Twenty days ago The Neil Cowley Trio released their latest studio excursion Touch and Flee. I'm still not sure why it has taken me such a long time to write about this record, but every time I've gone to do so my words have lacked a fluidity, a failure to portray an overriding sense of what the album is about. You see, the moment I feel like I've manoeuvred the audible pathways that twist and meander across this record, one wanders off on a tangent; One solitary piano line or chugging bass riff is enough to disrupt an albums-worth of imagery that I've built up in my head. So as I settled down today for my fifth listen, I came to the realisation that perhaps Touch and Flee isn't supposed to portray a particular theme, perhaps there is no wider imagery to be grasped from this record, maybe it is just meant to be enjoyed track by track - on a case by case basis.
The eclectic nature of the record certainly supports my theory. Opening with the brilliantly juxtaposing 'Kneel Down', a track which features some intense rhythmic posturing underneath a low - almost sinister - piano melody from Cowley's left hand, it's common to find yourself settling down for a gloomy and involving hour of music. So track 2 comes as a shock when it enters and disperses any notion of melancholy - a sporadic modal piece which flies directly in the face of those who questions the ensembles jazz credentials. By the time the opening sequence of 'Sparkling' has set in, a Coldplay-esque piano movement which shimmers with pop-prowess in the wake of it's predecessors, all concept of rigidity and theme have dissolved. This is clearly an album that has kicked off the shackles of genre definition - and at this stage why should we expect anything different from this trio?
Touch and Flee goes on to exhibit a diverse range of sounds, from the toe-tapping rhythmic dynamism of 'Couch Slouch' (Which I feel represents everything great about this band), to the Bill Evans-laden 'Bryce' and onto 'Mission' in which Cowley utilises a low-fi keyboard for the introduction.
I didn't know how they were going to top 2012's The Face Of Mount Molehill, and for me I'm not even sure if this does, but where their albums before have playfully reinforced the trio's image as the wonderfully immature twitter/vine junkies that social media proves them to be, Touch and Flee is a proper grown up record which encapsulates their class. My advise to you would be to listen to this album in as many different situations as possible; on a tube journey, on a cross country road trip, whilst you're walking your dog in the woods, it will work everywhere and you'll get a different sense of it each time.