Mammal Hands [UK]

Zabelov Group [CZ]

Mammal Hands returns to Prague. They show how jazz can mutate into rave

Thanks to the Spectaculare festival, the British trio Mammal Hands will once again play at Palác Akropolis in Žižkov. One of the most interesting island bands of recent years mixes jazz with ambient, electronic and world music influences. Their songs boast a delicate atmosphere and dynamics, even though the trio makes do with only saxophone, piano and drums. Mammal Hands relies on the unique interplay and almost off-stage connection of the players. Their performance will be part of the 11th edition of the Spectaculare audiovisual festival in spring.

Afterparty: Jeffology | Visuals: Ae ore

Mammal Hands was originally formed in the East Anglian town of Norwich at the beginning of the last decade as a DJ project by brothers Jordan and Nick Smart. However, when percussionist Jesse Barrett soon joined them, he kick-started a unique evolution of their sound. Jordan plays saxophone, Nick plays piano, and the electronic music influences have remained in the plane of hypnotic minimalism with which Mammal Hands captivate listeners in concert and off the record. But Jesse Barrett's love of Indian ragas, which he has been studying for the past two decades, also plays a part. Mammal Hands' distinctive style grows out of these influences, but they have also drawn from classical jazz, especially the spiritual branch (John Coltrane, Pharaoh Sanders).

In 2014, Mammal Hands debuted with Animalia, which received rave reviews in the press. "A classic jazz trio mutating into a rave project," wrote The Guardian of the record. They were suddenly a major discovery on the island scene, and the fact that they were signed to Manchester's famed Gondwana Records certainly helped their rise to fame. The label is headed by trumpeter Matthew Halsall, who took on production duties on the Mammal Hands records. Artists such as Hania Rani, Portico Quartet and Gogo Penguin have released on one of the most prestigious jazz labels in the islands.

"Absolutely balanced sound. A sense of harmony. The joy of being unbridled," wrote Full Moon Zine about their 2018 Prague concert. Mammal Hands have no problem playing at the renowned Montreux Jazz Festival and a few months later vibrating the Mecca of techno - Berlin's Berghain. This is a testament to the trio's versatility and, most importantly, unclassifiability. This year's fifth studio album Gift from the trees continues in a similar vein. The trio wanted to bring the experience of concerts into it, where they put fans into a trance - there was more improvisation in the studio and the album was influenced by the seasons in which it was recorded. The "winter" part is gloomy, the "spring" part is hopeful. Still, Mammal Hands are making jazz for the 21st century - freewheeling, unbridled and unpredictable.

Zabelov Group works with the jazz format in a similarly unorthodox way as Mammal Hands. The duo Jan Šikl and Roman Zabelov have been playing together for more than a decade, the classical musical training of the former multi-instrumentalist complemented by the accordion and vocals of the latter, who brings the unbridled wildness of his Eastern European roots to the music. They debuted on their home record 40,000 (2012) and live album Secret Sessions (2014), with their regular studio album Eg released on Minority Records in 2018.