GoGo Penguin 'A Humdrum Star' Review
GoGo Penguin earlier this year in February released their latest ‘acoustic electronic’ instalment to their now impressive, innovative catalogue of work. Inspired from the words of Carl Sagan in the original ‘Cosmos’ series, ‘A Humdrum Star’ is an introspection into our relative insignificance in the wider, infinite universe. In a musical sense the work sounds appropriately celestial, at times almost ethereal and of course, naturally continues to push boundaries in the most gentle manner.
Since their inception to the world of recorded music, GoGo Penguin have challenged definition, with elements of jazz, electronica and new wave modern classical, but with never enough drawn from any particular discipline to belong to it, GoGo Penguin has for 3 records lived healthily between the lines. In 'A Humdrum Star’ however they have come their closest to forging a definable titled genre to the swathes of musical materials they converge with their most consistent and developed record to date.
In their fourth studio release we see GGP take a slight lean towards electronica, their compositions appear more effected, yet with an organic, acoustic scaffolding. But despite taking an electronic turn, the meat on the bones is, as always, dominated by the piano arrangements of Chris Illingworth and percussion layers of drummer, Rob Turner. This see’s the pacing of the record come together nicely, it doesn’t maintain the driving, lawless and at times erratic velocity of ‘v2.0’ and in turn doesn’t produce some of the fleet footed ‘hits’ like Hopopono, Garden Dog Barbecue and Kamoloka GGP have come to be known for, but the record nimbly touches down on all points of their pitching scale leading to a complete journey with considered highs and lows. Not to say ‘A Humdrum Star’ is without stand alone singles to fit into a ‘best of’ compilation, ‘Bardo’ has attracted significant fanfare from punters, fans and tastemakers alike. ‘Transient State’ too has been received warmly and is cut from the aforementioned ‘v2.0’ cloth with an entrancing, high-pitch layer of keys and lively, spirited kinetic percussion display. It’s dynamic and tireless, but in ‘A Humdrum Star’ we see it effortlessly slotted into the wider album without disruption to its continual flow and is perhaps the greatest indication of a fully matured GoGo Penguin we have currently been served.
‘A Hundred Moons’ fits the astral theme to the record and provides, as many GoGo Penguin tracks do, a pensive slow burner which acts as a more measured warm up for the following track, in this case, ‘Strid’. In many cases, GoGo Penguin, by nature a live performance outfit bring the essence and energy of live music into a digital format. The mercurial double bass on Strid imparts the impression that there is the possibility of error, a slip of hand yet simultaneously you know it to only be illusory. One of the best credits to their name is this ability to record something akin to refined jamming.
A grand total of 4 studio releases in and GoGo Penguin still sail unchartered waters armed with an uncanny ability to fuse genre’s and inspirations into refreshing, exciting compositions. They remain one of the most humbly ambitious artists on record and their latest instalment only ratifies this assertion.