A eulogy for the band’s role in the London jazz scene
Cian Kinsella
11:32 2nd November 2022

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After listening to Where I’m Meant To Be in its entirety, it seems apparent that the title of ‘Never the Same Again’, the twelfth track, is a eulogy for the band’s role in the London jazz scene.

My first encounter with this scene was Yussef Kamaal’s Black Focus in 2016, a sublime record that opened up to me worlds of music I’d never before thought could exist. (I was also 18 and grew up in a relatively small city, which partially explains why it was such a dramatic epiphany.) In my subsequent obsession, I got stuck into Ezra Collective’s 2018 debut The Philosopher along with Nubya Garcia, Joe Armon-Jones, Emma Jean-Thackray, Moses Boyd, Tenderlonious, etc. It was lively and exciting! Who knew what the future held for these artists? It felt they had the world at their finger tips.

However, despite the 7/10, Where I’m Meant To Be is a very good record, and perhaps another critic would enjoy it in the exact same way and give it an 8. It’s just… not that different. There are some standouts, like ‘Life Goes On’, which features Sampa the Great, and ‘Togetherness’, a dubby track and bona fide earworm.

Unfortunately, ‘Ego Killah’, which comes straight after ‘Togetherness’, is similar in energy but inferior in pzazz. A skipper, if you will. It demonstrates that Ezra Collective’s problem is that they are an inherently live band. I can imagine it’s a great experience – and even better in their earliest, sweatiest incarnations. In a live and probably inebriated context, ‘Ego Killah’ would segue perfectly from ‘Togetherness’. It's for this same reason that the chatter and the ‘Words’ tracks are unnecessary. They’re inspiring and ‘cool’ in the plainest sense, but trying to replicate the IRL buzz just isn’t working: it highlights both how not live the experience is, and how much better it would be if it was live. Rather than trying to recreate a jam session in my headphones, I’d prefer to hear Ezra Collective lean into the studio vibe and experiment with sounds they can’t reasonably make live.

There are lots of highlights though: ‘Smile’ is one of my favourite songs on the album; the churning bass reminds me of the Mario underground theme. ‘Welcome To My World’ grips my attention for the full seven minutes, even though I’ve listened to the album four times today. I just feel like a parent who’s both pleased with their child and slightly disappointed because they could’ve done better. Ultimately, Ezra Collective’s latest offering is really good – the fact that I’m not bored after four listens is testament to that. But I have my doubts as to whether *this* is where they’re really meant to be.

Where I’m Meant To Be arrives November 4th

Grab your copy of the Gigwise print magazine here.

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