Spotlight: Mammal Hands

Photo by Didier Peron,

Following last year’s Floa and the 2014 debut Animalia, Norwich jazz fusion trio Mammal Hands released their third album Shadow Work on November 3rd, 2017. While it retains the band’s sonic core – a beautiful amalgam of jazz, electronica, ambient and classical among others – Shadow Work sees the band growing on their previous releases and shifting up a gear to a more expressive and expansive sound.

From the comforting warm groove of “Black Sails” to the intense, sax-led buildup in “Boreal Forest”, from the trippy aura of “Living Frost” to the foreboreding atmosphere of “Transfixed”, Shadow Work is an engaging listen from start to finish.

Check below for some essentials you need to know about Mammal Hands.




Mammal Hands met in April 2012, while busking in Norwich. They gelled quickly, drawn to each other’s open approach to music making. Brothers Nick and Jordan were already playing together as an electronica duo but with drummer Jesse joining the band they developed a distinctive sound drawing on their love of electronic, contemporary classical, world and jazz music. Jesse’s influences are wide ranging, drawing much from his studies with tabla maestro Sirishkumar Manji, he blends the intricate and complex rhythmic patterns of tabla with the melodic lines in the trio, bringing a distinctive approach to the drums and the rhythmic framework of the band’s tunes. Jordan brings a love of DJ culture and folk music from around the world, as well as the influence of Pharoah Sanders and John Coltrane to his playing whilst pianist Nick brings a knowledge of classical Jazz harmonies but also a deep interest in the minimalist composers (Terry Riley, Steve Reich, LaMonte Young) which has influenced his compositional approach, striving to create hypnotic, rhythmic patterns that can provide a foundation for Jordan and Jesse to build on. It is this unique combination of influences and their unusual baseless line-up that makes Mammal Hands’ sound so distinctive.

Jordan Smart – Saxophones
Nick Smart – Piano
Jesse Barrett – Drums and Tabla
Norwich, United Kingdom
Gondwana Records 
Shadow Work, November 2017
Floa, May 2016
Animalia, September 2014

“The semi-classical drums/sax/piano trio Mammal Hands mutate into a high-volume rave act.”
– The Guardian


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Congratulations on your new album Shadow Work. Anything you’d like to share about the making of the record? Was there any change in the process compared to your previous albums?

Nick – I think the main difference with this record is it’s the first one we produced ourselves, which meant we had total creative freedom in the studio and we went into greater depth with sound design and shaping the record as a whole.

What is the story behind the album title and cover?

Jordan – The album artwork is by Daniel Halsall and is intended to tie in with themes of nature and minimalism, which are important to us. The album title is a reference to efforts that people put into things that are invisible in a sense, work going on behind the scenes or hidden from view.

What we like most about MH albums is that your arrangements sound more structured than most free-form jazz fusion recordings. And there seems to be a wide array of influences and genres that go into the albums’ makeup. Can you tell us a bit what and who were your musical influences growing up? And how about today?

Photo by Tom Barrett

Nick – I think when we were growing up all of us were influenced by Irish folk music to different degrees, we were all exposed to that music at a young age and I feel like the cyclical nature of that music and the melodic phrasing and structure has sunk into our collective unconscious somehow. More recently though, I think we’ve all been influenced by American minimalist music, Hip Hop, North Indian Carnatic music, electronic music and both American and European Jazz and we’ve focused in on our favourite elements of this music and tried to make something new.

You also recently unveiled a video for “Boreal Forest.” Is there anything you can share about the creation of the video? And any particular reason why you chose that song?

Nick – The crew who came down and shot the video from Manchester were Rich Williams and Luca Rudlin, who did an amazing job of filming and editing it all together. We had the idea of making the video near Norwich where we live, as nearly all of our other videos have been made elsewhere and it felt like a good time to make something close to home. We were toying with a few different locations but settled on Jesse’s dads wood workshop as it had a really unique, rustic and  homely feel to it. We set up in there and also took a drone out around some nearby woodland and a beach along the Norfolk coast to get some shots to intersperse with us playing in the workshop.

I think the main reason we chose that song is partly down to the length of it but also it felt like it would be fun to try and match the intensity of the music with the visuals, its a track that keeps progressing and building in intensity and trying to match that intensity in the video was a fun challenge.

You’ve been on tour since October to support Shadow Work. How has it been so far? Is there anything specifically that you are looking forward to on your future dates?

Nick – The tour has been great so far, nice audiences everywhere we’ve been and we’ve had really good response to the new material. Our next show in London is at Union Chapel on the 21st November and we’re all really looking forward to that, its a beautiful venue and our biggest London show so far. Also, we’re heading to Japan for the first time in a few weeks, really excited to be able to play out there as we’ve had a really positive response to our records over there so far.

What is next on the agenda for Mammal Hands?

Jordan – We’re looking forward to getting on the road and touring this album, testing and developing the material live and playing it out to and meeting people.

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