Adult Jazz

"Dusk Song"

Contact Jaycee Rockhold about Adult Jazz

Today, UK-based experimental band Adult Jazz present “Dusk Song,” their first new music in eight years. Although it’s been quite some time since a release, the foursome of Harry Burgess (vocals, synth, programming), Tim Slater (trombone), Steven Wells (guitar) and Tom Howe (synth, programming) never stopped writing. The recording never stopped. The process remained very much alive. Their newest offering “Dusk Song” is an ululation of grief that settles somewhere in the thicket between their debut album Gist Is (2014) and follow up EP Earrings Off (2016).


Throughout “Dusk Song,” Burgess’s Meredith Monk-like vocalizations seed and spiral around Slater’s brass drones. “It’s loosely about slowness and panic coexisting,” explains Burgess, “and not really being able to comprehend those paces alongside each other when it comes to how to respond to the climate crisis.” As an image evoked, its bare hands frantically shoveling dirt, searching uselessly for questions/answers, a headtorch, the overgrowth. It’s a song that bears a cloying, sickening melancholy. The band, a creature caught in the searchlight, startled and comprehending.


About the video, Burgess adds: “I shot the video with my cousin in a river on boxing day 2022, after a day of festive comfort. It was freezing. We were both in the river and there had been a lot of rain. We had the alarm/flash setting on a camping light and we filmed in slow mo in one take. He is wearing these lorry inner tubes across him like a tunic – something Tim came up with on a stag do no less, and has stuck visually –  and a cowl I got from Etsy.”


Adult Jazz has been teasing a follow-up to their debut album Gist Is almost yearly since that record arrived, out of nowhere but fully formed, bright and beautiful in 2014. The band’s cult status speaks to the playful sincerity it spun, grappling with a back-and-forth between religion, gender and desire; a conflict between liberation and tradition, language and communication; between frontman Harry Burgess’s sexuality and the teachings of 90s Christianity. But any thought of grandeur is mistaken. While speaking to The Guardian,  explains simply of the record’s theme: “definitiveness can be painful.”


Musically, Gist Is recalls the heavy but heavenly slow-motion of Arthur Russell, taut but expansive, with a purposeful arhythmic messiness, occasionally resolving into otherworldly falsetto. Laced with the same era-defining weird-pop sensibility of late ‘00s indie rock, Gist Is stood out from its peers, wrapped in musical circles that disarmed and welcomed with every other beat. It found unlikely acclaim amongst publications, musicians and listeners alike, inviting remixes from Shabazz Palaces and (later) Jenny Hval. A performance in Reykjavik even moved Björk to write about the band for Art In America magazine, and David Byrne booked them to play his Meltdown Festival at the Southbank Centre in 2015.


Their follow-up EP Earrings Off! staked out new territory, pushing Adult Jazz into harsher, shapeshifting electronics. Released on tastemaker label Tri Angle in 2016, it was explicitly queer(er), more polarizing and delighted in its dance-don’t-dance giddiness. Writing credits followed for Okay Kaya and Moses Sumney, most notably contributing alongside Oneohtrix Point Never to “Cut Me,” a standout from Sumney’s 2020 album græ. But what Adult Jazz was, was also a group of friends who had drifted geographically apart, who had started jobs and families, and had found a pattern to life outside music. It led to their output being slow – at times, comically so.


Nonetheless, a return to the stage in 2022 with two nights at King’s Place confirmed what many thought: despite Adult Jazz’s relative discretion, a deep fondness had been constant for the band and their music. Beyond the over-inflated prices their records continue to reach on Discogs, it was an appreciation best found in the direct messages, dance routines and wedding songs, tattoos, and reinterpretations continually shared with the band during their silence. There was even a master’s thesis about them.


And Adult Jazz won’t stop here.