Even by current stylistically promiscuous standards, Polar Bear is barely on nodding terms with genre definitions. Led by the huge-haired drummer Seb Rochford, whose CV runs the collaborative gamut from Brian Eno to Yoko Ono, they’re a “jazz quintet” only in the broadest possible sense — grounded in the post bop/cool jazz tradition, but informed by individual backgrounds in hardcore, improv, leftfield electronics and avant soul.
In Each And Every One, their fourth album, is their most intriguing to date, due partly to the fact that rather than playing together in the studio, each member was in a separate room with headphones and Rochford — as both bandleader and producer — manipulated the results. The results are obvious from sublime first track “Open See,” which rolls out on an expanse of billowing synth drone, electronics and understatedly mournful sax. There’s a seductive airiness in play throughout — whether on the skittishly percussive and aptly titled “Be Free”; on “WW,” where anxious skronk is set against an illbient backdrop; or on moodily elegant closer “Sometimes,” which marks out a territory where Miles Davis might chew the fat with John Carpenter and Vessel.
In their 10-year career, these five have won over punk, math-rock and experimental noise fans, as well as the avant-jazz cognoscenti. Now, Polar Bear are blasting off in yet another cliché-free, post-everything direction.