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Famously dubbed “the most important band in the world” by Brian Eno, London-based avant-dance group Man Jumping were leagues ahead of their time. Formed in the mid-80s out of the ashes of numerous ambitious, capital-based bands, they sought a middle ground between an emerging avant-garde scene and the rise of club and dance music. Comprised of an outwardly peculiar looking seven-piece percussion-drums-keyboard-saxophone set-up, Man Jumping swiftly attracted the attentions of the big city’s arts world and contemporary classical scene.
Holing up in Philip Bagenal’s Eastcote Studio and working with producer Mike Hedges, the group thrived within the space. “Philip encouraged us to take risks with the material, and if we didn’t, he’d do it for us,” the band’s Charlie Seaward explains. “I suspect that if we had worked at a conventional studio the music would have been less edgy and rather more polite.” Fusing Bagenal’s classical and architectural backgrounds to the powerful rock world Hedges came from, Man Jumping’s forceful, kinetic sound was born.
The Times, The Guardian, and the Observer all named 1985 debut album ‘Jumpcut’ in their albums of the year lists, while Time Out enthused: “Man Jumping merge the exacting algebra of systems music with the warmth, wit and passion of dance music and, in their own small way are revolutionary, unique.” The Wire, meanwhile, noted that “they generate a lot of power and excitement and they’re a lot of fun”, but commercial success still felt just out of the collective’s reach. “We just never found our audience,” says Charlie, lamenting the relative lack of opportunities in a pre-internet age.
Dipping into the leftfield world of This Heat, Throbbing Gristle et al., Man Jumping nevertheless kept their eyes firmly on the dancefloor. Now set for a 2017 re-release ‘Jumpcut’ sounds primed for a more modern era - one which is more open to the idiosyncrasies of the intelligent dance music which Man Jumping made their own. “It was an amalgam which we thought was quite interesting,” Charlie admits, “a crossover in the middle of expressionist music, jazz, and what was happening in the clubs.”
With ‘Jumpcut’ set to arrive in modern-day stereos, it feels right for Man Jumping to finally stake claim to that middle ground - one which is, in this day and age, a far busier place. In the near 30 years since their disbanding, Man Jumping’s members have enjoyed various creative worlds since their split - Charlie, John Lunn, and Schaun Tozer have composed for film, TV and beyond, earning nods from the Grammies, Emmys, Ivor Novellos and more for their subsequent work, while percussionist Martin Ditcham has played for Elton John, Katie Melua, The Waterboys and many more. Glyn Perrin and Andy Blake have delved into musical academia, and Orlando Gough is a renowned contemporary opera composer.
Finally scratching the unresolved itch of their Man Jumping days is the vindication their ambition deserves. “Given how successful my band mates have been, it has been surprising to find that their affection for these long ago albums remains undimmed,” Charlie says enthusiastically. “Looking back, we were very happy at the time we made the two albums. We were less happy with the complete lack of sales and it ended, as these things always do, with disagreements about the future. Had we had the internet, Spotify and the like, we may well have been able to make a better go of it than we did.” Tidying up loose ends from the past, while keeping an eye on the present and future, Man Jumping and their lost gem of a debut album have never seemed more befitting of the era they now find themselves in.
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