Kobol – Broken Ebony

Broken Ebony

Broken Ebony, Kobol’s debut, is the result of the musical relationship between multi-instrumentalist Ignacio Chavez (Plankton Man, ex-Nortec Collective) and drummer Argel Medina (Nino Astronauta). As the title suggests, the album is comprised of disjointed, keyboard-based jazz pieces. But Kobol is not content to stop there. The band combines nu-jazz and IDM elements with standard jazz (sans the brass) to create some intriguing cinematic soundscapes. Underneath, the tunes are infused with skittery electronic percussion sounds, while loosely structured keyboard melodies, guitars, and upright bass float in and out of the mix.

There are no real songs here in the pop sense, and while each track includes some smooth rhythms and colorful melodies, they also tend to meander along with no real purpose. The heavy use of electronic percussion and knob twiddling often create choppy clicks that interfere with the more pleasant passages. Case in point is “Terror Pig,” which starts off with some slow clicks and bleeps and quickly turns into a full-blown traffic jam complete with helicopter noise. In contrast, “Roble” contains smooth acoustic percussion and a more downtempo beat with light keyboards providing the backdrop. Most of the tunes are somewhere in between, combining snaps, crackles and pops with floating synthesizer chord progressions draped in sleek jazz guitar, piano, and bass.

The disc closes with a remix of the title track, and along with “Hilton,” “Command Station,” “Es Particular,” and the aforementioned “Roble,” they comprise the disc’s best tracks. They tend to be more focused, slower, ambient creations that don’t bombard the listener with quite so many choppy clicks and beats. Medina’s hands at drums and percussion inject a human emotionality into the music by providing natural beats in balance with the techno beats, and he often includes additional percussion instruments. Kobol show its adventurous side by including voices on “Soka.” Not singing voices, but sampled and spliced into the mix and used as percussion.

Broken Ebony is more of a jazz album with a techno influence and works best when you don’t give it your full attention. If you do, the songs will not have quite enough substance to hold on to, but if you want some nice spiced-up jazz as background music to create a cool mood at a Sunday brunch with you hipster friends, Broken Ebony will do fine.