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Famously described by Brian Eno as 'the most important band in the world', Man Jumping were a musical ensemble formed in England in the 1983 which included former members of the group Lost Jockey. The band were variously described as playing 'systems music' (using repetitive musical loops and themes typically used by such avant garde US composers as Steve Reich, Philip Glass and Terry Riley) or 'systems funk'.
Style and work
The music of Man Jumping drew on jazz fusion, ethnic musics, electronics and funk to create an alternative world dance music. Keyboardist Orlando Gough said in an interview, in March 1985: "I suppose there is some kind of nebulous central core of ideas, which may to do with us all having come out of systems music and our interest in foreign music but actually we are influenced by Steely Dan, James Blood Ulmer, Bach, Beethoven".
A demo produced by Mike Hedges led to a contract with Bill Nelson's Cocteau Records who released their first album Jump Cut in early 1985. Produced by Philip Bagenal and recorded at Bagenal's own studio in Notting Hill, "Eastcote Productions", it attracted rave reviews. Time Out said: "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. I adore this album".
A series of 12" remixes, whilst immaculately produced, failed to fully crossover, however, to the nascent dance scene of the era.
The original LP, with the additional 12"s and alternative mixes, was reissued in 1999 on the Shaping the Invisible label (available via The Gift of Music website). Music critic Richard Williams, reviewing the album on its re-release suggested, "So maybe Man Jumping, a brilliant and volatile notion which gave rise to brilliant and volatile music was never destined for longevity. As a unit they lasted four years and two albums, but their legacy is demonstrably durable, a testament to their originality of thought and commitment to an idea of what music might be rather than an imitation of what it already was. Created from theory and technique, it nevertheless liberated itself from formal restrictions and took shape with a thrilling sense of its own possibilities. Carefully planned but made in the moment, we might say. And, as it turns out, built to last."
A long deleted second album appeared on vinyl (and briefly on CD), on EG Records, in 1987 entitled World Service. Less organic than its predecessor and more obviously electronic, it is stylistically similar to The Penguin Cafe Orchestra (of imagined ethnic music from the Tropics and Eastern Europe) and to Miles Davis' 80s electric work with Marcus Miller. Typical the EMI label, which acquired EG, has refused to re-release this album or to allow its release, on an economic basis, by others.
Of the band's members, John Lunn and Orlando Gough went on to have the most visible solo careers - Lunn in television music, and Gough as composer for multi-disciplinary a cappella group The Shout and music for dance companies. Despite many apparent requests, Gough has stated that he has no interest in reforming Man Jumping.
- Jump Cut (1985) Cocteau JC 5
- World Service (1987) EG EEGCD 49
- Jump Cut (1999) (with bonus tracks)
- Shaping the Invisible STI 02