Long a trio, Cobblestone Jazz's second full-length sees them appropriating longtime collaborator The Mole as a fourth member. But it seems there's a bit of slippage here in the band name department. The foursome have already toured as The Modern Deep Left Quartet, but now this epithet gets shuttled to album title while the Cobblestone Jazz moniker remains in force. Either way, "Modern Deep Left Quartet" about sums it up: Cobblestone explores the terrain of deep house through the eyes of a jazz improv group. Although considerably edited down, Cobblestone Jazz's tracks have always reflected the organic energy of the group jam sessions that spawn them.
Curiously, the addition of another member to the mix has resulted in a more pared-down sound than before. The quartet here operate with a sense of intuitive restraint, breezy and sleek, more minimal and hypnotic. Whether conscious or not, this sonic shift seems like it must have induced a certain amount of rigor when it came time to choose album tracks—you'll note, for example, the absence of their recent banger "Traffic Jam" and the presence of its spacier B-side "Fiesta" instead. It's an unexpected call, and the record's all the better for it. "Traffic Jam's" big drums and broad party vibe would have been out of place here, and "Fiesta" packs its own punch, albeit of the more bugged, disorienting variety.
"Fiesta" is the heaviest thing going here, providing some girth to a relatively taut and compact collection. "Chance Dub" and "Sunchild" open the LP as twin dollops of floaty, jazz-tinged house, but the tracks that follow demonstrate how Cobblestone's MO isn't simply restricted to the skilled use of standard "deep" signifiers. The next two tunes, for example, build up nicely to the "Fiesta" climax by flexing a bit more robot muscle. "Mr. Polite" exudes a nearly rap-style gruffness with vocoded vocal taunts, full-frontal bass and even, yes, the "me love you long time!" sample made popular by 2 Live Crew, all propelled by a downwardly-spiraling chord change. The playful, rugged "Cromagnon Man" relies on a stiff, robotic funkiness with a big wobbly hand-played bass and affectless vocoder vocals intoning "cave man....cromagnon man...."
In fact, the vocoder gets a good amount of play throughout, showing off a surprising diversity—not only taunts here and machinic recitations there, but full-bodied emotions on the soulful "Chance" as well. Cobblestone's gone and buried this tune, one of the record's most melodically infectious numbers, towards album's end, just before the outro. Once again, thoughtfulness at the expense of predictability pays off—backending "Chance" allows its seductive charms, the lulling robo-singing, the smoky Rhodes riffage, to unfold their magic at a much more leisurely pace, and keeps the record's second half just as warmly engaging as the first.
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Tracklist: Cobblestone Jazz - The Modern Deep Left Quartet 01. Chance Dub
02. Sun Child
03. Mr Polite
04. Cromagnon Man
08. Midnight Sun
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