Alike the genre they form their name around, Adult Jazz appear to live for bending the conventions of song structure. Past geography, the Alt-J comparisons the band have attracted have, in reality, little substance to them as Gist Is features nary a sing-along chorus or catchy riff to grip onto throughout its eclectic run-time. Instead this, the quartet’s debut, is chocked full of enough ideas and leaps to satisfy an ordinary band’s whole career.
Things open strongly with ‘Hum’ which sees vocalist Harry Burgess dancing around a droning organ displaying some impressive vocal gymnastics – a feat which is replicated frequently over the rest of the record. Other instruments come and go from time to time which also is another notable aspect of the band’s sound – rarely are all four members playing at the same time which results in a greater impact when the full band are in motion such as the climactic ending of the longest track here ‘Spook’. Alternatively some of Gist Is’ finest moments also come when there isn’t a great deal going on – case in point being the acoustic-led ‘Pigeon Skulls’ which easily stands as the prettiest song here. Naturally unable to resist however, the track concludes with an ambushing hyper guitar picking coda seemingly just to show they haven’t turned boring all of a sudden.
It’s in tracks such as ‘Donne Tongue’ where the group go off on a number of tangents too many while forgetting how to tie them all together successfully. It is full of workable parts but comes across as a jumbled mess and, like a student partaking on a gap year, struggling to find itself. Later on, ‘Be A Girl’ has the exact opposite problem, essentially acting as a short song which doesn’t really end up much farther away from where it started.
Even after repeated listens it is hard to make sense of Burgess’ insistent imagery, particularly in the cold indecipherable chant of ‘Idiot Mantra’ but it is made clear that the words are not the main focus here evidenced by the singer’s penchant for the lost art of scat-singing. Instead the voice is used as another instrument and along with the band’s accomplished musicianship forms to create an exciting, if at times coarse, sound.