Elusive and barely distinguishable behind a wall of paint on their self-titled EP, Mabgate hide in colourful shadows, hoping their maintained beats and creativity see them through. It does, but knowing a musician is half the battle when trying to pass half-hearted comments on a piece over deadline and under-researched. Seven tracks total, one intro, one outro and one interlude included. Intro serves its purpose. Exactly what it says on the tin, like cracking open a jar of mood-setting paste. Shovel it down your throat. Eat, eat, eat. Mabgate are displaying their wonderous, piano-led charms and all you can think of is paste. Wonderful this self-titled debut is, its shimmers and twangs of echoed eeriness bring a jolt to proceedings.
Funk and Soul slide through this EP piece, of course it does. Where would modern jazz be without it? How would I Asked, the stellar, full-length observation, work without the interplay of that kind? Confident tones on that first full track are abundantly clear, and rightly so. Mabgate knows what they have on their hands and are keen to showcase it in all its glory. Smooth tones and a deeper focus on percussion guides those early moments before saxophone spontaneity works on through. Mabgate feels like a tremendous place not just for the eponymous musicians but for those who want to dip their toes in jazz. A whirlwind experience it becomes, and as electric guitar appeal starts shuffling in underneath, a clear line of artistic reasoning is drawn.
Testing the waters slowly, carefully and considerably well with the follow-up track Tell It How I See It adds a crisp vocal layer to the articulate and vibrant instrumentals. Within this track is a funkier, sharper edge, a biting cry of belief and cool, lush momentum. Passionate and restrained in equal, agonised measure. Yet beneath that weight of measured desire for someone known just as darling is an unmeasurable, vocal power. Mabgate strives for these new fields of perfection and reaps the rewards, deservedly and frequently. Only on Mabgate can listeners get an experience of what, presumably, huffing paint in a room made of kaleidoscope brain puzzles will be. A brief interlude here, a closing moment there, and it all brings out the delicate, essential pacing Mabgate steady themselves and their listeners with. Leeds gain themselves a keen and ready jazz troupe with Nico Widdowson, Ed Allen and Richard Moulton crashing together.
Free-flowing quips or instrumentally structured intensity where not a note goes awry? Neither? Both? Mabgate blurs an impossibly difficult line and brings out those broad and essential feelings of majesty. In awe of their work and stunned as to where it could, conceptually, head next, this self-titled EP debut is a perfect introduction to a jazz piece with their hands on something tremendous. Slight implementations that, to new ears, will be a delight, and to returning hardheads of the jazz genre, will provide wry smiles from their leather sofa, a tug of the turtleneck and a push-up of their glasses, sliding down the rim of their nose from grease and tears sloshing together after hearing the gorgeous, organ-clad Club 45. Effective soundscapes, projecting classy showcases and electronic appeal, never afraid to spin something new or shout something out. Gorgeous collections of contemporary, modern jazz made to share with loved ones. “Jazz. Funk. Austin Powers.” That’s what my mum thinks, anyway.