(All Album Reviews by Epilepticgibbon)
Robotobibok are a Polish band formed in 1998, consisting of Adam Pidur, Artur Majewski, Maciek Baczyk, Marcin Ozóg and Kuba Suchar (man, I'm so glad I don't have to pronounce those names!), who fuse analogue electronics with jazzy improvisation and have a penchant for recording on vintage 60s and 70s gear.
The cover art is cool and crazy but gives you little idea of what to expect from the music. Opening track “Kamaji”, the only vocal track on the album, is a stunner and was the track that first brought the band to my attention. To my ears it sounds like Kid A/Amnesiac era Radiohead but with more jazzy brass than you would usually expect to find on something by Thom Yorke and the boys, and Robotobibok make particularly fine use of some analogue keyboards towards the end of the track too. “Kamaji” just fits together perfectly – a seemingly effortless, organic and creepy track that builds and flows in all the right places.
Second track in, “Symfonia Zmyslow”, is more of a straightforward jazz track, at least straightforward in the sense that it's more obviously jazz with less electronics but not necessarily straightforward jazz, if that makes any sense.
The addictive rhythms and analogue electronics are back for track three, “54 kw”, which is such a groovy treat, with some intense instrumental workouts for the whole band, particularly the saxophone player. This track really got me moving and if you're even remotely into this apparently growing scene in which jazz musicians play music that is neither jazz nor non-jazz (post-jazz, anyone?) then you should love all six minutes and 49 seconds of this killer track.
It's followed, quite logically I think, by “Skipping A”, another piece of dark, rhythmic, left-field jazz. There's strange and sinister magic floating around this track, as if at certain points the band members find themselves possessed by demons but just carry on playing frenetically until the demons leave their bodies. With “Skipping A”, then, I have defined a new sub-genre, exorcist jazz! I'm not sure it will take off but I guess we'll have to wait and see…
Track five, “100000 Lat Gwarancji” (oh, how I wish I could understand Polish!) is driven by those funky analogue keyboards again… man, this is a groovy number and very 1970s-sounding. If Starsky and Hutch had been a much freakier TV show then this would have been the theme music for sure.
With the sixth track, “Tylko Dla Zwierzat”, things get really weird: strange noises, cats meowing, distorted brass sounds, beeping noises, etc. This track really isn't easy listening and it's not entirely my cup of tea either, but yet it does have a certain something about it that I find appealing, though perhaps four minutes of it is a bit much for these ears. It's brave stuff and it ends suddenly, making no more sense at that point than it did when it first started.
The album then moves straight into track seven, “Zemsta Gniewosza”, which starts very unexpectedly with what sounds like militaristic thrash metal. This heavy metal drill is then combined with saxophone and keyboards. It's an unusual combination and I'm not entirely certain it works, but it does make for another interesting change in the album's style.
With the penultimate track, “Skipping C”, we're back to slightly more familiar territory. It's another high-speed groovy jazz chase, slickly done and, though this goes without saying, excellently performed.
And then we hit the final track; another favourite of mine, the excellent “Jurij”, which is a lot more spacey and chilled out than the rest of the album. Yeah, “Jurij” is Robotobibok's answer to chill-out meets Pink Floyd meets The Shadows: gentle percussion, spaced-out guitars, and some distorted sound effects make this an excellent but unexpected way to end the album.
This a very special album, filled with ingenious time signatures, frenetic solos, tighter-than-tight playing, musical invention and some of the grooviest avant-jazz you're ever likely to hear. It's not always an easy listen and I not sure everything works equally well, and yet even when the ideas don't quite come off I'm still impressed with the fact that the band tried something challenging and different. Please, as soon as you can, put on your grooviest clothes and climb aboard the Robotobibok spaceship; I promise it will take you to a whole new musical universe… but be careful now, it may well just be a one-way trip.
Best tracks: “Kamaji”, “54 kw”, “Skipping A”, “100000 Lat Gwarancji”, “Jurij”.