Friday 24 November 2023

'Metamorphosis' by Cykada

'Metamorphosis' marks the incredibly welcome return of the dynamic London-based collective, Cykada, who unveil their sophomore album release following a four-year absence.

In an album that still shines bright amongst the glittering catalogue of Astigmatic Records, Cykada's self-titled debut (2019) showcased the band's innovative and bursting-at-the-seams energy, both boisterous and engaging, the project revelled in these unpredictable sonic soundscapes that presented a thoroughly engaging depiction of contemporary jazz.

But like most best laid plans, life subsequently got in the way.  And while the worldwide pandemic ultimately ground production on a follow-up release to a halt, inadvertently, this period of uncertainty and chaos, would go on to lead to even more periods of uncertainty and chaos... the continual threat of war that looms over us and challenges that have sought to divide us politically, racially and environmentally.

These very depictions of our times are what Cykada have employed as the catalyst for 'Metamorphosis'.  The album is far from a depiction of defeat, or even a beacon of hope, but more so an objective acknowledgement that times and society have had to change and we as a society have had to adapt to these changes accordingly.

The phenomenal super group continues to be made up of outstanding musicians who have served as key contributors to the UK's thriving jazz scene for years.  Jamie Benzies - of Don Kipper and Mimika Orchestra - is credited here for bass and the curious title of project "visionary"; there's saxophonist James Mollison of the Ezra Collective and frequent Joe Armon-Jones collaborator; Tim Doyle from the brilliant spiritual jazz collective Maisha returns here for drumming duties; band leader for the Levitation Orchestra, Axel Kaner-Lindstrom, features on trumpet; Tilé Gichigi Lipere provides the otherworldly electronics here much like he did masterfully on Mimika Orchestra’s 'Divinities Of The Earth'; guitarist Javi Pérez's unique style also weighs heavily here and I’d advise checking his previous work as a part of Stonetape's 'Wintermute' album.  And despite already showcasing a packed line-up, for 'Metamorphosis', the group induct multi-instrumentalist Rob Milne into the fold who is credited for saxophone, clarinet and flute.

Perhaps it's the inclusion of Milne, the arduous subject matter or perhaps it's simply the band's desire to simply not make the same record twice, but what Cykada have put forward here is a complete reinvention of their sound which sees them embrace almost more harder-edged, rock influences while still side-stepping any definitive tags or descriptions someone with a pen might try to impose.  

The explosiveness of 'Fallacy', the anger in 'So Divided' and the sheer urgency of 'Ashen Faun' convey the difficulty of our metamorphosis in this societal context before the album's closing number 'Last Throes of the Temporal Monolith' sees us bid farewell to what we knew and walk towards our uncertain future.

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