Click here to [close]

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Dinosaur - Wonder Trail (Edition, 2018) ****

By Sammy Stein

Dinosaur are a Mercury shortlisted band comprising award winning composer and musician Laura Jurd on trumpet and synthesiser, Elliot Galvin ( Elliot Galvin Trio) on keyboards and synthesisers, Conor Chaplain (Flying Machines, Fabled, Nick Costley-White 4tet) on bass and Corrie Dick (Little Lions, Elliot Galvin Trio, Blue Eyed Hawk, Lilli Unwin Band, Glasshopper, Leaf Cutter John and more) on drums. Laura Jurd probably will never fall into an easily assigned category and the music is all the better for it. She has worked in a range of styles and now it is the turn of jazz-synth-pop for this eclectic and gifted musician and her band.

Renewal ( part 1) opens with a fanfare of electronics and horns followed swiftly by an up-beat time tempo established by synth and percussion which strolls along for a while before a bass pick intro to Laura Jurd sails in with a tuneful and time perfect trumpet solo. The rest of the band quieten down for a while, picketing behind and under her but the trumpet carries itself forward and over the top, creating a fluid line for the ears to follow and it builds, along with the band until the fading last sequences. Interesting but not mind blowing yet. ‘ Quiet Thunder’ is a swinging, Latin-esque style piece during the course of which the band explore and work together to create some great and strong dialogue, led by the trumpet but by no means carried by this alone. The bass line is very cool and the percussive interventions intriguing and dialectic. The track contains what are almost micro sections with a percussive line here, a rock based groove there but above all, there is a linear direction achieved which enables the listener to remain engaged throughout. The middle section is very interesting, with the bass establishing a solid groove over which the other instruments play and intermingle. Lots to wonder at here and the timing is exquisite on occasion. The ending announces itself and takes a while. ‘ Shine Your Light’ takes things down a peg or two, at least initially, with key board introduction before a slow beat and theme is introduces with some eerie and intricate trumpet searing coming in over the top before a break and a deeper bass line announces another section with mesmeric, threatening bass over which the trumpet speaks a mournful narrative all its own. A few unnecessary synth additions take a little from the trumpet line before the voices can be heard singing the words. Interesting structure and such a lot of changes in one short number. ‘Forgive, Forget’ is short at just under two and a half minutes but it is so, so good. Rickety tickety drums and a bottom line over which the trumpet dives, soars and travels at times a wondrous road, filled with Eastern magic. A completely lovely interlude. Just too short.

‘Old Times’ Sake’ is buzzy – and rhythmic, the keyboard setting out a simple theme before trumpet and the rest take it up and play and then off we go, suddenly , we are basing ourselves sin the root chord and whipping up a storm, albeit a very controlled one. It feels like the music is on the brink here, waiting to dive off the edge – but it never quite does, which is where control comes in. The countered rhythmic section between keys and bass and percussion is clever and spot on time-wise, it could all have gone wrong but it never is in danger of this. Another great track.

‘Renewal’ (part 11) is begins with synth, percussion and trumpet playing along nicely before something happens and the music is interrupted with some wild electronica before returning to trumpet over percussion. It happens again, sounding rather like a child has got to play with switches and keys making for disjointed and slightly irritating sounds which , coupled with the fanfare ending work to create the only track I fast forwarded on on the CD.

‘Set Free’ is gentle with almost choral, Olde English singing, harmony incorporated entering over the repeated chords. Then it develops into a charming and delicately presented trumpet over the top of strong, fastidious and completely engaging rhythmic and chordal changes. Then the singing again!! Some of the harmonies are intriguing and emerge form the background at strategic points. The trumpet around the 2.30 mark is lovely and takes the track into another realm of quality. Now we are free, now we are really, really playing. Wonderful.

‘Swimming’ is begun with deep chords over which the trumpet enters with a summery, wistful melodic line ( or two). Then, the piece grows into something quite organic with interspersed melody, a whacky off kilter rhythm between percussion and keys, a rolling section and then the theme again. This ensues for the entire piece, feeling rather like each has apiece of the jigsaw and they are trying to put it together to create a marvellous whole. It works. The echoed trumpet at the end is lovely.
‘And Still We Wonder’ is 4 minutes of something rather wonderful, with singing, charm filled keyboard lines and a ‘Kind Hearts and English’ feel to it all. It is a song but it is also a musical and structural scaffold upon which trumpet solos, keyboard solos and nifty percussive lines hang and twirl, at times creating a far ground like feel to the music, at others a very definite jazz influenced little item but whatever you want to try to label it, it is very intriguing and engaging.

What is good, no great about this CD is the inclusion of a huge number of style references, yet it is all combined and whipped into a style which is pure Dinosaur and different from what has gone before. The range and different sounds the synthesiser can create are used to open up a wellspring of opportunities, which Laura Jurd and the rest of the band explore with an enthusiasm which is at once child-like and at the same time the curiosity of true musicians. The trumpet is played at times with an intensity which is mind boggling and at others with a surreptitious gentleness which belies the pin point placement of the notes. Miles influence in the intonation can distinctly be felt. Great music, great musicians, when it is as simple as that, what’s not to love?