Article originally appeared on 4ZZZ Nov 29th 2016
Most people are gonna have trouble picking out the distinction, but Mr Ott calls itself ethio-jazz, or is at least largely inspired by Matthew Ottignon’s travels with Dereb the Ambassador and the work of Mulatu Astatke, the ostensible father of the genre. While it shares a lot of the same cultural antecedents, it’s very much a western creature, not world music exactly, but a new world amalgamation that feels more akin to BADBADNOTGOOD’s gap year in Addis Ababa than something more traditional.
As ever in this kind of category, your enjoyment of instrumental cadent drift will power your intake of the album. Much of Single Shot has a tumbling kineticism that harkens back to some of the finest examples of camp ’60’s cinema title sequencing. As fun as that sounds, there’s an almost ingrained futility in being able to invoke an image without putting purpose to it.
At times it’s easy to start wishing there was more variation, but that’s at odds with something that’s predicated on a melismatic structure, the extended build of minute variations riffing on a central theme. Each track does contain its own small quirks, like the almost chip tune deviations that bookend Snakebite or the percussive bedrock that lies under Dragon Majesty, but they’re each mildly obscured by their own main purpose. Even the album closer, Space Will Win, which leans into an almost odyssean preamble that seems most promisingly different, simply takes twice as long as the rest to get there.
In spite of this, or perhaps specifically because of the hypnotic recidivism in its construction, Single Shot is hugely engaging if you surrender to it. Clever, confident, and nuanced in the same way as a colour gradient moving from pink to fuchsia. You can get swept up in it, but you have to be open to the trancelike inundation of African inspired syncopation and the soft melismatic swell of musical minutiae. That or just put it on in the background while you clean the house.