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Get The Blessing
Lope And Antilope Sean Kitching , February 20th, 2014 08:57

Lope And Antilope is the fourth album by Bristol-based jazz-rock quartet Get The Blessing. Formed 14 years ago, when Portishead's rhythm section Jim Barr (bass) and Clive Deamer (drums) joined forces with Jake McMurchie (saxophone) and Pete Judge (trumpet), initially due to their mutual fondness for Ornette Coleman, the band's debut All Is Yes won best album at the 2008 BBC Jazz awards. Their name was originally derived from the Coleman track 'The Blessing', but underwent a necessary name change due to the prior claim of a US rock band who appeared under the same moniker. Despite busy schedules all round (further complicated by Deamer's recruitment as Radiohead's second live drummer in 2012), each successive release has seen a further development of their sound.

Lope And Antilope marks a departure from their normal creative process by being almost completely improvised over a period of four days of recording, itself informed and inspired by extensive touring. With Portishead guitarist Adrian Utley guesting on a number of tracks and Bat For Lashes guitarist Tim Allen engineering the recording sessions, the album could be seen as their most accomplished and most accessible to date.

Known for nurturing their own enigma by appearing on previous album covers wearing colourful cellophane headpieces, the cover of Lope And Antilope seems to acknowledge this change of tack by presenting the headpieces alone, minus the band members. The album's greatest strength is its warm, spacious and organic sound, which benefits from being played over big speakers rather than headphones – its dubby, bass-heavy tunes are best experienced reverberating within four walls, as its content is as much about the sense of space evoked as the notes themselves. Opening track 'Quiet' dips a cautious toe into the inviting, clear water of the album's ongoing ambience with delicate, brush-like drum patterns and a simple bass motif. 'Little Ease' further develops the drum pattern into familiar trip-hop territory, its rich-sounding saxophone seeming massive when it appears, especially when abetted by the ascending skittering trumpet, attempting futilely to traverse its monumental sense of scale. The deep bass sounds of 'Corniche' momentarily recalls Son's of Kemet's inspired use of tuba. As with most of these tracks, extra detail is added as the loop-like refrain progresses. Distinctly cool downtown NYC sax and trumpet flourishes swirl around each other as it reaches its climax.

'Antilope' is similarly paced, its gorgeous, balmy horn sound inviting in the way that sun kissed water invites immersion and culminating in its last 20 seconds in a surprising, sped-up sounding coda. 'Luposcope' evokes a theremin-like sound, expressing a kind of muted emptiness, which unfortunately falls a bit too far on the ambient side for my liking. 'Viking Death Moped' introduces a kind of krautrock dissonance into the mix and represents a welcome change of pace to the preceding tracks. 'Hope (For the Moment)' appropriately enough, begins with an enormously upbeat and uplifting bass drum motif recalling 90s New York based trio Ui at their best. A weirdly treated sax, sounding not unlike an electronically rendered cat's purr, adds a slightly disorienting counterpoint. 'Trope' continues the supremely optimistic vibe of the previous track and the two taken together are clearly high points of the album, likely to leave a smile on the face and a sense of elevation in all but the most hardened of hearts. 'Lope' offers another slight change of pace and with a creeping dissonance underlying the horn refrains, represents the only darker atmosphere on offer here.

Following this, the closing track 'Numbers,' seems slightly bland by comparison, and the flamenco-style guitar is a bit too pretty and easily placed within a specific genre against the smoothness of the rest of the track. Overall, however, this is an excellent album, and although its very accessibility and near uniformity of pace means that personally it's likely to get a limited run on my stereo, it no doubt has plenty to offer to others for whom its clever blending of jazz, post rock, ambient and dance music is more likely to appeal.