POLAR BEAR: Peepers (The Leaf Label)


Posted on Feb 16th 2010 12:59 am

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Polar Bear: Peepers

The Leaf Label 2010
12 Tracks. 48mins14secs

Amazon UK: CD | LP | DLD US: CD | LP | DLD Boomkat: CD | LP | DLD iTunes: DLD

Led by drummer Sebastian Rochford, Polar Bear offer a vision of jazz which, while never extending anywhere near the far-reaching experimental scope of Scandinavian jazz, is still pretty wide. Started as a quartet in the first half of the decade, the band, then formed of Rochford (drums), Pete Wareham (Tenor saxophone), Mark Lockheart (Tenor saxophone) and Tom Herbert (Double Bass), were joined by electro-acoustic experimental music Leafcutter John for their second album, Held On The Tips Of Fingers (2005), and were consequently nominated both for the UK Mercury Music Prize in 2005 and a BBC Jazz Award the following year. Since, the band have continuously expanded their sound and flirted with various forms of jazz, funk and electronica, often to critical acclaim.

Having now joined the ranks of Leaf, Polar Bear return with Peepers, their fourth album. Once again reaching for the many shades and tones of the jazz spectrum, the band, who have gained considerable praise for their live performances, have opted here for a pretty organic structure by recording all together in one room in live conditions. The result is quite a slow burner of an album on many levels. Perhaps the most obvious of these is the way the album is constructed, with four out of the first five tracks being down-to-mid tempo reflective pieces, which rarely build up much momentum, the band preferring to work on binding their sound together, especially on the gentle The Love Didn’t Go Anywhere or the playful Bap Bap Bap. Things heat up with Peepers, which despite its tamed contours signals a noticeable change of mood, confirmed with the all too short feisty Bump and Scream (both under forty seconds). This outburst of energy culminate with Hope Every Day Is A Happy New Year, which begins in quite orderly fashion but, torn between the two saxophones, rapidly becomes a much more visceral affair. The band return to a much gentler pace with Want To Believe Everything before taking an experimental tangent again with Finding Our Feet, with strange echoes of early Animal Collective, all tribal drumming, processed chanting and drone, serving as backdrop to the reflective sax meanderings, leaving All Here to conclude in pretty tamed fashion.

The somewhat strange ordering makes Peepers an album difficult to grasp at first. It doesn’t quite give much away on first listens, and continues to hold back for some time after each track begins to make sense within the whole piece. It perhaps suffers from remaining on fairly conventional grounds for most of its course, very much like its predecessors, but as it slowly unveils its many facets, this is compensated by some pretty fine moments served by impeccable musicianship.


Polar Bear | Polar Bear (MySpace) | The Leaf Label
Amazon UK: CD | LP | DLD US: CD | LP | DLD Boomkat: CD | LP | DLD iTunes: DLD

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Comments (2)

2 Responses to “POLAR BEAR: Peepers (The Leaf Label)”

  1. Ashon 23 Feb 2010 at 1:03 pm

    I thought these were Pete Wareham’s projects.

  2. themilkmanon 24 Feb 2010 at 1:23 am

    His project is Acoustic Ladyland, isn’t it?