Review & Stream Kansas City's best instrumental 4-piece band "Le Grand" bursts onto the scene today with much anticipation as this marks the release of their first studio EP "Plastic Jazz." Le Grand has been a band for roughly ten years and have gone through a couple genre/lineup changes since their inception. They perform as a three piece with a backing track of their long distance bass guitar player. Le Grand's shows are always a special treat for me, they usually play old video games in the background which brings a nostalgic feel to the experience.
This album will catch you off guard, dazzling you with methodical clash and sweeping you with gorgeous texture. All throughout “Plastic Jazz”, the instruments of "Le Grand" come together and coalesce into something purely enjoyable. This kind of cohesion is rare, and enables some rather daring compositions. One must approach this record fully open and surrender to the dynamic nature of the adventurous liberties expressed through these compositions to fully appreciate the top-tier level of artistry contained in this record which will surely go down on the books in the fusion/math rock hall of fame. Riff by riff, the quartet seem to always be considering the modern attention span - the tracks tie thousands of musical ecologies together, yet always return to the cut’s first premise.
Opening with a brisk metal drum fill, “Plastic Jazz's” premier track, “Button Mashing”, delivers a stunning open hand to the listeners face. Crafting rhythmic phrasings similar to groups like “Marmalade Butcher” and “Dajiro”, the band’s string section deliver familiar pacing in “Button Mashing” yet with entirely new tonal aesthetics. Drifting away from the Japanese video-game funk of the aforementioned groups, the band delves into deeper and more mature content, divorced from any satirical appropriation. Diluting the unique blend of fusion and tropical Latin influences, the first single has "Father Figure's" 2012 release “Congratulations on Your Loss” written all over it. Somewhere in between “Al Di Meola's” textural style and “Kazumi Watanabe's” high end, one finds this vein of math. Developing this idea, on the same path as the aforementioned bands is the mastery that could only be fused together by "Le Grand." With its duration thoughtfully lengthened, the band quickly run the listener out of the acrobatic obstacle course into a more open sonic space. With every progressing measure, the tropical day walk becomes less and less obstructed and becomes transparent and pure. Concluding with a reversal into uninhibited guitar solos, the disruption quiets the rhythmic foundation and burns itself as the centerfold. Victory! ...but with no further ground to dance on. Displaying spectacular impositions throughout and as precise as a new obsession, “Le Grand” has possibly made math rocks most complete record. Dense AF.
“Ultimate Zoomba Warrior” is more marbled and wet. The dry tone is replaced with a basin of pedal effects, but maintains similar frenetic shredding over the electronic backdrop. The middle of the song reaches a full development - carrying a bare-facing, almost sexually-flaunting property. The complexity is balanced with slick spacing and a few more easy-going rhythmic dislocations. Le Grand have a unique gift of playing an idiom and then shifting it in the most unexpected of ways.
Following is “Fat Thing”, which as its name implies is rooted in deep and fat bass foundations. Being in 6:8, it’s one of the most accessible songs on the album with a structure similar to elegant jazz manouche tracks. The phrases run through different modes instead of different rates which is refreshing after two songs of sheer chaos. Being not quite a bembe nor a progressive 6:8 ballad this track stands out as the hit of the record. Truly a sound you would expect to come out of “Chon” during the “Newborn Sun” era, “Le Grand” have redefined a classic sound we all loved, all the while injecting the future mercilessly into it and us, the listeners at large.
“This Shirt” has a 7 vibe and a section in 6. Alongside cuts and elongated melodies that apply fusion jazz resolution, this track is beyond impeccable.
“Matthew 2.0 (Matthew-Matthew)” employs surfer rock riffs with the attitude of metal.
These guys know exactly what the math rock community wants and boy, do they deliver. There are so many bands that come to mind hearing this like "Kit Fisto" and “America Beach.” Maybe that’s because “Le Grand” straight-up embodies the "math god" pantheon. “Not The Newest,” perhaps my favorite track, is guided by Latin stomping grooves and odd meter clave on the ride cymbal. Punchy math rock directs the track, all the while showcasing fiery drumming chops. The same sonic idea is run through tranquil dotted 8th notes before running back to all three idioms fighting for the leadership position. Something “Tigran Hamasyan” songs have become famous for - the running of entire musical sections into new rates is also a signature of "Le Grand" and their level of artistry. In conclusion, this short EP packs an enormous amount of punch and has everything anyone could even dream of wanting in a math or progressive rock record.
Le Grand is:
Josh Snow: Guitar,
Sterling Dorrell: Guitar
Sam Sartorious: Drums
Chelby Hanks: Bass