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Following in the icy footprints of GoGo Penguin come Gondwana Records’ new signing Mammal Hands and their debut release Animalia. The bass-less trio consisting of Nick Smart (keys), Jordan Smart (saxophones) and Jesse Barrett (drums and tabla) has crafted a beautiful modern jazz exploration that has been subtly produced by the experienced ear of Matthew Halsall.

The swirling pianos and roving horns of ‘Mansions of Millions of Years’ give the first insight into the African and Indian influences scattered across the vibrating landscape of the album’s eight tracks. The intricate percussive tapestries woven by the skilled hands of Mr Barrett give all but one of the compositions a distinctive, hypnotic framework for the brothers Smart to lay their melodic wares over. ‘Inuit Party’ starts somewhere resembling The Young Holt Trio’s ‘Strangers in the Night’, traversing through several melancholic grooves before unleashing the freest segment of the whole piece, in which the musicians seem to leave the beaten path and float above the more solid structures found in the rest of Animalia.

For me, music without bass can often be like a sandwich with one slice of bread - somewhat lacking in the physical structure to deliver the versatile filling to the necessary orifice. On this occasion though, Mammal Hands have managed to rustle up a super clean, sharp sonic sarnie that, although in contrast to its earthier influences of Alice Coltrane and Pharaoh Sanders, delivers a sizable portion of musical nutrition without the requirement of the lower frequencies.

It’s a must for Gondwana fans and a highly recommended gateway drug for those yet to be hooked on Indian and African jazz.

Joe Mills