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Roller Trio - Fracture Rating: 4 out of 5 Roller Trio at their best, experimental yet accessible, powerful but intelligent.

Roller Trio

“Fracture”

(Lamplight Social Records - LRSCD001)

Roller Trio seemed to burst out of nowhere in 2012 with the release of their eponymous début recording on the F-ire Presents label. The album was nominated for both the 2012 Mercury Music Prize and the 2012 Mobo Award for Best Jazz Act and garnered the young trio a correspondingly young audience well outside the usual jazz demographic.

The group were subjected to a compelling amount of critical acclaim, both from the specialist jazz press and beyond, and consolidated their success with a series of wildly exciting live performances. I was lucky enough to see them at a packed out, standing room only show at The Vortex as part of the 2012 London Jazz Festival (also featuring Pixel and WorldService Project) and as part of a double bill with Polar Bear at the Cheltenham Jazz Festival the following year. 

December 2014 saw the release of the trio’s long awaited second album, “Fracture”. I was somewhat surprised to find that the band had chosen to release it themselves on their own Lamplight Social label, named after after a jazz and improvised music night that the group’s saxophonist James Mainwaring organises in the trio’s home town of Leeds. I believe “Fracture” was also supported by a crowd funding campaign but it was nevertheless surprising to find that the trio hadn’t been captured by one of the leading UK jazz independents such as Naim, Edition or Whirlwind. 

Mainwaring’s colleagues in Roller Trio remain Luke Wynter on guitar, FX and bass and Luke Reddin-Williams at the drums. As the group point out choosing to release the album themselves ensures that they retain complete artistic control with regard to all aspects of the creative process. Roller Trio’s compositions have often come about as the result of spontaneous jamming and there are examples of this here as well as tunes written by individual members of the band. However they have all been road tested in live performance before the band entered the studio and the recording represents an attempt to capture something of the trio’s visceral and exciting stage presence on disc.

“Fracture” expands upon the virtues so dramatically unveiled on the trio’s début. The band have retained their knack for developing catchy hooks and riffs, combining their melodic sense with a rhythmic sophistication that embraces contemporary grooves derived from the worlds of jazz, rock, electronica and hip hop. Both Mainwaring and Wynter “treat” the sounds of their instruments via a range of electronic effects and Roller Trio produce a group sound that is surprisingly rich in terms of colour and texture, this allied to an innate raw power.

Opener “Reef Knot” develops from a hip hop groove and an infectious saxophone hook but the group soon start to break up the rhythm and begin to explore some increasingly intricate time signatures. However they never lose their melodic focus and the results show Roller Trio at their best, experimental yet accessible, powerful but intelligent. 

There’s more rhythmic trickery on the following “Doris”, another bewildering display of rapid fire tempo changes allied to the trio’s attention grabbing hooks and melodic fragments. Reddin-Williams fulfils a prominent role with his urgent, powerful drumming as Mainwaring’s sax cuts a swathe through the chiming textures created by Wynter’s guitar.   

The spectral “Low Tide” is more atmospheric with its eerily textured guitar and shimmering cymbals, a brief, tantalising cameo that acts as a kind of overture for Wynter’s “High Tea” which draws upon the band’s collective Indian influences. It packs a killer riff with the driving rhythms partly sourced from Indian music. There’s also an Indian influence on Mainwaring’s saxophone playing. The piece takes a slightly more contemplative turn mid tune and there’s musical sophistication in abundance but its the raw power of the core riff that is likely to ensure that “High Tea” becomes an audience favourite at the trio’s live performances.

“2 Minutes To 12” was first heard on a live BBC broadcast in 2012 and is the oldest tune on the album. The title was inspired by a lecture on the subject of overpopulation given by Physics professor Albert Allen Bartlett. The press release for the album describes the track as being “apocalyptic” and states that it was the most challenging composition to record. The piece goes through a number of tempo changes in the best Roller Trio manner and there’s a drama and urgency in the clarion call of Mainwaring’s sax and in the thunder of Reddin-Williams’ drumming that seems to endorse that “end of the world” analogy.

