When a musician is both prolific and open to lots of influences, they’ll end up with lots of musical ideas that don’t quite fit their regular outlet. Such is the case for multi-instrumentalist Adrian Jones. Whilst working on the Nine Stones Close album ‘One Eye On The Sunrise’, he and studio engineer/multi-instrumentalist Michel Simons recorded various pieces of music of a more laid-back and ambient nature. Rather more rooted within electronica and the darker worlds of Massive Attack than rock, the musical ideas were eventually released as an album, ‘The Path of Least Existence‘ credited to Jet Black Sea in 2013. With Jones returning to Nine Stones Close almost immediately afterwards and their ‘Leaves‘ album featuring some very dark and anguished material, it seemed like Jet Black Sea was merely a temporary outlet. A brilliant outlet, but not necessarily an ongoing fixture in the 9SC family tree. However, three years after their first Sea voyage, Jones and Simons re-entered the studio.
Over the course of a couple of years, the fourth album from Anglo-Dutch band Nine Stones Close – 2012’s ‘One Eye On The Sunrise’ – built up a cult following. Its combination of extended musical workouts and thoughtful song writing really spoke to sections the prog rock audience. Aside from a rather flat drum sound it had a lot going for it, presenting music that culled lots of influence from the past, but still felt contemporary. Fans eagerly awaited a follow-up, but it was clear they’d have to wait some time. Band leader/guitarist Adrian Jones had embarked upon extra curricular work with Michel Simons (9SC’s engineer) creating more sonically spacious music, the results of which can be heard on the excellent Jet Black Sea debut. Keyboard player Brendan Eyre, too, had moved on, eventually releasing ‘Northlands’, a mellow collection of tunes with Tony Patterson. Perhaps the biggest instigator in delaying the follow-up, though, was the departure of vocalist Mark Atkinson.
Jet Black Sea is an experimental, extra-curricular musical outlet for a couple of cult figures associated with the prog rock scene. Nine Stones Close guitarist Adrian Jones and his band producer Michel Simons created the project in order to create music that stretches beyond the parent band’s more direct progressive rock and metal sounds. Stripped of all vocals and the most of the crunchy guitars heard on many a Nine Stones Close recording, there are still some meaty sounds present and a few rock influenced passages, but Jet Black Sea’s core sound is almost ambient in comparison. Not necessarily ambient in the true “Eno/Music For Airports” sense, but definitely more chilled out. Naturally, there’s still a great deal of prog at the heart of their music – given the pairing’s usual musical outlet, that is unsurprising – but it is prog rock in a much more minimal sense, although ‘The Path of Least Existence’s broad soundscapes rarely sound minimalist in their overall vision. An hour’s worth of instrumental sounds float by without ever resorting to self-indulgence and a stronger focus on keyboards brings a very cinematic feel to proceedings throughout.