Ma - The Last: jazzwise (4*)

Saxophonist Tom Challenger and his band Ma's long-awaited second album is a departure from the more jazzily conventional 2008 debut Jyketie. Challenger, a member of the Loop Collective and sideman of Outhouse and Porpoise Corpus as well as ex-Warp records band Red Snapper, has spent a four year period since his debut developing a language for his band that will allow open-minded improvisers to engage with the world of contemporary post-dub electronica. Matt Calvert handles the latter part, sampling, treating and filtering elements of Challenger's brooding, fragmented sax melodies, Ross Stanley's Messiaen-like washes of organ and fender rhodes, and Outhouse's Dave Smith's elliptical sabar-influenced broken grooves with subtle invention. But Ma's entirely mesmerising version of jazztronica has its roots in tradition too: the 1970s Miles era with its emphasis on dark backbeats, studio effects, collective improv and sonic textures. Both Norwegian avant nu-jazz and the UK's dynamic underground electronic scene that includes bands such as Boards of Canada and Burial, all appear on Challenger's radar, and if you can hear something of the spacey psych-rock of early Pink Floyd or Miles Davis' 1974 \\Get Up With It'' you'r not entirely imagining it.

Selwyn Harris