Immediately following the sound and fury “Tracer” seems to act as a lengthy chilled out coda as it combines hip hop grooves and dub reggae effects with swirling guitar textures. The piece began as an improvisation at Peter Gabriel’s Realworld Studios and represents the band’s first experiments with multi-tracking as they create multiple effects and dense instrumental layers.  It’s highly effective.

Wynter’s “Splinter” opens with the sound of his own guitar (it sounds as if he may be doubling on bass too) and marks the recording début of Mainwaring on soprano saxophone - he normally specialises on tenor. The piece focuses on melody and unfolds in thoughtful, unhurried fashion with other commentators comparing Mainwaring’s soprano solo with Jack Wyllie’s work with Portico Quartet.

Mainwaring’s own “Mango” is a written piece that still manages to sound spontaneous as it progresses through a series of harmonic modulations and dynamic changes that actually sound quite freely structured as the composer’s sax guides his colleagues along the path.

“Three Pea Soup” is more tightly focussed, a piece divided into three sections that begins with a kind of cerebral funk before fragmenting off into something altogether more complex with prog rock style time signature changes. The final part features Mainwaring’s tenor, which dominates throughout, raging above Wynter’s jagged guitar riffing and Reddin-Williams’ power house drumming before a melodic coda.

The closing “Tight Rope” developed from an improvisation built upon a rhythmic pattern but has been transformed into a spacey chill out anthem featuring Wynter’s shadowy, spacey guitar textures and Mainwaring’s squiggling soprano sax meditations as Reddin-Williams supplies the implacable underlying drum pulse. Suggestions here of Portico again.

“Fracture” represents a convincing follow up to Roller Trio’s eponymous début and sees the band expanding their sonic palette on a set of varied compositions that offer a greater degree of light and shade yet retain the core sound that made the group so popular in the first place. It’s not a radical re-invention but there are clear signs of progress and on the whole the album has been well received.

On the whole I’m impressed with “Fracture” but I still think that the best place to hear this band is at a gig. They’re a fantastically exciting live act who play with swagger and conviction and always come up with the goods. Perhaps they should consider a live recording when the time for the third album comes around.

 

Fracture

Roller Trio

Tuesday, January 06, 2015

Reviewed by: Ian Mann

Album Review

4 out of 5

Fracture

Roller Trio at their best, experimental yet accessible, powerful but intelligent.

Roller Trio

“Fracture”

(Lamplight Social Records - LRSCD001)

Roller Trio seemed to burst out of nowhere in 2012 with the release of their eponymous début recording on the F-ire Presents label. The album was nominated for both the 2012 Mercury Music Prize and the 2012 Mobo Award for Best Jazz Act and garnered the young trio a correspondingly young audience well outside the usual jazz demographic.

The group were subjected to a compelling amount of critical acclaim, both from the specialist jazz press and beyond, and consolidated their success with a series of wildly exciting live performances. I was lucky enough to see them at a packed out, standing room only show at The Vortex as part of the 2012 London Jazz Festival (also featuring Pixel and WorldService Project) and as part of a double bill with Polar Bear at the Cheltenham Jazz Festival the following year. 

December 2014 saw the release of the trio’s long awaited second album, “Fracture”. I was somewhat surprised to find that the band had chosen to release it themselves on their own Lamplight Social label, named after after a jazz and improvised music night that the group’s saxophonist James Mainwaring organises in the trio’s home town of Leeds. I believe “Fracture” was also supported by a crowd funding campaign but it was nevertheless surprising to find that the trio hadn’t been captured by one of the leading UK jazz independents such as Naim, Edition or Whirlwind. 

Mainwaring’s colleagues in Roller Trio remain Luke Wynter on guitar, FX and bass and Luke Reddin-Williams at the drums. As the group point out choosing to release the album themselves ensures that they retain complete artistic control with regard to all aspects of the creative process. Roller Trio’s compositions have often come about as the result of spontaneous jamming and there are examples of this here as well as tunes written by individual members of the band. However they have all been road tested in live performance before the band entered the studio and the recording represents an attempt to capture something of the trio’s visceral and exciting stage presence on disc.

