Techno and jazz haven't worked so well together (techno here signifying the multi-veined sprawl of post-Detroit electronic music). The polyglot new genre often looks at the established vanguard as a way station to those ephemeral destinations signposted "legitimacy" and "credibility"; evoking its AP musicianship and even incorporating some of its instrumentation out of insecurity for all the knob-twisting, mouse-clicking and pad-pattering. Vancouver's Cobblestone Jazz would appear to belong to this oft-repeated narrative. But the group's debut album, 23 Seconds, bares no breath, brass or wood. Built from pixels, terabytes and pure electricity, it looks to jazz as a rubric for communal, off-the-cuff composition. The trio consists of Danuel Tate switching between a Rhodes and a vocoder, Mathew Jonson on beats and bass, and Tyger Dhula splitting the difference with processing and colorations. He may boast the dancefloor pedigree, but Jonson easily plays the cog in Cobblestone's collective mechanics.
With tracks documenting ephemeral in-studio performances as the trio circulates ideas from behind their noisemakers, 23 Seconds doesn't wander or waste. The are a few worst-case-scenarios as the group lapses into designer atmospheres: when Tate gets too fancy and free as his fingers fly into muso territory or the other guys let some treacle blend into the liquid titanium currents. But mostly, CJ stir up frosty vacuums of darting activity barely held together by cubist clockwork rhythms that push ahead on morphing appendages. There's a semblance of a drumkit in the lisping high-hat on "Change Your Apesuit," as Tate's keys cascade skyward. When not smearing the reverb vaulting with smears of half-lipped vocoder, Tate smothers a warped horn as it mutters and moans under the crackle-and-glide propulsions of "PBD."
One of the group's stealthiest tunes hides behind the silliest of titles: "Lime in Da Coconut" finds Tate dismembering the Rhodes as if tapping with six-fingered hands over interlocking spirals of double-dribble rhythm and scrambles of android snarls. A bonus disc collects not just the group's two expansive 2006 A-sides (spellbound squirm of a ghost train on "India In Me" and the laser-singed, snare-propelled "Dump Truck") but also boasts an extensive recording of the trio live in Madrid. Though passages of 23 Seconds surface here as if airlifted from Disc 1, there are vast stretches of new land.
Snaking over permafrost, Cobblestone Jazz sets radio dials squealing, synths dripping from cold water washes and bass throbbing in mineralized fog. It may be hydra-headed, but Cobblestone Jazz soberly navigates crooked pathways.