“The Chip Age” – A Review of Joshua Morse’s “Waveform 4”


“Hey buddy, you got chip in my jazz.  Actually, y'know what?  Just leave it there.  It's rad.”
“Hey buddy, you got chip in my jazz. Actually, y’know what? Just leave it there. It’s rad.”

Joshua Morse‘s newest jazz-fusion short release, Waveform 4, has to be the most charming thing I’ve heard in a good while. Jazz has always been my favorite style of music I know nothing about, and any time I come across an “X-jazz” genre tag I get all tingly. And if you’re a little more familiar with jazz and the word “fusion” terrifies you, I say, “Worry not, citizen!” This release keeps it reigned in, being creative and enjoyable without getting avant-garde or just plain weird. As per his own mission statement, Mr. Morse does indeed prove that not all jazz is elevator music.

Now, I do have to admit, it took me a little while to actually accept that this album is jazz-inspired, but that has everything to do with my skewed perceptions. I lay the blame squarely on my college’s radio station, which plays some really pretentious, fringe nonsense when it comes to jazz. I swear, next time I hear a DJ say “post-bop” on the air, I’m gonna call in and give someone a knuckle sandwich over the phone.

But, I digress. Every track on this short album (or EP, or “chipdisk” as Morse himself puts it, or what have you) is a choice cut. The opening track, “Turtle Dance 3,” brings it old school, straddling the line between honest jazz and arcade soundtrack that the retro gamers are incredibly familiar with. It won’t make you think of a specific title so much as like, all of Sega at once. “Fusion Factory” achieves the impossible by throwing a bunch of genres into a blender and creating a coherent product. There’s funk, there’s disco, there’s jazz, there’s chip, I could go on. Use your imagination, and “You Got Me” is the back-beat to an R&B jam 20 years out from now. I really expected Robotic Barry White to roll out at some point, no joke. “Galactic EQ Bands” sounds like something out of an 80s action movie soundtrack, and I mean that as high praise. The way it opens will put you right back into a Beverly Hills Cop shootout. The closer “It’s Like Flying” not only lives up to its title, but brings a truckload of passion to bear as well. You can put your own love-song lyrics to the synth and piano melodies in certain parts; that’s how much raw emotion this track has.

Naturally I’m gonna gripe about the length of this release, because it’s a knockout and I’d love more of it. At the same time, however, I’m rather thankful that it’s only five tracks long. Each track stands high and solitary, being entirely unique with regard to the other four. This is something I can’t really see as being possible in a full album’s worth of material, or at least I would consider it a feat only pulled off on incredibly rare occasions. Yet it works as an album as well because of the common jazz thread woven through each cut. I believe that balance, that “one out of many” quality is what makes this release truly special.

Danwich has begun work on an amateur American Gothic novel.  You can read its beginnings here.  He would love your votes.

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