‘In Each and Every One’ is the fifth studio album by experimental jazz band Polar Bear, following on from their well-received ‘Peepers’ in 2012. The Mercury-nominated five-piece features twin saxophones, bass and electronics/guitar, led by the precocious drummer Seb Rochford. The album, the band suggests, is “broad in scope and potent in spirit” and is “more spacious and more intense” than previous work.
The element of space is certainly evident in first track “Open See”, an ambient piece and slow burning opener. With “Echoes”-era Pink Floyd synths and an unformed, moving melody, the track is gorgeous and looming, indeed washing over the listener like the sea the title alludes to. That the track collides so alarmingly with the following pieces, more brash in content, does not detract from it.
Polar Bear are a set of extremely accomplished musicians, and are able to play at will with time sequences, melody and rhythm, juxtaposing light and shade. Rochford is surely contemporary jazz’s most recognisable figure, with his mess of leonine hair, and he drives the band in multiple directions with his eccentric and imaginative drumming. “Lost in Death Part 1” is full of beautiful, lilting melancholy, and consistently threatens to pull away from the listener while keeping the melody on a tight string. This contrasts with the following track, “Life and Life”, which is dark, brooding and menacing.
In an excellent album, the stand-out track is “Be Free”, which is accompanied by a fantastic video. It is grimy funk, backed by cheeping brass and snapping electronics, and is reminiscent of the better tracks from previous album ‘Peepers’. “Be Free” should be remembered as one of Polar Bear’s finest moments.
‘In Each and Every One’ is an outstanding album by a set of adept musicians, who clearly enjoy playing together, and indeed playing with their own ideas. If the Mercury Prize had not become so mainstream of late, this would surely be an early contender for nomination at least. Polar Bear are touring the album for the next month, and will also be playing at various festivals during the summer, and discerning listeners should make an effort to see them live.
By Conal Dougan
Check out The Fix next week for our review of Polar Bear’s Bristol show.