In the Middle with Cykada

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London-based outfit Cykada will be a new name to most, but with a line-up that includes members of Ezra Collective, Maisha and Where Pathways Meet, the six-piece are set to be the next great act to emerge from the capital’s fertile jazz scene. The band headline the Soul Rebels Sessions Xmas Party at The Wardrobe next week, playing original material from their forthcoming debut LP on Astigmatic records, alongside live renditions of L.A. Beats crafted by visionary producers such as Flying Lotus, Mono/Poly and Mndsgn.

The group’s bassist, Jamie Benzies, is looking forward to revisiting the L.A. Beats material, having initially explored it for Cykada’s show at London’s Jazz Cafe earlier this year. “It’s been fun as a bass player checking out Thundercat’s basslines,” he expresses, joking that “I’m going to need to practice to get some of them back under my fingers!” It’s the innate musicality of Flying Lotus’ music — much of it featuring Thundercat — that most appeals to Jamie. “You can hear his relationship to Coltrane in there,” he suggests, referring to Flying Lotus’ relation to aunt, Alice Coltrane, her late husband John and his collaboration with their son, Ravi Coltrane. “These jazzy references are quite deep. They’re often hidden under different layers and different things going on the music. They come across as a synthy or electronic at some points, but when you dissect the music, you’re like, ‘OK, this guy!’”

Jamie’s Cykada bandmate Tile Gigichi-Lipere, whose role as live programmer gives their sound an electronic edge, is also a longtime fan of the L.A.-based beatmaker and his musical peers. He and Jamie used to play together in Myriad Forest alongside Yussef Dayes (formerly of Yussef Kamaal) and Steam Down’s Ahnansé, and the pair go back a long way. When they met drummer Tim Doyle and formed Cykada, their intention was to take their time and find their sound naturally, through a process of jamming and experimentation. Having at one time been in nine bands simultaneously, the freedom it represented was key to Jamie.

“I became more keen on doing something which has a longer vision,” Jamie explains, “where you get together with people you know you can work with, people you love sharing a space with…and you take your time, you make sure you’re enjoying your music and as that comes, everything else comes.” With trumpeter Axel Kaner-Lidstrom, saxophonist James Mollison and guitarist Javi Perez completing the line-up of exciting underground talents, the group have realised a unique and progressive fusion. Rhythms from West African and Eastern European music underpin psychedelic licks and modulation, spontaneous jazz-rooted improvisation and a funkiness traceable through brokenbeat, to hip-hop to original funk and fusion.

“I became more keen on doing something which has a longer vision […] you take your time, you make sure you’re enjoying your music and as that comes, everything else comes.”

It’s a sound perfect for the live stage and that they wanted to capture in as lively a sense as possible, when laying down the material for their forthcoming debut at Total Refreshment Centre. “We wanted to capture the energy of a live performance, which is is very difficult to do in a studio” Jamie states. “Largely, that was about keeping it relaxed,” he explains. “There are some bits of editing… but compared to your average produced album, it’s very much just us playing in a room, which is something I’m very keen on.” Jamie sights the intensity of classic records by Miles Davis and Led Zeppelin to illustrate his point, explaining that aside from Tile’s later contributions, the takes are very much live studio performances.

The band’s energy, intensity and musical chemistry is evident in their live shows. Whether exploring the far reaches of their own compositions or bringing new dimensions to the West Coast vibe, they’ll produce something quite special at The Wardrobe on 1st December.

Joshua French