ANTI- Records, April 2022
BY ANDREW LUTHRINGER
High Pulp’s fast rise to prominence has an air of inevitability. The band has clearly put in the many requisite hours individually and collectively necessary to achieve a unified band identity, and their second album, Pursuit of Ends, marks a huge step forward—conceptually, compositionally, and sonically—in a relatively short period of time.
High Pulp’s 2018 debut album, Bad Juice, was a strong start, reflective of the band’s live roots, pumping old-school grooves rooted in a funk and ‘70s fusion-based aesthetic, with nods to R&B and modern electronic flavors. However, Pursuit of Ends ups the ante in a big way, expanding the band’s sound and stylistic toolkit which ends up sounding wider ranging yet simultaneously more unified, sustained with a deeper level of sophistication in the compositions.
High Pulp is comprised of keyboard and soundscape wizards Antoine Martel and Rob Homan, the burning saxophone duo of Victory Nguyen on tenor and Andrew Morrill on alto, and a locked-down rhythm section consisting of guitarist Trevor Eulau, bassist Kaeli Earl, and the dexterous grooves of drummer Bobby Granfelt. As individual players, the soloists can dazzle when called upon. High Pulp places a premium on expansive sonic tapestries and group interplay, serving the collective sound, rather than a parade of chops and virtuosity.
Though the production on Pursuit of Ends is lush and encompassing, High Pulp is not a product of the jazz education industrial complex nor a studio creation, but a well-oiled live unit with many touring hours logged, and roots in weekly jam sessions at Seattle’s venerable and essential laboratory of musical exploration, the Royal Room.
High Pulp generates echoes and invocations of sounds ranging from the spiritual jazz of Alice Coltrane to the timbral innovations of Weather Report and the pan-stylistic prog compositional intricacies of Norway’s Jaga Jazzist. Breakbeats, textures from the experimental edges of electronic dance, and ambient whisperings from the analog soundscape combine to create a cross-pollinating amalgam, where abstraction is never untethered from a deep sense of reverence for the groove.
Even with a broad range of inspirations, there is nothing derivative about High Pulp’s sound—the band’s influences mingle in a cosmically organic vibe, generating a “revealed-by-exploration” sound that is a good bead on what the term “jazz” can mean in 2022.
Releasing Pursuit of Ends on the ANTI- Records feels like a great fit, considering the label’s savvy, open-eared disregard for genre boundaries. Major-label prominence leads to guest spots from sax titan Jaleel Shaw and Grammy Award-nominated trumpeter Theo Croker among others, but the real draw is High Pulp’s collective power, which needs no extra ingredients. The Pulp is all you need.
Live, High Pulp’s sonic tapestry is married with psychedelic, animated visuals curated by Phil Homan. High Pulp heads out on tour later this month, concluding with a hometown show on October 6 at Chop Suey.