Gabba Gigg - Allir Gera Mistakir Album Review
Gabba Gigg - Allir Gera Mistakir (2020) Icelandic jazz band Gabba Gigg released their debut EP on 30 July 2020. Initially recorded as a 9-song album, the quartet decided to pick the best 4 to release in an EP. The recording was done in a very indie fashion. Their "studio" was just a practice space with a mixer. They didn't even mix and master, which helped create the old-timey vibe throughout the record. The name fits this process perfectly: Allir Gera Mistakir literally translates to "Everybody Makes Mistakes." The band seems to have a very high respect for the cool jazz era, especially giants like Miles Davis and Dave Brubeck. However, they seem to have also taken, intentionally or unintentionally, a lot of inspiration from 70s blues-rock. The guitars are funkier and more overdriven than any jazz record. The piano keeps the guitars grounded and returns the record to a jazzier sound. With the intimate timbre added on top, Allir Gera Mistakir takes us back to the 60s-70s jazz scene with a pinch more.
- Albert Arason: bass
- Einar Örn Magnússon: piano
- Matthías Helgi Sigurðarson: guitar
- Gabríel Einarsson: drums, composer
1 - Blue Rendezvous (5:02):
Blue Rendezvous, the first song of the EP Allir Gera Mistakir, reminds us of cool jazz ecole from the beginning of the song with its calm mood and relaxed melody. The song starts with an 8/4-like beat, with the melody accenting on the first and the fourth beats. The unique accents on these beats are the base for the song.
The piano and the drums loop, again and again, accompanying the melody and the improvisation throughout the song. Calm and unhurried improvisation can be heard throughout with small intervals, taking the main rhythm as the base and never wandering away from the main composition.
Especially, drum solos which are mainly followed by a small bass lick, are very smooth and the exchange of drum and basses unveil the neat transition to the main compositions, back and forth throughout the song. Important to mention, the second subdivision of the beat was accented in the fourth note, subtly reminding the listener of "Take Five."
This also uncovers in the middle parts of the song: the piano starts off with a Dave Brubeck style lick and then, attentive listeners would have spotted right away, the famous Take Five jams in the second subdivision, 1-2-3-4-5.
One other element in the song is the smooth chord progressions. The piano starts off the nice melody from the beginning of the song. Progressions are well-arranged giving somehow a calm, melancholic feeling when combined with the guitar licks. This might fairly reminds the listener the cool jazz ecole or some of the blues ecole. Also taking account the successful Take Five allusion, the song really does have a good overall groove.
Ultimately, the key element of Blue Rendezvous -with its rhythm, melody and harmony- is essentially the emotion it gives. It is nostalgic, subtly melancholic and inspiring. It really does give the listener what they want, a rendezvous with the old blues and nostalgic jazz.
2- Red Sundae (4:42):
2nd track of the nostalgic EP has a total feel and dedication to the old times-starting off with a 12/8 shuffle drum groove. The drums sound highly organic throughout the record, but especially with the rim-shot sounds at the intro of the song you certainly feel the essence of the drum sound.
The rhythmic accompaniment of piano to the song is very intriguing since the accentuation of the chords played over the whole groove is very unexpected and fundamental to the whole song. It is basically the whole infrastructure of the song. After we hear the core melody of the song via piano, accompanied by some strumming guitars, the rhythm modulates to a 4/4 80s disco upbeat groove. Although this certainly wasn't the best transition to make in a song (changing chords, rhythm, melody, and feel at the same time) it doesn't disturb the listener in an unhealthy way.
The same kind of a hasty transition happens in between the sections, where the drum converts to the 12/8 rhythm a few bars later than it should-creating a polyrhythm. Intentional or not, this adds a whole new taste to the song's feel.
Apart from the rhythms, the song offers the listener a bass and electric guitar solo, with a spicy wah-pedal on bass. The dynamic arrangements were sufficient and joyful make the listener continue listening to their story. However, they could've been more creating in terms of structure- since the song follows a pop song structure where at some point you really know what's going to happen and that might not be the one's ideal understanding and expectation of jazz.
Overall, the song shows the love of the band for the past and their potential of creating something original and fresh sounding within the capacities of rising amateur musicians. Give it a listen.
3- Heim (6:16):
"Heim" features a very prominent and crisp piano sound by Einar Örn Magnússon that drives the song forward. The emphasis is clearly on the piano melody, which subverts our expectations of old jazz records as this kind of soloing is usually done through brass instruments. But unlike old saxophone solos, the piano is slow all the way and outlines the chord progression itself. This technique gives the song a unique approach, both in the genre and in the EP.
Being the longest track of the EP, the song has its share of repeating sections, which makes one think what would’ve happened if the other instruments also had their moments in of these sections. As the band said, the songs were recorded with no later mixing or mastering.
Apart from reminding of old jazz records, this also adds a sincerity to the songs because you can actually hear some mistakes too. But it doesn’t make the songs worse in any way, it makes the listener feel like he’s in the room with the musician’s themselves, experiencing both sides of the music, which is as real as it gets.
Apart from the piano, Gabríel Einarsson’s drums are a big part of the song too. The cymbals are especially heard quite rich with its dynamics setting the tone. And combining with the clever snare use (ah, good old jazz), the whole song also becomes a solo for the drums.
“Heim”, which means “Home” in Icelandic, is a calm song that sometimes finds itself around intricate chords. And this is perhaps where the name comes from, it is serene, sincere and though sometimes lost in the confusion all around us, will be found again.
4- Smá Seint (4:04):
As far as my Google Translate-ing skills go, "smá seint" means "a little late." And as far as my ears can hear, this translation is correct. The song's head includes a funky rhythmic guitar interlaced with an electronic piano comp. As the initial rhythm turns into a single-not guitar riff, the electronic piano literally hits "a little later" than the guitar.
Each instrumentalist takes turns soloing over the head. Truthfully, the first part of the guitarist's solo didn't impress me at all. The second part, however, started to explore a different atmosphere. Accentuated first by the linear and ascending chords in the solo, there appears a very nice tension caused by the higher register minor licks. It then completely resolves into the piano solo. After each repetition of the head, the band gathers into a unison to play a single lick.
The piano solo lasts shorter than the guitar solo, and is very blues-influenced. The ending is especially notable. Throughout, the solo strictly follows the rhythm behind it. The ending deviates into a descending chord run, which resolves perfectly into the bar-ending melody. Unfortunately, during that melody, the pianist loses track and everything falls a little flat at the end of the bar. But, you know what they say: everybody makes mistakes.
The next part is a bass solo, first without any effect, then with some heavy wah to spice things up. Trust me, you wouldn't want to talk over this bass solo. It is characterized by very fast runs, and the transitions between triplet and straight rhythms are worth a listen.
At the end, as they usually do, the song returns to the head for the grand finale of the EP. Everyone ups the volume knob, and with a strong crescendo, the song ends.