THE SCHMOOZENBERGS – Mouse (Schmusic Records, SCHCD02)

MouseMouse is the third album in a career spanning over a decade for Bristol-based The Schmoozenbergs, and their first new release since 2019’s Awaken. Starting life as a duo in 2012, the band settled into their current four-piece line-up in 2017, when they also released their self-titled first album.

Awaken and now Mouse are confidently showcase their own material, a homage to the styles of music they love that is neither pastiche nor slavish recreation. Their take on traditional Balkan, Celtic, gypsy jazz, klezmer styles and flashes of jazz-funk, spills out as a bright, warm cinemascope of sound. Indeed, Mouse is a deliciously sensory album.

Setting the scene is ‘Captain Headspin’, fizzing with busy jazz energy, all pure white Art Deco hotels, palm lounges and Poirot shimmying into view. In a similar musical vein are the tiny pattering footsteps, scurrying motifs and plucked string mid-section of title track, ‘Mouse’ which gathers speed towards a dizzying close.

Double bass anchors ‘Tango 20’, by turns lazily seductive or fiery, as violin and guitars face off, with a central motif that hints at Mary Hopkin’s ‘Those Were The Days’. No? Just me, then.

Pausing for breath, ‘Shadows’ writhes and laments in a gypsy style with touches of Spanish guitar. But the tempo soon picks up again with the slip-sliding Celtic-inspired sprawl of ‘The Craic Is Back’, just before ‘Supermoon’ takes us sinuously in an Easterly direction. This is followed by ‘Iseult’s Bees (revisited)’, a jazzy buzzy drawl, a summer afternoon basking in a patch of sunlight.

The sudden sharp jazz-funk bassline of ‘Acceptance’ makes for quite the mood change, despite its lyrical, romantic violin overtone. Staying in the funk groove, ‘Funk Mole’ presents a different vibe again: a loose-limbed mix of shivering riffs and staccato bursts.

The insistent rhythm of closer, ‘Happy Landings’ sparkles with guitar and violin like sun on the sea, becoming the musical equivalent of the orange-red sunset of a Garibaldi cocktail. It’s a mellow warm-down after the relentless energy of the previous tracks.

The Schmoozenbergs’ interplay of supple musicianship allows each instrument to bend and flex effortlessly into whatever shape the song requires, serving up traditional music influences with panache, brio and a side order of flourish. It’s energetic and energising – and right now the sun, not seen for many months, is shining. Must be The Schmoozenbergs effect.

Su O’Brien

Artists’ website:

‘Captain Headspin’: