Like bassist and producer Petter Eldh, Otis Sandsjö (b. 1987) is a Swedish ex-pat domiciled in Berlin. He shares Eldh’s passion for jazz, hip-hop and contemporary electronica, and the two famously collaborated on one of 2019’s standout releases, Koma Saxo. While Sandsjö’s projects are somewhat different in emphasis than the intoxicating collision of classic free-jazz and post-drum’n’bass electronica which so distinguished Koma Saxo, the same outstanding production values are very much in evidence.
Describing his music as “liquid jazz”, Sandsjö dissolves traditional instrumental hierarchies and freely traverses the genre lines. Each sound assumes an equal weight as the divergent sonic building blocks are transformed and re-contextualised into something unexpected and new. The effect can be breathtaking, and because each track has a solid rhythmic, melodic and harmonic architecture, the music can be at once complex, spontaneous and accessible.
It picks up where 2018’s Y-OTIS left off. London-based keyboards player Dan Nicholls (Squarepusher, Loop Collective) replaces Elias Stemeseder, but save for the cameo appearances of Johansson, Kullhammar, Railton and Erdogan the group is essentially the same. The set opens strongly with Waldo, the piece growing from the seeds of an almost throwaway tenor riff. As Sandsjö’s clean acoustic sound is gradually submerged by Eldh’s electronic treatments, the piece cleverly morphs into molten dubstep.
Tremendoce features Koma Saxo bandmate Jonas Kulhammar, its catchy flute loop providing a constant backdrop to a steady tide of rhythmic shifts. Abysmal emerges from a suitably cavernous ambient soundscape, and as its long melodic line unspools Sandsjö momentarily finds himself in Jaga Jazzist’s back yard.
Bobby opens with the type of high octane strobe-lit riff that could easily have been lifted from an Ibizan dance anthem, while the lounge jazz of Fruehling features some solid and extended acoustic blowing from the leader. The set closes all too quickly with the complex twists of Atombahn, and as the sounds melted into the ether I was left with an insatiable thirst for more.
While it can be taken for granted that Eldh’s nonpareil production will elevate any project he touches, Sandsjö is far from a passenger. Between them they have created music of great ingenuity and originality, and in time their forward-looking approach may even become jazz’s “new normal”.
Waldo; Tremendoce; Oisters; Abysmal; Koppom; Ity bity; Sapiens; Bobby; Fruehling; Atombahn (40.00)
Sandsjö (ts, cl) with Petter Eldh (b, ky); Dan Nicholls (ky); Tilo Weber (d) and guests Per “Texas” Johansson (f); Jonas Kullhammar (f); Lucy Railton (clo); Ruhi Erdogan (t). Berlin, 1-3 December 2019.
We Jazz Records WJCD26