The debut album of the Amsterdam-based Spinifex group was titled «Hipsters Gone Ballistic». Now this quintet-turned-sextet releases its fifth studio album and it is obvious that these muscular hipsters are in top hyperactive shape and playing in a extra-ballistic, and super-fast and extra-complex mode as if they are having generous doses of steroids on their breakfasts. But you can always say that only working bands as Spinifex can reach such high and tight levels of communication and sonic scope and Spinifex has been working, and working hard since 2005.
The new line-up of Spinifex features new recruits – tenor saxophonist John Dikeman and, known from the power trio Cactus Truck and many high-energy collaborations, and trumpeter Bart Maris (replacing trumpeter Gijs Levelt), known from the quintet Bulliphant. They join alto sax player-composer Tobias Klein; bass player-composer Gonçalo Almeida, known from the LAMA Trio, The Selva, Albatre and Bulliphant groups; guitarist Jasper Stadhouders, known from Ken Vandermark’s Made to Break and Shelter and Cactus Truck, and drummer Philipp Moser.
«Amphibian Ardour» continues Spinifex flirts with distant schools of traditional music. An early incarnation of the group-turned-octet was titled Spinifex Indian Spin and featured two classical Indian musicians, and in 2014 Spinifex presented its Bollycore project with Indian vocalist Priya Purushothaman. Now Spinifex interprets two pieces from Iranian and Pakistani Sufi traditions and a traditional Carnatic Indian piece. The album was recorded in Lisbon after the sextet finished a tour in Portugal and Spain on July 2017.
The new pieces radiate an immediate sense of passionate, ecstatic urgency. All six musicians sound as eager to play all the time and all over but Spinifex manages somehow to balance this restless, muscular energy in a highly disciplined and an almost mathematical interplay that sometimes sound as referencing prog-rock aesthetics more than the powerful, free jazz. Another strategy that Spinifex adopts is simply to play fast and keep grinding the tough pulse with reckless power as it does on the Pakistani Sufi «Dhamal Qalandar Shabaz» and on the Iranian «Zikr».
But later on Spinifex proves itself as a much more varied group. Maris shines on «Things that Occur» with a beautiful solo trumpet and later on his searching interplay with Klein and Dikeman and on his imaginative duel against the rest of Spinifex on the title piece. The sensual Carnatic «Revathi Thillana» and the improvised and playful «Doppio Nudo Dal Niente» stress the depth of Spinifex vision and the last piece «Icarus» twists the exotic Eastern forays with joyful, infectious Balkan energy.
Still, after absorbing so much Spinifex-ian doses of energy you may feel the urgent need to spin in some extreme sport exercises. Be warned!
Bart Maris (tp), Tobias Klein (as), John Dikeman (ts), Gonçalo Almeida (b), Jasper Stadhouders (g), Philipp Moser (dr)