Paul Harrison’s band Sugarwork seek to bring the digital into the predominantly acoustic genre of jazz. Combining the preciseness and almost formulaic approach of electronica to the improvisational nature of jazz means their self-titled album has a lot to offer, especially to fans of either genre.
Opening the album Habit Control jumps right into the mix of electronic beats and jazz. The keyboard melody and drums have a distinct futuristic feel to them. There’s something about the way the saxophone and guitar sound together in this track that elicits an unsettling feeling. When the electronic elements step back around two minutes in, they have a relieving quality. From there the electronic components work their way back in naturally over the course of the track. The track is a great opener for the album, as the clear clash in styles is introduced from the first beat. Over the six and a half minutes, Sugarwork demonstrate how jazz can work with electronic music.
That Strange Summer has a more traditional jazz feel to it with its noir sound. After the Forest, The Sky, however, is more of an electronic song featuring a saxophone. That is, until the change halfway though, where it transitions into a pleasantly relaxing jazz piece. This track is a standout in the album as it features a busy drum beat, reminiscent of late 90s industrial rock, and it works surprisingly well with Phil Bancroft’s saxophone. The transition to acoustic halfway through is great and really gives Bancroft a time to shine. Tracks like Bad Data and The Stairs ramp up the distortion and experimental aspects of the album whereas Goodbye Hello, Spiral Confection and Astralgia will please any jazz purist.
Sugarwork’s album is an interesting one. Somehow there’s enough electronic and jazz music to entertain fans of either genre but the real achievement is how Paul Harrison and his band have managed to combine two opposing sounds and make them work so well together. An intriguing piece, well worth a listen.