Event Review: GoGo Penguin @ Roundhouse (London; Thursday 8th February 2018)

GoGo Penguin‘s Man Made Object – released on the exalted Blue Note in 2016 – showed merely a peek towards the progressive direction of the trio. The band’s new album, A Humdrum Star serves as a hat tip towards Carl Sagan’s TV series Cosmos, highlighting a phrase which demonstrates just how vast our universe is, and, by extension, how insignificant our daily trials and tribulations seem to be. The quote reads: “We find that we live on an insignificant planet of a humdrum star lost in a galaxy tucked away in some forgotten corner of a universe in which there are far more galaxies than people”. The trance-like state that GoGo Penguin induce with their fast-paced rhythms, syncopated piano lines and cosmic atmosphere guides the listener into a music-led journey through a deeper perspective on life.

The atmosphere at the Roundhouse was anything but humdrum as GoGo Penguin’s instruments lay waiting on the stage. The audience were positioned as if in an amphitheatre; reflecting the almost unbearable excitement of hearing the first tones reverberate around the building. They began with the singles ‘Raven‘ and ‘Bardo‘ from A Humdrum Star, and it was Chris Illingworth‘s piano that first shone through, setting the scene for the evening. The heads of the crowd began to groove in unison as the highly energetic rhythm section of Rob Turner (on drums) and Nick Blacka (double bass) fused together beautifully.

It’s not often that a band is able to present a sound that is so unique, straddled somewhere between jazz and classical music but with clear influences from the ruleless parameters of electronica. The evening carried on as a showcase for GoGo Penguin’s genre-crossing skill set as they managed to create a perfect setting for each theme explored in the album. Tracks like ‘Smarra‘ from Man Made Object pulsed through the backsides of the audience, making it impossible to keep still as Blacka’s double bass took the rhythmic lead.

Towards the end, the band were met with a standing ovation for the live running of A Humdrum Star, showing that GoGo Penguin is now gaining even quicker momentum towards becoming one of the most exciting jazz trios of the decade.

Photo ©: John Williams