Those of us who enjoy the Canterbury sound have long realised that geography has little to do with it. The quirky, melodic jazz-rock of Soft Machine, National Health and Hatfield And The North has spread far beyond the Kent cathedral town. It has left its mark in France, the Netherlands, Italy, the US – and even in A Coruna on the north-western tip of Spain, home of Amoeba Split.
Quiet Euphoria is only their third album in 22 years and it is their most Canterbury-inspired release, with added Frank Zappa from the Hot Rats and Grand Wazoo era, and occasional nods to Miles Davis. So we get warm blasts of brass, throwback Hammond organ, sinuous Moog, moody flute and surprise vibraphone, all held together by a rich, sometimes fuzzy bass and tasteful drumming.
There are moments when the eight-piece band is pounding you with repetitive riffs as a keyboard solo weaves through the gaps, but there are also times of quiet euphoria as sparse piano notes and chords create pools of calm. For example, the title track opens with lone piano notes offering a slow, menacing riff. They are joined by simple piano chords played a couple of octaves higher, before the track crashes into a dramatic brass & keyboard riff.
Shaping Shadows starts life with what sounds like a Japanese bowed instrument (a kokyu perhaps) over descending minor chords, then switches into a pretty flute tune set to a gentle Latin swing before muted trumpet takes over for what could be some Sixties lounge music. But just as you think you can sit back, kick off your loafers and start hitting the cocktails, it plunges into a 5/4 riff with wailing sax lead.
On The Inner Driving Voice, a lone horn suggests a medieval fanfare before a magnificent Hammond organ over electric guitar chords screams Jethro Tull circa 1972. Divide and Conquer offers a more electronic palette, with Phil Miller-ish guitar lines over thumping drums and fuzz bass, while Thrown to the Lions enters more traditional jazz improv territory with saxophone blowing over electric piano backing and lots of rimshots from the engine room.
The 11-minute closer No Time for Lullabies harks back to the title track with its moody piano opening – plenty of minor chord arpeggios up and down the keyboard, and saxophone playing low and slow – before a repetitive bleeping noise introduces a bass, drums and sax improv that could have come straight from a Soft Machine album. It closes with what sounds like a children’s musical box tinkle, short flute phrases over piano chords and, finally, a burst of tuneless electronic buzzing. Weird!
Cinematic, shapeshifting and surprising, Quiet Euphoria is an impeccably-played jazz-fusion album with a strong sense of melody, packed full of contrasting rhythms and moods – sometimes within the same composition. Some prog fans may find it a little too, well, nice – except for the final track, there is little here to upset the neighbours.
But if you are content to sit back and let some lovely Canterbury-style jazz sounds wash over you, then Quiet Euphoria is likely to leave you feeling, well, quietly euphoric.
01. Quiet Euphoria (7:18)
02. Shaping Shadows (5:20)
03. The Inner Driving Force (5:59)
04. Divide and Conquer (3:02)
05. Thrown to the Lions (7:23)
06. No Time for Lullabies (11:05)
Total Time – 40:07
Alberto Villarroya López – Bass, Guitars, Keyboards, Compositions
Ricardo Castro Varela – Piano, Electric Piano, Hammond Organ, Arrangements
Iago Mouriño – Piano, Electric Piano, Moog, Hammond Organ
Fernando Lamas – Drums & Percussion
Pablo Añón – Tenor Saxophone, Alto Clarinet
Dubi Baamonde – Soprano Saxophone, Flute
Rubén Salvador – Trumpet, Flugelhorn
Israel Arranz – Vibraphone
Record Label: Amarxe
Country of Origin: Spain
Date of Release: 7th April 2023