July 23, 2024

Mark Springer – “Circa Rip Rig And Panic”      Something’s improved with age – is it me?

EXIT       28th July, 2017

This bag of offcuts has matured very nicely in a box in Mark Springer’s attic. Okay, so I made the bit about the attic up, but you’d like it to be true, wouldn’t you. Nicely filmic, nicely jazz; moving from cool to emoting to frantic. Perhaps that’s why my kids, age 3 and 6 like it. Mercurial.

In the eighties, I wanted to like Rip Rig & Panic. There was The Pop Group cross-over, the Bristol connection, the love the NME had for them (when it was a journal of repute) . There were a bit wanky, though – likely to release albums on double 45rpm 12”, likely to indulge in rooty-tooty, semi-fake jazzing call-outs, likely to indulge themselves with no thought for the vinyl they were wasting. There was the wild improvisational jazz spirit that David Toop and co carried the flag for back then but it was all a bit disjointed and meaningless. Perhaps it was me. This album suggests it really WAS me. It also tells me that the bit I liked was the piano.

Assembled from contemporary demos with solo piano or sax and keys, occasionally double bass, Springer’s avant-garde jazz-ish album covers a lot of ground and skips the whole-band stuff with bass, vocals, etc. The result is a lot easier on the ears but fascinating still. Plenty of pensive piano, some plaintiveness but mostly jaunty – interest is maintained. Bits of random free jazz pop up with yelping and keyboard pounding and runs. It’s a lot more playful than the free jazz of today and brings back a mental picture of me watching David Toop swinging a Fisher Price toy telephone round his head upstairs in a hotel bar as part of the Leeds jazz scene of the eighties. Then, strangely, a Nico performance drops in, instantly adding black-hole weight, A Given Voice may have been something I taped off a John Peel session thirty years ago. Certainly, it feels like I’ve always known it, with her smoky vocal casting spells. Then it’s back to jazzing playfulness.

I’m reminded of the waywardness of solo Thelonius Monk – a high watermark in jazz inventiveness. Boundaries blur, the tracks play hopscotch with expectations, jazz shifts between group hoots, Satie-esque melodies and semi-composed semi-classical weirdness of the sort Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival hosts. What is clear throughout is Springer’s ability to shift modes of expression. I believe even a solo piano album would hold together.

Somehow less forced-sounding than Rip, Rig & Panic, there is a joy and experimentation here that, alongside the continual changes perks up this listener’s ears and those of his small kids.

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