Onom Agemo & the Disco Jumpers are a Berlin based quintet that have recently released their debut album Cranes and Carpets through german label Agogo records. This album is a rich mixture of jazz and funk which draws heavily upon North African influences. The songs are all composed by saxophonist Johannes Schleiermacher, (also part of the Woima Collective project) who, along with the rest of the band, have travelled extensively to Ethiopia and Morocco in order to absorb and assimilate these North African elements and translate them into their own sound.
The result is an addictive collection of funky Ethiopian grooves combining the fundamentals of free jazz and afrobeat backed with a concrete hip-hop pulse.
The opening track ‘Trudy the monster’ is one of the shortest and probably the catchiest on the album. The funky breakbeat style drums from the brilliant Bernd Oezsevim along with the syncopated strut of Kalle Enkelmann on the bass gives this tune instant cool factor. The main melody played by Johannes on sax, which he doubles up with himself on flute could be mistaken for a sample from an older record, due to this funky hiphop style.
‘Le Bess’ is a slow groover built on the meandering meters style guitar of Kalle Zeier that glides over the solid rhythm, interrupted with the sustained discordance of Jörg Hochapfel on synth. This laid-back vibe is more prominent of the first half of the album, which builds in intensity throughout the rest of the songs.
‘Cool runnings’ sees Bernd picking up the pace by introducing a more intense, sixteen note interplay between his snare and kick creating an instant shift in mood. Johannes then starts to introduce a more dissonant element integrating north african scales into his melodies and licks that really cranks up the tension. This and the spacey, electronic components that Jörg’s synth adds, especially in ‘Escape Cultural,’ mixed with their afro-funk/jazz traits really sets them apart as something refreshingly unique.
My personal favourite on the album is ‘Badminton.’ Bernd starts with a manic, almost drum and bass style rhythm that is chased by funky Kalle Zeier’s rhythm guitar. Johannes delivers a doubled melody of uneasy harmony between his sax and flute which drives up the tension further. This followed by the raucous free jazz outbreaks between Johannes sax and Jörg’s synthesiser makes for a twitchingly mental and brilliant tune. This builds to the final track ‘Issawa’ which stands out as the most unique track on the album. This is mainly due to being the only track incorporating vocals and is also the tune that they recorded in Morocco with extra musicians (predominantly horn players) that they collaborated with whilst over there.
I thoroughly recommend this album, but should mention that it is a grower, and it deserves two or three long listens until all of the subtle layers reveal themselves. They currently seem to only be playing at home in Germany over summer, but keep your eyes peeled for any U.K dates, as with their uptempo funk, hellish grooves, and generous helpings of improvisation, these guys live would be something not to be missed.