28 May 2019
Album Rating 5 / 5
Live Potential 5 / 5
Solo Performances 4 / 5
Diversity in Songs 4 / 5
Favourite Songs Augury, Tic, Corvid, Flight, Shakedown
Vipertime are yet another example of the thriving music scene in Leeds, as they capture the energy of their post-punk influences and improvise skillfully like their free jazz idols to create Shakedown, a cauldron of moshable jazz.
Despite only forming last year, the band already released an EP in July 2018, All Our Heroes Are Dead, which received regular airplay on BBC3, Worldwide FM and BBC Introducing as the group consists of accomplished musicians from Roller Trio, Mansion of Snakes, WorldService Project, KOG & The Zongo Brigade and Wandering Monster. Starting out playing improvised jams at Leeds house parties, they harness the sweatiness, chaos and the musical nous of the legendary Leeds nightlife and replicate it with undeniably gripping swagger.
Their debut single ‘Augury’ has Matías Reed’s prominent bass line that grooves around an enthralling melody by Ben Powling on tenor saxophone, which is further spurred on by the dual drumming of Charlie Grimwood and Luke Reddin-Williams. The aggressive song has stabs that leave space for the drums to solo with real urgency, and we are happily teased with calming sax murmurs before the song builds up once again at the end to assertive hard-hitting riffs.
The group performed ‘Tic’ in their Sofar Sounds London session which displays their ethio-jazz influence from Mulatu Astatke, but turn the initial plush bassline and powerful sax into a hard, uncompromising riff with precise, potent drums that thrust the song forward when the space is left by the sax and bass. The song softens before controlling our head bopping once again with a return to the commanding riff amongst some looser smacks of hi-hats and cymbals.
‘Shadrack’ is their reflection on 70s spiritual jazz with an afrobeat tinge as the sax hums a lovely melody as the brushes and guitar fingering add a slight psychedelic serenity to the song. Powling’s sax wraps and curls around its own melody effectively throughout when it changes pitch and cries out, whilst Reed’s bass has an understated but appropriately sedative solo. ‘Im’, dedicated to Jamaican saxophonist Cedric Brooks, is a dub-infused spell that has a superb sax phrase alongside Reed’s lively bass that turns into a wickedly wobbling ricochet of effects before Grimwood and Reddin-Williams’ synchronised snare rolls build up to a simple finish of strong bass plucks to emphasise a dub sensation.
Powling’s sax flows effortlessly in ‘Corvid’ and increases in speed with ease as the drums and percussion add sprinkles of atmosphere through cymbal washes, before it accumulates to the point where the hi-hats match each other in an entrancing pattern. The bass and sax drop in with compelling stabs as the intensity builds, before Powling resumes with the stabs as they move back and forth from time signatures with amazing tightness. Reed adds a reverbing echo to his bass in ‘Flight’ to reach a surreal stratosphere of fear as the sax wails in a high pitch that whistles past the cymbal jingles of Grimwood and Reddin-Williams; the rhythm gets heavier, louder and more sinister before Powling changes the sax to a minimal melody that reverberates through the tense bass and drums.
The outro’s dark, menacing feel looms, as if something dangerous on the horizon arrives in ‘Shakedown’. The bass is deliciously threatening with the overdrive heavy and inviting to the thudding drums, as the sax yowls. The continuation of the bass drum is compulsive as the stabs once again thump down before the sax bawls out, and the song erupts further with the drummers thrashing around the arpeggiated bass effect that rushes to build the tension. Finishing the album on the stabs leaves the perfect impression of what Shakedown is – a triumph of lethal and sharp jazz-punk.
Whilst they may have a near-identical set-up to London’s Sons of Kemet, Vipertime have an incredibly rare sound that spectacularly distinguishes them from all their contemporaries . What is a shame is the lack of recognition and appreciation outside of Leeds for their music so far which in his interview with 678, Powling asserts “all the press surrounding the jazz renaissance is incredibly London-centric”. It is hard to argue with this, despite the clearly flourishing scene in Leeds and elsewhere in other UK cities. But having played in Bristol and at Sheffield’s Yellow Arch Future Jazz Festival, we hope they will succeed soon in convincing the London press and labels to look up north. One hopes such an exceedingly astounding debut album will not go under the radar, but thankfully Vipertime are only at the very start of their journey and they at least have the admiration of their Leeds family.
Ben Powling – Tenor Saxophone; Matías Reed – Bass; Charlie Grimwood – Drums & Percussion; Luke Reddin-Williams – Drums & Percussion.