Born from ten-hour jam sessions in peeling Brighton bedsits, the technical parameters of a bootstrap recording process and the osmotic, multi-genre influence of internet music archives, quintet Ebi Soda have been steady-cultivating a unique sound amidst the exploding UK jazz scene.
Balancing irreverent musical and technical improvisation with an uncompromising instinct for vibe and prodigious musicianship, the Ebi ascent has been swift. Their eponymous debut EP, follow-up aptly titled “Bedroom Tapes” and debut LP ‘Ugh’ were originally released on Sola Terra, and won international plaudits, major radio plays and performances at Gilles Peterson’s We Out Here, London’s Jazz Re:Freshed, EFG London Jazz Festival and Latitude. Tru Thoughts were excited to pick up Ebi’s back catalogue, repressing their first two EPs – that had long been out of circulation and garnering high prices on Discogs – on limited edition vinyl.
Despite their steep rise – the Brighton outfit have preserved as much as possible of their unique recording process, originating from their very first sessions. With just a two-track recorder around, the band would lay down whole takes, one instrument at a time, then immediately transform the overdub, digitally reshaping the sound with the same mischievous, adderall energy as the musical performance. This call-and-response between performance and production spurs an instinctive development – with musicality, player and producer egging one another on through naturally developing phases and textures.
‘Honk If You’re Sad’, their sophomore full-length album, stays true to these foundations, while bringing more ambitious experimentation, technical mastery and a stellar lineup of guest players to the studio including Yazz Ahmed, Deji Ijishakin and Dan Gray.
In typical Ebi style, while recalling jazz pioneers in playing style, ‘Honk If You’re Sad’ draws from a vast neural network of influences: the Ebi Brain has been marinating in a digital soup of trap, drill, dub, post-punk and no wave to name but a few. The result is a mercurial record that beams in psychedelia, dissonance, serene ambient passages, tough, neck-snapping beats and lush textures, all underscored by the intersection of jazz, hip hop and electronic music.
Across opening heaters, “Tang of the Zest” and “My Man from College”, Will Heaton’s trombone growls in and out of focus over a tight uptempo breakbeat. Deji Ijishakin’s tenor sax solo shrieks and shudders between lush layers of sound. Driving basslines, liquid keys, murmuring dissonant brass, delay and hazy reverb tumble into progressive cycles of frenetic climax and oceanic calm.
These patterns recur over the record. “Giraffe Bread” and “Listen, King” opens with a tight funk on the bass; short crisp phrases from drummer Sam Schlich-Davies dissipate in cascading dub echoes and the track opens into an instrumental, psychedelic jam, with rippling synth pads and trombone murmurs peeking out from a deep, reverberating soundscape. Ijishakin’s hyperactive sax solo on “Gated Community with a Public Pool” sits on a glitched-out rhythm section: a rocking, window-shaking bassline and sparse stuttering drums.
From influences as diverse as Kokoroko, Can, Lounge Lizards, BadBadNotGood, Ronin Arkestra, and The Fall, ‘Honk if You’re Sad’ focuses a cohesive whole; an explorative, playful and technically brilliant record that coaxes the listener through immersive phases of fun, chaos and harmony.