GoGo Penguin: Between Two Waves

Mixing electronica and minimalism, GoGo Penguin might not be a jazz group, but their improvised aspect resonates with some in the jazz world


Since releasing their debut album in 2012, GoGo Penguin have become a highly regarded name on the contemporary jazz scene. While not strictly a jazz trio – the group here draw from a range of styles and sounds including electronica, orchestral and minimalist music – their use of improvisation and an open, free-form structure has given them appeal with modern jazz audiences.

On the opening Badeep, a repeating electronic arpeggio introduces the ensemble. Acoustic piano and drums join to create a simple but captivating track in which syncopated double bass adds rich texture. Chris Illingworth leads the majority of the tracks, often with clean piano lines that evolve through the songs. The minimalistic triplet melody of Ascent is transformed half way through to accelerate the piece, culminating in a powerful crescendo.

GoGo Penguin blend complex arrangements and skilled musicianship, yet maintain an improvised feel throughout. On Wave Decay, Nick Blacka leads on double bass over a spacious, echoing soundscape that intensifies as the group build the track around a repeating melody. The track blends straight into Lost In Thought, which opens with a simple piano phrase over ambient sounds, before being joined by a deep electronic rumble which surges beneath, with atmospheric percussion from drummer Jon Scott. The closing track, titled The Antidote Is The Poison, takes an an angular riff, at times with piano and bass in unison, and creates a tense and purposeful energy as it ebbs and flows through a series of variations.

Creating such complex tracks while maintaining an open, free-form and experimental feel is not easy. GoGo Penguin’s latest album is captivating and further cements their status as one of the UK’s most formidable jazz groups.

Badeep; Ascent; Wave Decay; Lost In Thought; The Antidote Is In The Poison (24.43)
Chris Illingworth (p); Nick Blacka (b); Jon Scott (d). Wiltshire, 16-20 December 2021.
Sony Music Masterworks