- Mitchel Van Dinther calls the music of his debut album "naive computer jazz." He uses "naive" in the antique sense, from the Latin "nativus," which describes the childlike openness that leads to truly imaginative art. By "computer jazz" he doesn't just mean jazz spiced up with digital instruments, but some deeper synthesis of an experimental jazz method and the mindset of an electronic producer. Featuring a host of accompanying musicians, the Dutch artist's 11-track album as Jameszoo, Fool, blurs the line between a band's studio record and a solo electronic project. It's a departure from his earlier material, which—though it often incorporated acoustic instrumentation—was usually grounded by some kind of quantized beat. On his first record for Flying Lotus's Brainfeeder label, that's no longer the case. "Before, electronic music was the foundation of my composing," he says in the release notes. "Now, it is nothing more than an instrument within the range of many."
The album dips in and out of impressionistic music and more straightforward, hook-driven songwriting. "Flake" opens with a splatter of rainbow synths before clearing out, becoming a warped piano number flecked with curious jazz-fusion chords. The next couple of songs teeter close to the edge of abstraction, though they're anchored by Van Dinther's sharp musicality. Then everything clicks into place with the first descending organ chords on album highlight "Flu." The track, a psychedelic neo-soul song, features 70-year-old Brazilian composer and producer Arthur Verocai, a cult figure who's unknown in the mainstream yet worshiped by modern jazz nerds. They channel D'angelo's smooth sensuality, adding a surrealist tilt that makes it feel a tad perverted. And just when you've got something to sink your teeth into, the music suffuses again into gas with the cacophonous drum solo of "Wrong."
These emotional shifts give Fool a cinematic feel. Tracks are like musical cues for scene changes, or themes for when a new character enters the frame. On "Meat," organs shriek and tremble over slow drums and thick bass guitar, like the soundtrack to a chain gang scene—prisoners banging rocks under a high Southern sun. "The Zoo" features another unusual collaborator, the American jazz composer Steve Kuhn. He sings over lounge lizard keys and wispy brushed drums: "Ham, how I love to eat ham / Vultures don't give a damn / Meat, monkeys eat with their feet / So when I'm alone, left with only a bone / On top of the sky / Birds are wondering why." It's an absurd tangent where Van Dinther reminds you not to take him too seriously.
Fool poses more questions than it bothers to answer. At times, it's an avant-garde jazz record; other times, it's kaleidoscopic electronica. Meanwhile, you're left wondering if there's some concept or narrative you should be sussing out. With all of these uncertainties to contend with, one thing is for sure: Fool is the product of a powerful imagination, the kind of mind that's unburdened by assumptions and orthodoxies. When Van Dinther said he aspired to naiveness—a state of childlike wonder where everything is new and nothing is a given—this is what he meant. It's a defining quality of an album that always slips away before you can get get a good grip.
04. Flu feat. Arthur Verocai
07. The Zoo
09. Nail (Skit)