“Fracture” expands upon the virtues so dramatically unveiled on the trio’s début. The band have retained their knack for developing catchy hooks and riffs, combining their melodic sense with a rhythmic sophistication that embraces contemporary grooves derived from the worlds of jazz, rock, electronica and hip hop. Both Mainwaring and Wynter “treat” the sounds of their instruments via a range of electronic effects and Roller Trio produce a group sound that is surprisingly rich in terms of colour and texture, this allied to an innate raw power.

Opener “Reef Knot” develops from a hip hop groove and an infectious saxophone hook but the group soon start to break up the rhythm and begin to explore some increasingly intricate time signatures. However they never lose their melodic focus and the results show Roller Trio at their best, experimental yet accessible, powerful but intelligent. 

There’s more rhythmic trickery on the following “Doris”, another bewildering display of rapid fire tempo changes allied to the trio’s attention grabbing hooks and melodic fragments. Reddin-Williams fulfils a prominent role with his urgent, powerful drumming as Mainwaring’s sax cuts a swathe through the chiming textures created by Wynter’s guitar.   

The spectral “Low Tide” is more atmospheric with its eerily textured guitar and shimmering cymbals, a brief, tantalising cameo that acts as a kind of overture for Wynter’s “High Tea” which draws upon the band’s collective Indian influences. It packs a killer riff with the driving rhythms partly sourced from Indian music. There’s also an Indian influence on Mainwaring’s saxophone playing. The piece takes a slightly more contemplative turn mid tune and there’s musical sophistication in abundance but its the raw power of the core riff that is likely to ensure that “High Tea” becomes an audience favourite at the trio’s live performances.

“2 Minutes To 12” was first heard on a live BBC broadcast in 2012 and is the oldest tune on the album. The title was inspired by a lecture on the subject of overpopulation given by Physics professor Albert Allen Bartlett. The press release for the album describes the track as being “apocalyptic” and states that it was the most challenging composition to record. The piece goes through a number of tempo changes in the best Roller Trio manner and there’s a drama and urgency in the clarion call of Mainwaring’s sax and in the thunder of Reddin-Williams’ drumming that seems to endorse that “end of the world” analogy.

Immediately following the sound and fury “Tracer” seems to act as a lengthy chilled out coda as it combines hip hop grooves and dub reggae effects with swirling guitar textures. The piece began as an improvisation at Peter Gabriel’s Realworld Studios and represents the band’s first experiments with multi-tracking as they create multiple effects and dense instrumental layers.  It’s highly effective.

Wynter’s “Splinter” opens with the sound of his own guitar (it sounds as if he may be doubling on bass too) and marks the recording début of Mainwaring on soprano saxophone - he normally specialises on tenor. The piece focuses on melody and unfolds in thoughtful, unhurried fashion with other commentators comparing Mainwaring’s soprano solo with Jack Wyllie’s work with Portico Quartet.

Mainwaring’s own “Mango” is a written piece that still manages to sound spontaneous as it progresses through a series of harmonic modulations and dynamic changes that actually sound quite freely structured as the composer’s sax guides his colleagues along the path.

“Three Pea Soup” is more tightly focussed, a piece divided into three sections that begins with a kind of cerebral funk before fragmenting off into something altogether more complex with prog rock style time signature changes. The final part features Mainwaring’s tenor, which dominates throughout, raging above Wynter’s jagged guitar riffing and Reddin-Williams’ power house drumming before a melodic coda.

The closing “Tight Rope” developed from an improvisation built upon a rhythmic pattern but has been transformed into a spacey chill out anthem featuring Wynter’s shadowy, spacey guitar textures and Mainwaring’s squiggling soprano sax meditations as Reddin-Williams supplies the implacable underlying drum pulse. Suggestions here of Portico again.

“Fracture” represents a convincing follow up to Roller Trio’s eponymous début and sees the band expanding their sonic palette on a set of varied compositions that offer a greater degree of light and shade yet retain the core sound that made the group so popular in the first place. It’s not a radical re-invention but there are clear signs of progress and on the whole the album has been well received.

On the whole I’m impressed with “Fracture” but I still think that the best place to hear this band is at a gig. They’re a fantastically exciting live act who play with swagger and conviction and always come up with the goods. Perhaps they should consider a live recording when the time for the third album comes around.

 


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