Album: Polar Bear, Polar Bear (Tin Angel)

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The Independent Culture

With few inclined to police the borders separating the out-there jazz of Albert Ayler and Sun Ra from the avant-rock of Godspeed You Black Emperor! and Radiohead, and the joyous noise of OOIOO and Sunn O))), conditions have probably never been better for a post-modern jazz combo like Seb Rochford's Polar Bear.

Adopting an all-channels-open approach to jazz, they draw on its wide-ranging catalogue of styles with no regard for outdated rivalries. If it feels good, they do it, augmenting bass, drums and saxes with looming electronic drones in "It Snows Again", mandolin and viola in "I Am Alive", twinkling gamelan in "Voices", and sundry squeaks and scratches in "Woollen Blanket". Their real triumph, though, is in balancing experiment with entertainment by incorporating dramatic shifts in tone and attitude, most notably when shifting from the pained squawks and clanks of "Industry" to the minimalist cello and sax cycles of "Leafcup": from free-jazz noise to delicate formality in the blink of an ear.

Pick of the album: 'Voices', 'Industry', 'Leafcup', 'I Am Alive', 'It Snows Again'

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