GoGo Penguin – Live @ KOKO
aaamusic | On 09, May 2016
Thursday 5th May, London
The only traditional thing about Chris Illingworth (pianist), Nick Blacka (bassist) and Rob Turner (drummer) is their piano-trio composition. Manchester’s Jazz piece skillfully blend several genres to create something entirely unique. An addictive cocktail of Jazz, Classical and Electronica, GoGo Penguin bravely have fun with their own sound, taking you on a musical journey. At times I felt like I had been thrown into an instrumental Alice-In-Wonderland-esque experience, led through different genres and thrown about in a sporadic expedition of pace and tempo.
I’ll admit to discovering the band after their 2014 Mercury nomination for their second studio album v2.0. They’re definitely making waves and have recently signed to Blue Note (the most famous Jazz label in the world). Their sound has audible influence from the likes of Aphex Twin, Bonobo and Snarky Puppy.
Walking into ever dimly lit KOKO and I’m amongst the most diverse gig crowd I can remember. Though perhaps slightly judgemental, I’d say largely flat-white drinking, Guardian-reading, musical explorers.
Daudi Matsiko kicked off. Born in London, to Ugandan parents, Matsiko’s (guy-and-guitar style) music draws emotion, through soft, soulful vocals, supported by light, folk instrumentals. Vocally he has the falsetto of the likes of James Blake and James Vincent McMorrow and musically the rawness of Ben Howard’s acoustic guitar. I got more from his set lyrically, than musically, but could definitely see that with time the two would become each other’s match.
After a sufficient break, heightened by both the passing of time and crazy, recorded electronic music pounding KOKO’s maze of walls, GoGo Penguin took to the stage. Into the evocative, visual roots of the Jazz scene, the band were silhouetted by smoky spotlights rolling out past them and into the sea of nodding, appreciative heads.
There’s a real soundtrack feel to their vibe and there were times I could picture the perfect film visuals that would accompany their songs. There’s a freaky connection between the three of them; a complete balance, with no dominant figure in their three-piece puzzle. At times of heightened musical mayhem, the three of them were so in sync that it was difficult to separate out the instruments and decipher who was creating the melody. Without anything other than instrumental, the band’s sound is extremely electronic.
The group started with more recent music from Man Made Object, (the band’s most recent offering), such as plinky-plonky ‘Unspeakable Words’, before venturing into their previous, more electronic-sound from v2.0 with ‘Kamaloka’. The end of the piece veers into instrumental Drum N Bass, (yet being as far from Magaluf as you could possibly get).
I love the music from v2.0, mainly because I’m fascinated by how they create their musical electronica. ‘Garden Dog Barbecue’ loses you in a dizzy, manic whirlwind of sound.
GoGo Penguin’s music is special and extremely accessible. If you’re a fan of music in any way at all, you’d be pretty foolish to miss experiencing them live; experience is definitely the operative word.