by Reyna Wang
Up and coming jazz fusion band TinderGodz marks their formation as the night they played a basement show in the Bronx last fall. No one at the show had ever heard of the band, but the crowd was immediately captivated by their distinctively complex yet danceable groove and their playful energy. The five-piece from The New School, who chose their band name on a whim in reference to the bassist’s avid use of Tinder at the time, kicked off their set with a prayer service to the “Tinder gods,” comically slid snippets of traditional jazz into their avant-garde compositions, and tried to hype up the audience by moshing and kicking over stands. But don’t be fooled by their foolishness: TinderGodz’s music demonstrates tastefully innovative manipulation of unusual time signatures and melodies, and their performances are characterized by skillful and expressive musicianship.
This year, TinderGodz released The Emergence EP, aptly named. The band is inspired by experimental jazz musicians like Tigran Hamasyan, Steve Coleman, and Donny McCaslin as well as by metal bands like Meshuggah, and they describe the unique style of their EP as metal on the bottom with jazz harmony and improvisations on top. The bottom is comprised of weighty, metal-inspired bass lines, guitar fuzz, and dense drums, which include rich fills and are saturated with characteristic elements of metal drumming like double kicks and liberal use of cymbals. Still, this “metal bottom” diverges from the metal genre as it meanders through different time signatures and explores complex rhythms. All of the drums on the EP are programmed, as it wasn’t possible to record them live at the time, which is impressive from a production standpoint but unfortunate since the percussion, especially the cymbals, is flat and a bit quiet in the mix, detracting from the full-bodied, heavy groove that TinderGodz brings to their live performances.
“This Is What Happens,” opens the EP explosively, with weighty drums and a rapid and dark sounding guitar riff following the initial brief saxophone solo and a muted shout. The keys add to the intrigue of the tune, creating rhythmic contrast and dissonant jazz harmonies. The sax first builds on the starting riff when it reenters but then breaks away from it into a more freeform melody, loosening the composition from its rapid and rigid start and contibuting to the “improvised top” of TinderGodz’s sound.
Shifting between repeated phrases and improvised segments and guiding each song in new directions, the sax can be seen as taking the place of the fronting vocalist of the band, and though it provides engaging melodies, I would have liked to hear more diversity in the instruments that drive the compositions. These melodies are frequently improvised, allowing for a freedom of movement that gives the EP a dreamlike quality. However, I think TinderGodz’s songs could be improved by catchier melodies or even a real vocalist, increasing the potential for them to be memorable and emotionally evocative. Another drawback to The Emergence EP is that since each instrument was recorded individually, the EP lacks the personality and flow that surface in their live performances as the members of the band respond to one another’s improvisations. Though, to address some of these these drawbacks, the TinderGodz did mention that going forward, they hope to expand the size of their band, adding vocals as well as an extra guitar and more horn parts, and to release a higher quality, live-recorded album.
Still, the playful attitude that characterizes TinderGodz’s live performances manages to come through on the EP. “French Scream” begins with the bassist answering a ringing phone and repeatedly asking, “Hello, is this Baguette?” presumably in reference to their French sax player, culminating in a maniacal scream before the distorted guitar and heavy bass riff take over at full force. The third song is actually a cover of Sandstorm by Darude, a song that the band’s guitarist is inexplicably obsessed with. Though the cover is made in the style of “recorder-core” and is obviously intended to be comical, I would say it’s just as strong as any of the other tracks on the EP. Who knew how much better Sandstorm could sound with some gritty bass, blast beats, and half-decently played recorder?
Though they’ve only released about 20 minutes of material, TinderGodz show that they have a lot of potential to appeal to a wide variety of listeners, which ironically results from their one-of-a-kind, niche jazz-metal sound. Jazz Boys will dig it the EP for its free jazz qualities, metalheads and fans of other harder hitting music will dig it because “this shit is heavy, dude,” and everyone can dig it at the function because it gets them moving. TinderGodz’s music is rhythmically and melodically complex while remaining comprehensible to the casual listener, and achieving this balance is often easier said than done.