May 29, 2024

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CD review: GoGo Penguin – Everything Is Going To Be OK – 2023: Video, CD cover

GoGo Penguin’s new album, Everything is Going to be OK, is so named, not because the band are in possession of an hopeful crystal ball which predicts an imminent end to the UK’s present social and economic problems or of Vladimir Putin’s genocidal invasion of Ukraine, but is a somewhat more humdrum statement about the easy listening neo-jazz trio and their future.

This reflects the Manchester band’s optimism now that they have a new drummer, a new record label and, apparently, a “more sonically liberated” sound. Quite why Chris Illingworth, Nick Blacka and Jon Scott have decided to celebrate this new era with an album of unchallenging background music that is best suited to soundtrack activities that don’t require paying much attention to anything else, like reading a book or falling asleep, is anyone’s guess though. Coming on like an over-relaxed Red Snapper or a stripped back Portico Quartet, Everything is Going to be OK is so chilled out as to be completely horizontal.

The pretentiously titled but brief (at just over two minutes long) “An Unbroken Thread of Awareness” is pleasantly atmospheric and cinematic in its scope, with shades of a South Asian vibe and a sparse piano, while “Parasite” is bubbly and, given its title, sunny and optimistic in tone. Tunes like “Saturnine”, “Glimmerings” and the title track, however, merely offer minimalist ambient and atmospheric vibes that aren’t very engaging to the point of being instantly forgettable. In fact, they encourage the mind to wander to an extent that these tunes shuffle by without making much of an impression at all. Indeed, it might be suggested that considerable editing might have produced a spaced out and gentle EP rather than such a bland album.

When I listen to a GoGo Penguin album, I always think of Monty Python. They consistently incorporate irony into highly structured compositions, which is what makes their style unique, and like Monty Python, they share English nationality.

The band declares about their new album Everything Is Going to Be OK: it was born out of a period of turbulence and loss. During a difficult time for the group, including a profound personal loss and grieving, the studio provided the group with a sanctuary away from real life. The resulting project, given such vibrant life here, draws its strength from a shared understanding and empathy. Life has many formidable aspects and despite the lows, we should be aware and grateful to celebrate the highs at every turn. Through our trials, together, we will emerge stronger… Everything is going to be OK.

GoGo Penguin commands the admiration of many musicians for their originality, borrowing equally from jazz and pop, sometimes evoking a style similar to Esbjörn Svensson or Brian Eno, but they are only distant cousins. GoGo Penguin has an urban, industrial, and symphonic aspect, as only the English know how to do it. With a new drummer, it is clear that a new chapter has begun, with rhythm as the central element of music that aspires to timelessness, but which will mark its era through the use of electronic elements.

GoGo Penguin has toured extensively internationally, performing at festivals such as Coachella, Outside Lands, Fuji Rock, Blue Dot, Montreal Jazz Festival, Vienna, Pukkelpop, North Sea Jazz, and many more, and has played to packed venues all over the world, from the Royal Albert Hall to La Cigale, and from the Paradiso to the Bowery Ball Room. In 2015, the trio presented their own original soundtrack for the cult film “Koyaanisqatsi,” playing the show to enthusiastic audiences worldwide, and it’s not over yet, as you will find their tour dates at the end of the article.

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