Reflector is the debut album by London-based Twospeak, a band led by saxophonist Ronan Perrett. He is joined by Joseph Costi, who plays Fender Rhodes, Wurlitzer, Mellotron and a host of other keyboards, Ben Lee on guitar and Ben Brown on drums and percussion. Mike de Souza fills in for Ben Lee on two tracks, whilst Adam Texeira and Ben Rodney guest on percussion. The album effectively combines polyrhythmic jazz, electronica, alternative rock and even world music, which makes it difficult to describe, but also quite exciting to listen to, as Twospeak don't sound like anyone else on the vibrant British jazz scene.
The album emerged from a series of live shows from 2016 onwards, which culminated in a mini-album or maxi-single, Two Ism, in 2019, which showcased four of the band's songs. The launch off the band's debut album was delayed by lockdown, but came out in May 2021, both digitally and on vinyl. The album came from the same sessions as Two Ism, but features seven previously unreleased songs.
The album opens with the title track, which starts with Brown's driving drums, before being joined by Costi's keyboard and and Perrett's knotty saxophone line. This gives way to a quite thrilling breakdown, when Costi's synth and Brown's drums are joined by Adam Texeira's chattering percussion. When Perrett comes back in, he is soon joined the shimmering, African-sounding guitar of Mike de Souza. It sounds like an odd mix, and it many ways it is, but the results are quite intoxicating.
Take a listen to Reflector here:
Hymn In Layers is quite different, and opens with haunting, stately keyboards that presumably give the track its name. Drums and percussion join, then electric guitar, before Perrett's elegant saxophone lines provide an additional layer, soaring over the band.
Gytha opens with a slightly world music feel, courtesy of Ben Lee's guitar, but this is transitory, and quickly gives way to drums and percussive keyboards, which support Perrett's saxophone solo. This section builds into an almost free-jazz section, in which electric guitar competes with saxophone, before a breakdown, led by drums and handclaps, which return us to the more relaxed vibe of the opening. It's a more challenging listen than the opening tracks, for sure, but bursting with ideas, most of which work well.
Fridge Top Cereal Box Trophies begins as fairly straight-ahead polyrhythmic jazz, with Perrett delivering an impressive solo. Two-and-a-half minutes solo this gives way to a Rollins-like Latin section, which is soon broken up by Lee's angry-sounding guitar solo. This is jazz without boundaries, and even if the tune won't have you humming along, it will have you marvel at the audaciousness of the band's approach.
Gloriana opens Side B of the vinyl, and is a more restrained affair, with Perrett playing a gentle refrain over warm-sounding keyboard and chattering percussion. Costi contributes some bass-like support on keyboard, before Ben Lee delivers a shimmering guitar solo.
Sharp Teeth begins with a melodic sax line, with support from drums and Costi's bass-like keyboard, before Lee's guitar provides the 'bite' suggested by the tune's title, adding an angular edge.
As stated previously, the album is available as a digital download, from Bandcamp, or on vinyl. The latter is impressive, as the album has been well mastered by Frank Merritt, and the pressing, courtesy of Curved Vinyl Pressing, is excellent - far better than many big labels are providing.
Perrett's influences are broad, and include John Coltrane, Aphex Twin, Endangered Blood and Deerhoof, and that eclecticism is clearly shared by his colleagues in Twospeak, who have combined to create a quite unique sound, that rewards repeated listening. Recommended.