Web Web ‘Dance Of The Demons’ LP/CD/DIG (Compost) 5/5

After precisely only a year to the week since the release of their critically acclaimed debut ‘Oracle’, Web Web return with a new album on Germany’s Compost Records, which again is another surprise end-of-summer release. After the critical response of ‘Oracle’ in 2017, which was a firm favourite amongst the UK Vibe team and featured highly in our ‘best of’ charts of that year, the European super group resume their contemporary approach to spiritual jazz with this 9-track sophomore record.

The configuration of the group remains as previous with its quartet of Peter Gall on drums, Christian von Kaphengst on upright bass, Roberto Di Gioia playing piano, synthesiser, organ, percussion and finally Tony Lakatos on tenor and soprano saxophone duties. Confusingly, Discogs has incorrect line-up information and even overlooks von Kaphengst. Additionally for this project the group is joined by Majid Bekkas, the esteemed Moroccan vocalist who furthermore plays guitar and castanets (known as qraqab) on the album. This leads the project into a different direction to ‘Oracle’ (more later) but highlights the group’s progressiveness and adventurous spirit.

The album begins with the hypnotic ‘Land of the Arum Flower’, a 6/8 vocal driven number with its mesmerising tenor saxophone and quite subtle organ underpinnings. ‘Agowu’ and its bouncy rhythm and use of synth textures and piano chords provide space for the added vocals of Majid Bekkas for the first half of the composition. The vibrant ‘Sandia’ is a superb dancer expounding unbound energy and infectious rhythm making it very appealing to the DJ community. And one of my personal favourites, title track ‘Dance of the Demons’, is another 6/8 time signature piece, utilises light synth effects, fluid electric piano and upright bass grooves connecting perfectly to the sporadic vocals of Majid.

Another highlight, ‘Safar’, is an instrumental affair which begins with some open Fender Rhodes chords before the tenor sax and bass parts slowly evolve during its initial build up before it sprouts into a more ‘freer’ composition. But this is still quite accessible and as an obvious reference point is reminiscent of Herbie’s Mwandishi/Warner Bros pre-Head Hunters period. The instrumental ‘Meh Te’ starts in the less common 12/8 time signature but changes to 4/4 for 16 bars at the mid-point and again during the final two minutes; the whole track containing some excellent bass and drum movements.

Via a 7’43” running time, ‘Balini’, is the longest of the set using a drone-like Hammond organ intro, staccato soprano sax, warm organ riffs and almost funky upright bass pattern. And finally, ‘Supereruption’ with its quarter note rim shot hits, electric piano and synth textures, plus layered saxophone parts featuring both soprano and tenor sax is another uptempo composition.

The added use of vocals by Majid Bekkas does move the album slightly away from the previous 100% spiritual jazz aesthetic of Oracle and into a more world fusion direction. But I just hope this doesn’t put off some fans of the previous album as this is another outstanding record. The marketing information states that the next album recording session is already planned for November 2018 – oh, I wish they wouldn’t mention that! Expect ‘Dance of The Demons’ to feature highly in many end of year charts this year too.

Damian Wilkes