You’d be forgiven for never having heard of Lapis Lazuli. Nope, they’re nothing to do with the Leonetti Brothers’ superb, léode-wielding French group Lazuli.
This is in fact an upcoming Canterbury quintet who blend that scene’s free, jazz-infused approach to music with progressive, world, funk and math rock influences. Their first two albums, Reality Is and Extended Play came out in 2012, and what we have here is a vinyl-only reissue of their recent release Alien. They’re a resourceful bunch, who you might have caught during a festival appearance or a support slot for Caravan, Syd Arthur or, er, Alice Cooper. In order to stay on the press’s radar they’ve committed to this vinyl release of the album in the hope that it’ll stimulate interest among the more platter-friendly audience, and, well it’s worked with us. Alien is a continuous 40-minute piece of music that proves how versatile these guys are. Phil Holmes’ sax is a major part of their sound, blasting proto-Crimson notes here, very Canterbury lines there. Neil Sullivan’s lyrical guitar often broaches Zappa’s own free-jazz approach, and early in the piece his midi guitar evokes the sounds of some 80s cop thriller soundtrack. High in the mix, Toby Allen’s bass, gives their music an almost afrobeat bounce in part, while Adam Brodigan’s drums are completely in the pocket, with shrewd accents, fiddly rhythms and even four-on-the-floor disco beats keeping everything together. Okay, so maybe Lapis Lazuli aren’t in the same league as some of the monster technicians we regularly feature in these pages, but – something akin to the Ozrics on mogadon – their jammy, dynamic compositions are fun, thrilling, stylistically diverse and melodically compelling (often more than you can say for said monster technicians). Even if you don’t plan to invest in this vinyl reissue, check them out at lapislazuliband.co.uk, and get a taste of some homegrown talent, probably best sampled live, late afternoon during a summer festival, with two too many real ales down you. Reassuring stuff.