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Jaga Jazzist Records ‘Starfire’

Jaga Jazzist is a prog-rock band, a jam band, a jazz ensemble and an electronic outfit all in one. The eight-piece Swedish group records differently on its sixth studio full-length, Starfire, even if the final result doesn’t sound too far away from its predecessors.

Until Starfire, the members of Jaga Jazzist spent months rehearsing new material prior to recording. This time central figure Lars Horntveth decamped to Los Angeles with his Pro Tools rig, Universal Audio Apollo, and Purple Sweet Ten Lunchbox with two Neve 1073LB mic preamps, two Neve 1073 EQs, two Skibbe 736-5 preamps, two API 512C preamps, and two Neve compressors. Also essential parts of his setup are a Prophet-5, a vintage Roland string synth, a piano used as an arpeggio synthesizer, and a number of soft synths. The start of the songs are synthetic and so the individual Jaga Jazzist musicians are brought in to make the sounds acoustic and organic.

“It was much more constructed,” says Horntveth of Starfire’s development. “I wanted to bring the band in one on one and try to get the most of each person. When people have a chance to do more, not just think about the part they’re supposed to play but really indulge in the music and be creative, they can participate more in the music than they would have if we were nine people in the same room.”

With the five songs on Starfire each clocking in at more than 10 minutes, there was a lot of room for exploration within the tracks. The idea was to not have a traditional strong structure with verses, bridges and choruses, but rather, a flow. The title track, for instance, took three years to put together out of three different sessions. In retrospect, Horntveth believes bouncing the potential parts of each session into Ableton for construction would have been easier, particularly for the guitar portion at the start of “Starfire” and the electronic half-beat that comes later.

“An early idea for this album was presenting a song, then later in the song, doing a remix of the same song,” Horntveth says. “For ‘Oban,’ after the arpeggio bass synthesizers with romantic strings [which was written for a Swedish radio theater piece four years ago], it goes back to the ‘verse’ but in a different setting which is more like a 4/4 house beat and then explores something very different from earlier in the song.”