Cobblestone Jazz - 23 Seconds

  • Published
    15 Nov 2007
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    Resident Advisor
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  • Released
    October 2007
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  • Cobblestone Jazz are important because they represent an attempt to bring two musical ingredients, live performance and improvisation, to the techno party, a genre where “live” more often than not means pressing play on a software program. Whether it’s a matter of the technology not being up to the task yet, or the difficulty of ‘playing’ instruments which essentially play themselves, true live techno performers are still few and far between, and bands even rarer still. It is an unsatisfying situation for both musicians and audiences alike: solo live p.a’s can often lack the spark of musicians feeding off each other in real time, and you’ve got to feel sorry for the artists, who for lack of a better alternative, make their living running through sets of the same pre-recorded tracks weekend after weekend. No wonder they look so glum. It’s a pity, then, that Cobblestone’s debut album, 23 Seconds, fails to live up to the band’s stated mission. It’s not what you’d expect. Instead of spending a week doing studio sessions, jazz style, and delivering a coherent document of their present sound, the album is cobbled together from various previously released EPs and favourite jams, and the result is a mishmash with little sense of defined place and time. Four tracks on the album have been released previously in identical versions, and the "hits", ‘Dump Truck’ and ‘India in Me’, also return on the bonus CD. This recycling wouldn’t matter so much if the band itself didn’t put such a premium on immediacy and spontaneity, but the result is disappointing for those listening for something now. Things start promisingly, with the lovely openers ‘Waiting Room’ and ‘Hired Touch’ kicking off the record in a gliding, expectant mood, but when the jumpy single ‘Lime In the Coconut’ arrives, the spell breaks, and from that point on you’re not listening to a coherent artistic vision, but simply a collection of tracks. Some of these tracks are excellent though. Ironically for an improv group, the most structured track is the standout. ‘W’, culled from Cocoon Compilation G, is a classic techno builder, present here in its original form and as a live jam on the ‘Live in Mondo’ bonus disc. The live version is satisfying, too, and very different, proving that the improv claims of Cobblestone are no joke. Other highlights are ‘Change Your Apesuit’, a straight ahead funk-techno track, and ‘Saturday Night’, which has an appealing whiteboy afro vibe – both are spacious cuts with killer basslines that will play out well in the clubs. Tellingly, these tracks are the least jazzy. I know, I know. Complaining about Cobblestone Jazz being jazzy is like complaining about Metallica being metal, but with two mad soloists on board in the form of Jonson (bass) and Tate (live keys), the jazz cuts on 23 Seconds are often simply too busy to appeal much. Both the title track ’23 Seconds’ and ‘Slap the Back’, reprised as ‘Dmt’ on the bonus disc, are one-upmanship jams at their worst, grafting the least appropriate jazz form – the virtuoso solo – onto the techno format. Like the Emperor said to Mozart, there are too many notes. More successful is ‘PBD’, where the jazz element is not keyboard shredding but subtle drawn out horns, giving the track room to breathe and dancers room to move. All in all, I don’t think you can judge the Cobblestone Jazz experiment a failure by this record, that’s something which stands or falls out in the clubs. But as a document of the band, and as an album, 23 Seconds is a huge disappointment. I would recommend that DJs pick up the 3x12” vinyls to spin the standout cuts, but given the ambitions of the band, that's not exactly a ringing endorsement.
  • Tracklist
      CD 1 01 Waiting Room 02 Hired Touch 03 Lime In Da Coconut 04 Slap The Back 05 PBD 06 23 Seconds 07 Change Your Apesuit 08 Saturday Night 09 Peace Offering 10 W CD 2 Cobblestone Jazz Live At Mondo Madrid May 10th 2007 01 Dmt 02 Saturday Night 03 Lime In Da Coconut 04 Untitled Live Improvision 05 Hired Touch 06 23 Seconds 07 Slap The Back Bonus Tracks 08 Dump Truck 09 India In Me