Mammal Hands are a trio of like-minded musicians: Nick Smart piano, Jesse Barrett drums and tabla, and Jordan Smart saxophones. Floa is their second album for Gondwana Records and in the 18 months since their debut, Animalia, they have carved out a growing following both here and abroad for their hypnotic fusion of jazz, folk and electronica: winning fans from Bonobo and Gilles Peterson to Jamie Cullum. Landmark live performances have included shows at King’s Place in London and the RNCM in Manchester, as well as a barn-storming debut at the Montreal Jazz Festival (where they debuted as part of the BBC Introducing showcase). A performance which has seen them invited to return to the US and Canada this year. Drawing on a rich well of influences from Sufi and shamanic African trance music, Irish and Eastern European folk music, to Steve Reich and Philip Glass and more contemporary electronica influences, their music is built around deceptively simple sounding ideas that are lent power through the use of repetition and rhythmic loops. They have been compared to both Portico Quartet and GoGo Penguin for the way in which they navigate the choppy waters between contemporary dance music and jazz.
Mammal Hands met in April 2012, while busking in Norwich. They gelled quickly, drawn to each other’s open approach to music making. Brothers Nick and Jordan were already playing together as an electronica duo but with drummer Jesse joining the band they developed a distinctive sound drawing on their love of electronic, contemporary classical, world and jazz music. Jesse’s influences are wide ranging, drawing much from his studies with tabla maestro Sirishkumar Manji, he blends the intricate and complex rhythmic patterns of tabla with the melodic lines in the trio, bringing a distinctive approach to the drums and the rhythmic framework of the band’s tunes. Jordan brings a love of DJ culture and folk music from around the world, as well as the influence of Pharoah Sanders and John Coltrane to his playing whilst pianist Nick brings a knowledge of classical Jazz harmonies but also a deep interest in the minimalist composers (Terry Riley, Steve Reich, LaMonte Young) which has influenced his compositional approach, striving to create hypnotic, rhythmic patterns that can provide a foundation for Jordan and Jesse to build on. It is this unique combination of influences and their unusual baseless line-up that makes Mammal Hands’ sound so distinctive.