focused point — “Shinkansen” has identity and a clear purpose; most importantly, it’s a joy to listen to, and I feel that the other tracks would have benefited greatly from the same clarity and direction. By no means is Starfire a bad record, it’s just that by the time you reach the closer, it all begins to feel like cluttered dialogue to a scene that doesn’t yet exist.
6 out of 10
Fifty minutes of experimental jazz instrumentals is not a prospect I’m terribly inclined to get excited about. It invites visions of Howard Moon mixing loops of suicidal crabs and a dirge of horns accompanying your own dwindling will to live. In an unremarkable twist, however, it turns out that my prejudices were misplaced and that Starfire makes for a pretty pleasant listen.
The record is fresh, vibrant, and at times quite compelling. The eclectic array of instruments and effects it deploys — in service of an electric/jazz/pop melting pot of sound — are kept surprisingly tight, and in spite of its aforementioned length at no point does the album sag, or indulge a section longer than seems necessary. Although “Shinkansen” is a welcome exception, most of the music is understandably characterised by its improvisational, episodic nature.
Well-mixed and gently paced, Jaga Jazzist have produced in Starfire a model of casual listening. It bustles along quite happily, from section to section, from track to track, and then it’s over and you don’t regret having listened to it. Not exactly high praise, but it’s the kind of album that invites warm approval and not a great deal else — at least from me.
7 out of 10
As a newcomer to Jaga Jazzist, I was expecting something closer to conventional contemporary jazz. While what I heard was unexpected, it was certainly still enjoyable. Instrumentation and melodies that wouldn’t be so out of place next to Radiohead transition and entwine with gritty synths that’d you’d expect from a Clark release, and the progression and transition of the music ensures you remain entertained at least for the first two thirds.
Despite this, the jazz roots of the band are still discernible throughout, especially in the rhythm section, as time signature, tempo and drum beat slide from one to the next. For this, the album musicians deserve credit, make the album notable, and have certainly whetted my appetite to listen to the band’s back catalogue. With all that said however, I’m unsure that I’ll be returning to Starfire as a whole, as much of the long, smooth transitioning and building on a musical idea may be better suited to a live performance and doesn’t excite me as much when on record.
6 out of 10