Jazz breaking news: Dalek riffs and tub thumping abandon from Leverton Fox and Sons of Kemet at the Vortex

Friday, January 6, 2012

The fox as most city dwellers know is a pretty common sight, rooting around gardens and alleyways at all times of the day and night, skulking for tasty scraps and terrorising domestic pets as well as unsuspecting humans.

A much rarer beast Leverton Fox, spotted opening for Sons of Kemet at the Vortex last night, nonetheless shared much in common with its vulpine namesake, full of agreeably feral Radiophonic workshop-driven rumblings from the undergrowth.

With leftover scraps pointing very occasionally to In A Silent Way-period Miles Davis, courtesy of Alex Bonney’s sparingly wielded trumpet, a certain mysterious laptop scavenging from Sam Britton’s electronics and the distant drum beats of Tim Giles ominous at the back of the stage like many a good fox ingeniously was both there in front of you and immediately way off in the distance.

Particularly towards the end of the set Giles’s tribal beats seemed to sum up the new anti-religion of Leverton Fox based on a frank amalgam of improv-friendly electronica that avoids the tired ticks and clichés of click-glitch nebulousness. A second album to follow Country Dances is apparently in the works, and while at times the trio feel as if they’re trailing the tail lights of a car on an empty motorway you do get the impression that this particular fox does get trapped near the bins occasionally as their dalek riffs prove just that bit too tricky.

The Vortex was completely full for this very well put together double bill which built in momentum as the night progressed. After an ecstatic set back in October Sons of Kemet still have a mystique about them as they have yet to release an album, and you feel as if you’re in on a tasty secret. While Jazz on 3  listeners have had a chance to hear the band on the radio, surely it’s only a matter of time before the wider world catches on and the big jazz festivals take the plunge and put this band on in a good slot. They’re easily the most exciting band to come my way on the new Brit-Jazz scene over the last year. Beginning with ‘Burn’ and with ‘Going Home’, and the epically grumpy ‘Book of Disquiet’ and later ‘The Junglist’, the band has enough good material to put together an album although sequencing the songs might be tricky. After all there’s plenty of energy from everyone, but the issue is clarifying the grab bag of styles and pacing the material. They can make people get up and move, and sure enough girls in fashionable jumpers were dancing around by the end, and yet there was also plenty of impressive improvising going on too as the band has an irresistible momentum about it without ever dumbing down. Tom Skinner’s Afrobeat driven drum lines given light and shade by Seb Rochford at the back cooking up dazzling breaks like a suddenly big haired Heston Blumenthal is only one aspect of the group, which has so much going for it. Shabaka Hutchings provides two lines of attack, the more heart on the sleeve and gutsy stuff confined to tenor saxophone, whereas the clarinet episodes tend to have a mesmerising and thoughtful dimension hinting at the opaqueness of much contemporary classical music filtered by a more melancholic side. Oren Marshall on this showing was more in the background apart from a few mighty grunts that seemed to swallow up the band and audience whole within his customised tuba’s whale-like belly.

Stephen Graham

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