Gig review: Gogo Penguin, Oran Mor, Glasgow

Gogo Penguin are better than their name suggests. Picture: Contributed
Gogo Penguin are better than their name suggests. Picture: Contributed
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BUT for the fact of presenting further proof that jazz ensembles shouldn’t be permitted to pick their own names – seriously, Gogo Penguin? – this Manchester instrumental trio are doing much to convince mainstream music fans to take jazz more seriously than all its self-indulgent improvisation and nerdy humour can sometimes permit.

Gogo Penguin | Rating: **** | Oran Mor, Glasgow

Perhaps not since Portico Quartet (now just plain Portico), with whom Gogo Penguin share the kudos of having been nominated for the Mercury Music Prize (in 2014 for their second album v2.0), has a British group grabbed attention by making music performed with the instrumentation and technical rigours of jazz, yet grounded in a whole variety of other disparate influences and bristling with accessible, hummable hooks and melodies.

There was deft classical flourish in pianist Chris Illingworth’s playing during the delicate introductory bars of opener All Res, the first number on Gogo Penguin’s new album Man Made Object. And yet when bassist’s Nick Blacka’s probing fret runs and drummer Rob Turner’s tightly skittering break-beats kicked in, the flavours were as much from techno and trip-hop.

So it went with Unspeakable World and Branches Break, the latter of which could just as well have been an electronic dance track with its sample-like piano motif and driving beat. The Letter inhabited a slower, more atmospheric space somewhere between a Radiohead ambient piano number and something from a moody film soundtrack. Garden Dog Barbecue brought flair and intensity to the show’s final phase, before an encore of the fluttering Hopopono closed, the most accomplished thing in Gogo Penguin’s increasingly handsome repertoire.