Gist Is belongs to that class of albums which require multiple listenings before they gel together, snap into focus and make sense. The first time through the record, the piece parts barely seem to fit together and come off as tumbling stream of atonal guitar and cello lines played against a meandering, disjointed drum track topped off with swooping falsetto vocals. After repeat listens, the connections between seemingly disparate elements become clear and things start to fall into place.
The opening track “Hum” sets the tone for the rest of the record, evoking in equal parts Robert Fripp and Brian Eno’s collaborations and Yes’s Tales from Topographic Oceans. Beginning with a gentle drone, the piece teases the listener with additional textures and layers drifting in and out of the mix. New elements are introduced haphazardly at first, out of tune and out of time. As the song goes on, they eventually align with the rest of the sounds with wonderful results.
“Donne Tongue,” “Pigeon Skulls” and “Be a Girl,” are the albums weaker offerings. For the former, patches of intentional dissonance break up the groove without adding anything to the greater whole, seemingly an attempt to challenge the listener that falls flat. “Pigeon Skulls” could stand to be edited for length. It starts out strong but fizzles fast by dragging on without going anywhere interesting. “Be a Girl,” sounds like a sloppy warmup jam, meant for the booth engineer’s sound check rather than for actual release.
“Spook” is the standout track on this record. On the double-vinyl version of this album, this song kicks off side one of the second platter. Unlike “Hum,” as the song builds the added elements don’t take their time settling in. They come in locked in and ready to go. The upshot is that this allows for smoother transitions between the song’s ebbs and flows. The vocal melody, guitar counter melody, and the polyrhythmic backing track twist and twine their way around each other. All the different elements floating throughout the rest of the record finally mesh together in an almost-ten-minute long epic that is highly engaging and surprisingly moving.
Despite a few missteps, Gist Is is a strong debut album. Adult Jazz has given us a welcome glimpse into their haunting, atmospheric musical world.