“Mr. Atrocious, Mr. Cacophonous, Mr. Monotonous, and Mr. Pretentious” are the names by which bassist, and frontman, Jim Barr dryly introduced himself and his bandmates towards the end of jazz-rock quartet, Get the Blessing’s riotous set on Thursday evening at ParrJazz in Studio2 on Parr Street. This was in response to a negative review of the band’s new album, Bristopia, which they had clearly taken in their stride, turning it into a defiant laughing opportunity before stunning the audience with another raucous tune. This dry, blasé attitude characterised the whole set, with Barr introducing each song with some kind of sarcastic or surrealist comment, putting the audience in a state of humorous confusion, unprepared for the earth-shattering musical explosions which followed.
Get the Blessing’s sound is an eclectic one. They bring together elements of art-rock, electronic music and jazz to create a musical collage which is oftentimes both chaotic and meticulously precise, with each tune taking inspiration from some esoteric train of thought. The band opened their set with a track from Bristopia called ‘Sunwise’, a brooding, atmospheric number which saw trumpeter, Pete Judge and saxophonist, Jake McMurchie threading ethereal melodic fragments over Jim Barr’s enrapturing bassline and Clive Deamer’s charming, yet ominous use of maracas to add texture to his drumming. Barr later remarked that the idea around which the song was based was that there is something inherently good and spiritual about moving in a clockwise direction.
Conversely, the track ‘Tuathal’, a much darker piece, which was played in the second half, was about the troubling, nonsensical nature of moving in an anti-clockwise direction – something an audience member humorously analogised to the act of standing on one’s head whilst going to the toilet.
While the band’s sense of humour and philosophical approach to their music added an absurdist element to the whole experience, there were no intellectual barriers to the performance itself. Every tune in the set elicited a physical, visceral response from the audience, filling the small venue with a palpable energy. Some of the more electrifying numbers were the result of Barr switching from bass to baritone guitar, cutting through with insane, dissonant tone clusters while McMurchie and Judge served as stunning, dramatic harmonic support.
The gig’s most transcendent moments came from the mellower tunes on the setlist. ‘Coco Cloud’ saw McMurchie showing off his technical ability with elegant flurries on the tenor sax, whilst wave upon wave of gorgeous bass and percussion groove washed over the crowd. ‘The Waiting’ was a slow burn which closed out the first half, and featured a mechanical rock groove accompanied by otherworldly, effects-laden, extended notes from the horns. Such moments left much of the crowd swaying from side to side with closed eyes, simply absorbing the music.
That isn’t to say that the rowdier moments weren’t great too. The last few numbers of the set included thundering drums, rip-roaring saxophone solos and some seriously bonkers use of effects which turned Judge’s mellow trumpet playing into ear-piercing maelstroms of sound. Crouched on the stage calmly fiddling with his effects peddles, Judge was able to orchestrate the set’s most insane moments. One number saw Judge, McMurchie and Barr huddling together at the side of the stage while Deamer let loose on the drums, prompting huge cheers from the audience.
As the gig came to a close and the audience began to filter out of Studio2, it became clear that this was a show, and a band, that inhabited many boxes. The atmosphere in the room was both electrifying and quietly reflective, the attitude of the band was both mysterious and thrillingly direct, and the way they came across was both austere (all four musicians were clad in identical black suits) and full of child-like mischief and wonder. Get the Blessing are among the best that British instrumental music has to offer, and they deliver that music in a powerful way, without taking themselves at all seriously. Above all of the other seemingly (but not practically) incongruous elements of their performance, the main thing to take away is that this kind of music can get you thinking while rocking your socks off.