Updated: Mar 25, 2019
22 March 2019
Album Rating 4.5 / 5
Live Potential 5 / 5
Solo Performances 4.5 / 5
Diversity in Songs 3 / 5
Favourite Songs Ophelia’s Message, Realise
London six-piece Cykada have released their debut album, as they give their self-titled record a real energy and power that pushes their songs through a cosmic voyage of spiritual jazz-rock. Having recorded the album back in December 2017, the long wait does not disappoint as each song impressively grooves to create music that will surely make for some sweaty and moshy live performances.
‘Dimension Stepper’ was the first single to drop in February and Tilé Gichigi-Lipere’s (Myriad Forest) introduction on the keys and electronics in the intro is a perfect summation of the whole album; they utilise electronic elements in any way possible to ensure the whole album resonates and reverberates from every note to add real depth and layers behind the main rhythm. Axel Kaner-Lidstrom’s (Where Pathways Meet, Levitation Orchestra, Maisha) trumpet and James Mollison’s (Ezra Collective, Where Pathways Meet) saxophone twist together in a sublime riff that is pushed fervently by Tim Doyle’s (Don Kipper, Theon Cross, Maisha, Chiminyo) drums and Jamie Benzies’ (Don Kipper, Myriad Forest) bass. The song itself covers so many different sections but they all intertwine and flow in a real bustling mood, the only surprise that they managed to fit in so much juiciness in just over five and a half minutes.
Allowing individual freedom to come through adds to the sense of an almost adventure-like feel that the tunes have generated, as more often than not the groove gallops on and on in amongst fast-paced and intricate playing by all of the group. This freedom is described by Doyle in an interview he did with Musica Macondo, as he explains how his drums are synced up to help Gichigi-Lipere program different electronic sounds to his beats, allowing for production techniques he uses himself to find a position to play in Cykada’s songs.
This liberation in how they want to express themselves is refreshing and the first tune ‘Creation’ exhibits this. It progresses from the quieter, menacing blows from the horns section at the start and followed by the main rhythm where the beautiful riff enters. They follow up with solos that change with the dynamics of the song perfectly as Javi Pérez’s (Undergrooveland) guitar grows in stature to inundate the song with a heavy reverb that propels the song to a wonderful climax of onrushing drums.
‘Ophelia’s Message’ starts out with a funky bass line by Benzies that is layered sumptuously underneath the celestial sounds of Gichigi-Lipere’s keys and Pérez’s guitar. The groove saunters through smoothly as Kaner-Lidstrom’s trumpet softly wails out until the pace urgently changes. Pérez’s guitar solo cries out with an aggressive intent before the heavy outro as the horns hurtle out an enticing riff; the impression left is that the horns are unflappable in the midst of the dread that surrounds them, or of what is still to come.
The psychedelic elements to Cykada's jazz-rock sound resonate more in ‘Realise’ as Kaner-Lidstrom’s trumpet echoes past Gichigi-Lipere’s electronics that use effects to crescendo and descend back and forth. Once the beat picks up, the song quickly moves from ever-evolving patterns that build up the magnitude and force of the song, before bringing us back down again then back up. Though there can be some slight criticism for the quickly changing of tempo so frequently, this gives Cykada their very own character which they harness and exploit. This is something that should be encouraged in more music to enhance musicianship, and to test the ability of a group to really challenge how they want songs to develop from start to end.
The eleven-minute epic ‘Third Eye Thunder’ catapults us into a cacophony of dark, intimidating riffs as Doyle keeps the drums consistently tight with pushing patterns alongside speedy fills to ensure the album maintains all the momentum it’s built up to. Because of how many different grooves they managed to fit in the previous songs, the song rambles on slightly too long, but it merely displays the band’s prowess in solos and to once more produce many provoking patterns to be thrashed out like galactic thunder.
Citing John Coltrane, Pharaoh Sander, Sun Ra and Flying Lotus amongst others as their influences, there’s no doubt in seeing these spiritual and experimental musicians captivating the minds of every single member of Cykada; the album should be cherished for exposing us to songs that have such intensity and purpose in their journey. The rhythm pokes and prods throughout with the crisp horns section, and the endless tap of electronica that is poured into every tune forms this heavier jazz feel that you can rave to for the full length of the album.
Cykada is a sublime debut album and it will hopefully drive Cykada to the top of the London jazz scene as the band have a complete set of stomping bangers that are impossibly hard not to dance to; hopefully the stars will continue to align for them in creating such wonderful music.
Jamie Benzies – Bass; Tilé Gichigi-Lipere – Keys, Electronics; Axel Kaner-Lidstrom – Trumpet; James Mollison – Saxophone; Javi Pérez – Guitar; Tim Doyle – Drums.