Released: June 2022
Label: Leaving Records
I have waited a long time to review a Sam Gendel project or collaboration, despite having many opportunities to do so. As an artist, he is rapidly becoming deserving of the term ‘prolific’ as he continues to compose and contribute to projects of extremely high quality at an alarming rate. Recently he has been releasing singles in a curious manner off of his latest album ‘SUPERSTORE’ which consists of no less than 34 tracks.
The 1 minute woozy swing of opener ‘Sx Mrnng’ evokes imagery of pouting escorts smoking sullenly in bed, in a twisted nod to the soundtracks of ‘Belle De Jour’ and ‘BUtterfield 8’. It leads into another 1 minute masterpiece, the afore-released ‘Blueblackred’ with the typically "devoid of attack" pump organ sound of sensical dissonance that established fans will instantly recognise.
These familiar stylings continue until fifth track MFV, which will reveal itself to be a take on ‘My Funny Valentine’. A look back into Gendel’s discography will find many impressions of jazz standards including ‘Godblessthechild’, ‘Misty’, ‘Afro Blue’, ‘Goodbye Pork Pie Hat’, ‘Freddie Freeloader’, and ‘In a Sentimental Mood’. ‘SUPERSTORE’ continues this trend by boldly taking on the Miles Davis classic ‘Blue in Green’ which when heard in direct comparison to Davis is a strange but nonetheless beautiful experience with his fleeting returns to the theme becoming an avant garde representation of the original piece perfectly. The ability to interpret standards is one of the key points that affirms Gendel’s work to be jazz, as he reimagines them via aspects of structure, sonics and harmony that others fear to tread, allowing him to convey aspects of his own sorrows.
With many tracks no longer than a minute, the album is the culmination of musicians, not producers, though one often forgets this as the tracks swell and contract, venturing into the furthest reaches of harmonic and textural possibility. The work’s influences change from moment to moment - bossa nova and exotica that are expressed through the most warped of channels move into Islamic inspired soft mallet beaten gongs and instruments capable of quarter tones creating an auditory experience that is utterly transportative, heard most notably on 6th track Foothammer.
There is certainly a thread between all 34 tracks, though one does question whether they were all created with one album in mind, or if they are merely a compilation of the evidently many compilations of Sam Gendel and his contemporaries. Either way, the project does not in any way disappoint and is a feast for those who enjoy unearthing influence beneath a genuinely original musical approach. I can say with no hesitation that I have yet to hear anything that is remotely similar to the work of Sam Gendel, and seeing as post ‘SUPERSTORE’ he has already released another single, I’ve no doubt there will be plenty more to be inspired by. His work subconsciously asks us to be unafraid of experimentation outside the realms of aimless dissonance, a metaphor for more than simply music. It encourages a relentless fusing of fervent study and relentless individualism, key aspects for inspiring change in the agonising open wound that is today’s society.