Review: Dice Factory (2012)


artist: Dice Fact­ory
release: Dice Fact­ory
format: CD
year of release: 2012
label: Babel
dur­a­tion: 54:49

detailed info: dis​cogs​.com

Though it’s a slight styl­istic side­track from what I usu­ally serve up here, I don’t want to with­hold this jazz album from you. London’s new quar­tet Dice Fact­ory have just released a self-titled debut album and it’s a bull­seye, twist­ing a jam and improv-based approach to a set of sur­pris­ingly tight tracks.

The line-up is a mite tra­di­tional per­haps (drums: Jon Scott, piano: George Fogel, bass: Tom Farmer, tenor sax: Tom Chal­lenger), but the com­pos­i­tions betray a broad range of influ­ences from all sorts of exper­i­mental areas, as well as rock and funk. Farmer’s bass is the most steady factor on the album, align­ing with either the drums or the piano to provide a rhythmic base, though this sounds much more bor­ing than it is. With the some­times abrupt tempo and meter changes going on, rhythm is one of the excit­ing factors here, as it should be. Challenger’s sax is more eph­em­eral and free-ranging, often provid­ing the main melody, or coun­ter­points to Fogel’s piano.

While Dice Fact­ory has its calmer moments, the band isn’t afraid to step up the tempo and/or add a little chaos at times. In fact, find­ing struc­ture in chaos was one of the con­cep­tual points of depar­ture for the band, accord­ing to Chal­lenger. What makes the res­ult so suc­cess­ful is that they main­tain a strong hold on the over­all struc­ture. The tracks never des­cend into so much seem­ingly ran­dom nood­ling that free jazz is some­times dis­missed for; rather, there’s a per­fect bal­ance between rhythmic and har­monic explor­a­tion and the cent­ral dir­ec­tion of a track. Some parts, like “Saribund” and “You’re Lucky” are really funky with some very tight rhythm sec­tions that tug at your mind. And the end­ing part of “T.N.G” with its ever-deepening chord pro­gres­sion is just beau­ti­ful, plain and simple. It’s as if the band was afraid to end the album on such a warm and har­mo­ni­ous note that they decided to throw a jumpy forty-one second coda after it.

So, a nice sur­prise to find this album in my mail­box. Although the over­all sound and pro­duc­tion is per­haps a bit tra­di­tional and pol­ished – a bit more grit and dirt wouldn’t have done any harm – Dice Fact­ory have an excel­lent sense of dir­ec­tion and a firm grip on a bal­ance between com­pos­i­tion and impro­visa­tion. The engin­eer­ing of chaos sug­ges­ted by the band’s name is clearly aud­ible through­out and proves to be an approach that pays off greatly when done right, as these men have.

Reviewed by O.S.

Track­list:

1. Heyu Nan­tucket (7:56)
2. Gooch (5:47)
3. Saribund (4:32)
4. You’re Lucky (5:42)
5. Eternal Sleep (6:00)
6. Zout (3:58)
7. Eternal Moment (5:35)
8. Pipes (5:37)
9. T.N.G (9:01)
10. Saribund (Coda) (0:41)