This was an interesting choice to open the Future Inn’s autumn season. Perpetual Motion Machine offered the unusual line-up of two guitars, two tenor saxes, bass and drums plus a debut album – Ignition – that ranged from hard-nosed fusion to more lyrical ambience. Though they hail from Yorkshire and are on a Jazz North tour there was a definite family presence in the audience suggesting saxophonist Ben Lowman and drummer Steve Hanley both had local connections.
The gig started politely, with a gentle throat-clearing intro that led, via deftly brushed cymbals, into a light but firm groove and some old-school jazz-rock culminating in portentous guitar-work from Jamie Taylor that almost recalled Yes in their prime.
Despite this, and the Tower of Power-style funk number that followed, the band’s first set felt oddly subdued, the string of unannounced tunes played at restrained volume, the band standing awkwardly as if in a studio rather than on stage. Riley Stone-Lonergan’s tenor took a couple of impressive solos, and Steve Hanley’s drumming was inventively effective throughout but the overall sound lacked much dynamic.
Happily, however, they returned from the break with a much more energetic and engaging approach and things even got quite animated, with guitarist Sam Dunn throwing a fine John Etheridge-recalling solo into Ursa Minor before Riley’s sax blew the tune nicely away. Ben Lowman – who had begun introducing the numbers – opened up at last on the 15-time Stinky, while the use of a moon landing archive loop nicely underpinned the riff-heavy Pink Floydery of Phoebe Moon. By the last two numbers there was a real sense of the creative energy of their record, with the upbeat bustle of Spiderpunch giving composer Jamie Taylor the chance of a blistering solo before Ben Lowman’s contribution added a distinct sparkle.
The closing number – if you don’t count their ‘humungously short’ Led Zeppelin-evoking encore – was Fog Circle, a flowing piece built on the poetic voice of Jamie Taylor’s late grandfather, with an arrangement that used the intertwining of guitars and then saxes in a way that, finally, seemed to free up all of the players. It was good to hear, especially Sam Dunn’s subtly eloquent guitar, and maybe points to an enlivening compositional direction the band could develop with live performance in mind.
Listen to Perpetual Motion Machine’s Ignition on Bandcamp