Hailing from Derbyshire in the UK and formed some ten years ago, Hitiro comprises Alan Brown (guitar), Simon Hall (bass) and Martin Ball (drums); their self-titled debut, released in 2017, turned out to be one of the discoveries of that year. Drawing from a diverse pool of influences, the seven instrumental tunes reflected the combined background of the Hitiro line-up. And as the ‘pandemic interrupted’ second album seemed to be such a natural progression I was curious as to how the trio approached the music writing process. I contacted Alan Brown and posed the question; did they write from fully written charts, or a basic framework, or perhaps as a result of jamming, and then develop the pieces from there? Alan’s response confirmed the latter and my initial thoughts:
“We just jam in the studio. Someone will have an idea and we play and record everything, absolutely everything, and then listen back and pick something, or just a few seconds of something we like, and then expand and create from that…”
This organic and empathic approach certainly works and although the second album commenced in 2020, which had to be put on hold throughout the pandemic, with each member working from home during that period, it is a testament to the guys that when they finally did get back together, how their different approaches came together so coherently.
Before moving on to the album, something I’ve referred to in previous reviews is the musical intention of the artist, and the perception of the listener, especially when it comes to instrumental music. There are, however, occasions when the two coincide, as is the case here with the meatier, riff-based Buzz. It gets the foot tapping and the head bobbing, and it does exactly what it says – gives you a buzz.
One of the heavier pieces from II, it demonstrates some of the cross-genre influences that can be found throughout the album. In equal measures a track could said to be jazz-rock or funk, or not, as the case may be, but collectively the trio approach the piece in a wholly different fashion. Take track four, Not Jazz – is it jazz or isn’t it? According to Alan the track was written in response to someone who expressed an opinion that their music would never be jazz, so they wrote the piece to prove him right. 😉
Regardless of genre(s), Hitiro have their own very distinctive voice, and I may well hear snatches of Weather Report or Brand X, however they are invariably fleeting. The guys themselves give us hints too. Krantz, for instance, honours American guitarist and composer Wayne Krantz. Equally, I may look to the late ’60s, to those early psychedelic exponents at the beginnings of progressive rock. Again, my thanks to Alan for some background to the tracks. With Martin Ball’s tight tribal drumming and Simon’s percolating groove bass lines, the album’s slow burning opener Concrete Jungle depicts “where the edge of the jungle meets the city”. Musically that visual transition works really well. ATG (which stands for ‘After the Gig’) was written following the trio’s debut gig. A track of many moods and, according to my scribbled notes, likely to conjure thoughts of Messrs Levin, Bruford and Belew, along with Mr Fripp’s Frippertronics.
Elsewhere, and drawing inspiration from the poetry of Omar Khyyam, the album’s title tune Turret perhaps offers an insight as to the trio’s skewed musical view of the world. A personal favourite, the foundation for the busy opening section starts with Martin’s tumbling toms, followed by Simon’s busy bass, and topped with Alan’s nicely voiced chords and themed lead guitar. Later, space is allowed to accommodate a tasteful bass solo, before climbing back into the busier rhythms. And here, if we return to the trio’s approach to writing, then Doodle makes absolute sense. A wonderful blending of different ideas which are melded into a cohesive track. The rhythm section are on the money throughout, with Alan Brown’s guitar weaving in and out, bringing it all together.
The album closes peacefully with something a little different. Alan employs acoustic guitar, sparse but very effective drumming from Martin, leaving Simon to slide gracefully across the fretless fingerboard. And there we have it. Hitiro brings together three fantastic musos who have collectively combined their shared muse to create an intriguing and absorbing fifty minutes of music.
01. Concrete Jungle (5:46)
02. ATG (7:45)
03. Buzz (5:13)
04. Not Jazz (7:31)
05. Turret (5:55)
06. Krantz (5:59)
07. Doodle (6:13)
08. The Waiting (6:38)
Total Time – 51:00
Alan Brown – Guitars
Martin Ball – Drums
Simon Hall – Bass
Record Label: Independent
Country of Origin: U.K.
Date of Release: 8th December 2023