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Friday, April 1, 2022

Binker and Moses - Feeding the Machine (Gearbox Records, 2022) ***½

By William Rossi

London musicians Binker Golding and Moses Boyd on saxophone and drums respectively have been making a name for themselves in the jazz scene over the last few years, Boyd going as far as being nominated for a Mercury Prize for his solo album in 2020 and Golding leading his quartet and participating in a trio with John Edwards & Steve Noble. When their solo careers aren't keeping them too busy they collaborate as the Nu-Jazz duo Binker and Moses.

While most nu-jazz takes major inspiration from funk and hip-hop this album showcases the couple choosing a different path, opting to pick their contaminations from the British electronic music scene, dub and breakbeat mainly.

After 5 years since their last duo effort they've finally decided to come back for this new release, assisted by Max Luther on tape loops and electronics. Feeding the Machine is a remarkably easy album to listen to. The first track "Asynchronous Intervals" is a blissful meditation, with Binker's saxophone chasing after itself through a soundscape of processed sax and atmospheric drums. His playing is very lyrical, bluesy and straightforward, clearly inspired by the greats we're all familiar with, never letting itself be bogged down by pointless flash: he rarely plays "outside" or makes use of extended techniques, only choosing to do so sporadically. Some of the more demanding listeners could dismiss this kind of playing as unadventurous but knowing what Binker is capable of in different contexts I'm confident this was a deliberate choice in order to keep the album anchored to the Jazz tradition in contrast with the modern contaminations, contaminations that take center stage on "Active-Multiple-Fetish-Overlord", in which the dubby effects morph all the instruments almost beyond recognition or on "After The Machine Settles'', where Max Luthert's tapes and manipulations turn the signal fed into them into a primordial soup of echoes and reverbs where even a single snare hit is made into a glitchy electronic scream.

Luthert's contributions aren't limited to being so overt and can be much subtler, like the sub-bass on "Accelerometer Overdose" that provides a foundation for Binker's sax solo or the rhythmic modular synth on "Feed Infinite" that plays off Moses' drums to create a polyrhythmic canvass for the duo to shine, and shine they do: on "Feed Infinite" the drumming really takes center stage and Moses shows off his chops, an exercise maybe at its apex on "Accelerometer Overdose", which lives up to its name with newfound physicality and energy, the drums exploding into a breakbeat worthy of an Aphex Twin track.

There's hints of a narrative throughout the record: it starting out with clearer classic jazz influences and the electronics becoming more and more prominent throughout, culminating on the first half of "After The Machine Settles" from which the duo emerges with novel confidence to embrace their more bop and blues identity, the last track "Because Because" being very similar to the first one in mood and structure, ending with its sax almost sounding like birds chirping at dawn welcoming you to a new day.

What this narrative implies is open to interpretation, at least to me: it could be about life's cyclicality, the unstoppable growth of industry (not synonymous with progress), the need for different cultures to influence each other to evolve into something better, positive and negative interpretations that depending on the audience's mood at the time of listening could trump the others but none that feels definitive; all you know when finishing the album is that it ended way too quickly and while the machine might have been fed you're not even close to being done with trying to absorb all this great album has to offer and you just press play again.