The three musicians of GoGo Penguin show up for work every day with a simple goal: To bend, twist, prod and occasionally mutilate repetitive musical patterns until they sprout unanticipated polyrhythmic variations. They're improvisers who are alive to whim and impulse as well as the hypnotic pull of recurring loops; one thrill of "Atomised," the jittery opening track of the UK band's 5th album, involves following a simple high-speed arpeggio as it fractures into shards and is reassembled. Like all great jazz trios, GoGo Penguin intuit, together, when to take the next turn and how hard to lean into it. But the three—pianist Chris Illingworth, bassist Nick Blacka, and drummer Rob Turner – are inspired by breakbeat and the surging vistas of Squarepusher and other electronic adventurers. The compositions are rooted in that machine language.
The fundamental tension between jazz impulsiveness and electronic order animates everything GoGo Penguin has done since its 2012 debut. Pieces written for the 2019 film Ocean In a Drop arrived at a nicely settled sweet spot between those extremes, and that gets further development on this album – particularly on the buoyant "F Maj Pixie" and the placid, engagingly meditative "Don't Go." The patterns of these pieces, and others here, seem fairly straightforward at the start. But there's dimensionality at work: What begins as the racing recurring thought of a coder who's compulsive about keeping order on the grid might blossom into something beautifully free, singable, even romantic.