Winner of the Parliamentary Jazz Award for Best Media, 2019


Space F!ght



by Ian Mann

August 28, 2014

/ EP

An intriguing mix of electronic and acoustic sounds.

Space F!ght


(Wave Folder Records).

Space F!ght are a multi media collective who have been described as “part band, part installation”.  They were founded by composer and electronics artist Radek Rudnicki with the main interest for jazz listeners coming from the presence of Roller Trio saxophonist James Mainwaring within the band’s ranks. On this recording the collective also includes American trumpeter Matt Postle who Space F!ght describe as their “secret weapon”, last seen in the UK with his own Fat Face Trio. Guitarist Tom Adams comes to the group from a rock/ambient/film music background and Sci-Fi also includes the voice of Anna Edgington who has worked in the fields of both contemporary classical and electronic music. Visual artist Jakub Hader is a vital part of Space F!ght’s live shows which see the instrumentalists interacting with Hader’s immersive 3D visuals. The beats on “Sci-Fi” are realised electronically by Rudnicki but live shows also include the percussion and electronics of Enrico Bertelli.

The group’s live shows are structured around a visual narrative to which the musicians respond and vice versa, Hader’s visuals are in turn patched to respond to the instrumental sounds. Thus acoustic instruments blend with glitchy electronica and ambient guitar noise as the group attempt to match human feeling with modern musical technology with live looping, sampling and processing representing an integral part of the performance. Recent live shows saw the group co-operating with the Stockholm Environment Institute and NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies with ground level ozone data gathered from around the world being utilised to control the visuals and subsequent musical improvisations.

The “Sci-Fi” EP features five compositions by Rudnicki, who also produces. Inevitably the visual aspect is entirely lost despite Hader’s credit on the sleeve. The recording is also inspired by literary sources with the press release citing Isaac Asimov, Philip K. Dick and the Polish author Stanislaw Lem as influences on the group, particularly the Polish born Rudnicki. A quote from Dick’s 1969 novel “Ubik” adorns the sleeve and the words are also intoned by Edgington on the opening track “The Name”. Her semi spoken/whispered vocals are subtly treated with a touch of echo and the piece also features glitchy, heavy duty electronic beats, spidery guitar and alternately baleful/belligerent improvised tenor sax. 

The following “Starlight” features similarly heavy beats plus the humanising cry of Mainwaring’s sax, the heaviness balanced by the almost cheesy keyboard sounds generated by Rudnicki. It’s surprisingly effective.

Edgington’s voice introduces “Monster” (this time quoting Asimov) and her semi spoken vocals form an integral part of the track which adds the sound of Postle’s treated trumpet to the band’s instrumental mix. Mainwaring’s sax also plays a significant role and Adams’ guitar tracery weaves its way in and out. However it’s still Rudnicki’s electronics that are at the heart of the music.

With its urgent electronic rhythms “Stardust” is arguably the closest Space F!ght get to contemporary dance music. Guitarist Adams is Rudnicki’s main foil here with his “Shadows on acid” sound. There’s a sudden change of pace half way through the piece which sees Adams coming even more into focus with a spiralling guitar solo. This is then followed by an incongruous guitar and electronics coda.

The closing “Bass solo” which is presented as a “bonus track” is something of a misnomer, although the absence of a bassist in the EP credits might be a bit of a giveaway. Instead it’s a moody, dubby mix of electronica and guitar that fits in perfectly with the aesthetic of the rest of the recording.

“Sci Fi” presents an intriguing mix of electronic and acoustic sounds and although it took a little time to grow on me I gradually found myself being drawn deeper and deeper into their mysterious soundscapes. There are enough jazz elements in there to earn the band bookings at jazz clubs but its Rudnicki’s mastery of electronic sounds (he graduated in Digital Composition at York University) that forms the core of the music. Electronica isn’t my most listened to genre but I can appreciate the creative skill of specialists like Rudnicki and he’s obviously very good at what he does.

I’d be intrigued to hear a full length album from Space F!ght but would be even more interested in seeing the band live where the impact of Hader’s visuals could be fully appreciated.

Roller Trio fans should fear not. James Mainwaring remains an integral part of the mighty three piece who are due to release their keenly awaited second album later in 2014. This should be well worth hearing based on their recent appearance on Jazz on 3 recorded at the European Broadcasting Union Jazz Competition in Rotterdam. The Rollers didn’t win (shame!) but sounded absolutely terrific despite Mainwaring playing “one armed sax” following an unfortunate hand/arm injury - hopefully he’s fully recovered now.

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