CD Review: Led Bib - The People In Your Neighbourhood

Led Bib - The People In Your Neighbourhood
(Cuneiform Records Rune 378. CD Review by Ben Powling)

On the 10th anniversary of their incarnation, jazz/rock trailblazers Leb Bib are back with their fifth studio album The People In Your Neighbourhood, the result of a successful crowdfunding campaign. Led Bib have not been particularly visible on the scene or in the jazz press in the time since their 2009 Mercury nomination for their fourth album Sensible Shoes, but this new release may change that.

This is a more mature offering than past Led Bib albums. There has been a drift away from the punk ethos of their earlier releases and a move closer to alt. rock. Saxophone solos are creative and brim with intensity but rely less on the squawks and extended techniques often associated with players of this genre and compositional forms are more extended and complex than on earlier records. There is less of the acerbic punk thrash of 2007’s Sizewell Tea, some of this raw brutality gone in favour of a more open, cinematic sound with moments of genuine beauty and introspection such as in the sombre, swirling Angry Waters (Lost At Sea) and the heartfelt Recycling Saga. Both of these tunes showcase alto saxophonists Pete Grogan and Chris Williams at their most melodic and jazz-influenced as they unfold long narratives over some particularly rich piano playing from Toby McLaren.

It is not that Led Bib have lost their bite. There is real fire in this album and the bass of Liran Donin combined with crunchy distorted Rhodes from McLaren create some menacingly heavy grooves, along with Mark Holub’s characteristically hell-for-leather drumming. All of them convey such enjoyment in the performance of this music that the listener can’t help but grin along with this maelstrom of sound. This Roofus and Giant Bean are both great examples of this chest-thumping rock, loaded with attitude but also performed with joyous abandon.

There is a plethora of other sounds and textures on offer, showing the wider scope and vision that Led Bib had for this record. The opening track, New Teles, features a jaunty Middle Eastern-tinged riff from the saxophones backed by tribal drumming and wailing electronics, and tunes like Curly Kale and At The Ant Farm offer more a more familiar, high energy sound. The latter begins with a frenetic, skittish groove topped with tight alto melodies, but after this frantic opening the band drops to near silence for a whispered alto solo and a slow, burning crescendo to a powerful rock ending. These unexpected twists and vast changes of texture that litter the album make it an even more engaging listen that their earlier material.

Another highlight is the closing track Orphaned Elephants by bassist Liran Donin. It’s swaggering and foreboding dub is a fresh new sound at the end of the album as well as for the band in general, as washy electronics float around a dance-hall bass line and reverb-laden drums. The melody is atmospheric without being melodramatic and before the groove is at risk of becoming a reggae stereotype it disappears completely leaving a hushed saxophone to improvise freely over a rumble of distant toms. At almost nine minutes, the band takes their time to build the drama as they drive toward the climax of the record, sidestepping the predictable half-time rock ending with its soaring pop melody, instead sticking to a driving, pulsing beat with both saxophones entwined together in a final improvisation.

This feels like Led Bib’s strongest album to date and one which shows the full breadth of their vision and abilities. It makes a strong statement which will delight those already familiar with the band, and should win them hordes of new fans.

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