top of page
August 2021 Highlights SunNeverSetsOnMusic

August 2021 Highlights SunNeverSetsOnMusic

Watch Now

Favourites|August2021

Kenny Garrett - Sounds From The Ancestor

Sounds From The Ancestors

by Kenny Garrett

Released 27 August 2021

Challenge Records International

*****

Composer/saxophonist Kenny Garrett emerged as a distinctive voice on the national scene in 1978 with an undisputed aptitude for emotive melodic phrasing that led him to collaborations with Woody Shaw, Freddie Hubbard, Art Blakey and Miles Davis.

With Sounds from the Ancestors, Garrett remembers the spirit of the sounds of African ancestors from church services, recited prayers, songs from the work fields, Yoruban chants and African drums, alongside tributes to Roy Hargrove and two drum pioneers — Art Blakey and Tony Allen — who all looked into the past to influence the future sound and evolution of jazz.

His music is characterised by technical facility, compositional flair, and an enviable ability to meld compelling rhythms with attractive melodies. All this remains as true as ever on his latest album.
As the album title makes clear, Sounds from the Ancestors explores his ancestral musical legacy, exploring a variety of musical styles from Africa and the African diaspora.

This is a similar approach to that taken by eminent young London-based musicians like Shabaka Hutchings, Nubya Garcia and Nérija, but with an emphasis on genres such as Afro-Cuban jazz, Black American gospel and R&B. Miles Davis’ album On The Corner is an accredited influence, but mostly for its inventive approach towards extending the jazz vocabulary. This is much more melodic music that sits comfortably within the modern jazz tradition.

In addition to Garrett’s group—Vernell Brown, Jr. (piano), Corcoran Holt (bass), Ronald Bruner (drums) and Rudy Bird (percussion)—the album hosts many guest musicians including vocalists Dwight Trible, Linny Smith, Chris Ashley Anthony and Sheherazade Holman.

The songs are all written by Garrett with the exception of a brief interpolation from John Coltrane’s A Love Supreme. This appears in the initial stand-out track, Hargrove, that also features the greatest number of vocal contributions, including from Garrett himself, over a rhythm that steadily progresses from a hard bop beat in the tradition of Roy Hargrove to something more Coltrane-like.

Source: London Jazz News

Greentea Peng - Man Made

MAN MADE

by Greentea Peng

Released 23 July 2021

Universal Music Operations

*****

outh Londoner Greentea Peng vibrates a little differently from the rest of us. Genuinely – her debut album was purposely recorded at 432Hz (and not the industry standard 440) because of the frequency’s much-discussed soothing properties.

Within lies a hazy miasma of jazz, righteous reggae, easy-going hip-hop and vintage neo-soul in which the echo effects of dub and the swirl of psychedelia hand off to skitters of drum’n’bass. “Krishna and Jah” keep watch over the recording studio.

Anchoring all these inputs and 18 producers is Aria Wells herself – her voice, featherlight even in anger, weary in the best way – and her concerns.

Free My People is self-explanatory. “Babylon, won’t play your game,” she sings on Maya, a standout. Suffer is a succinct track about the commonality of suffering, built on an elegant little recurring arpeggio.

Atmospheres, healing and processing society’s messages are the point here, rather than hits.

But Wells doesn’t lack for tunes, which ebb in and out. Dingaling in particular distils Greentea Peng’s essence into an accessible form.

Man Made can veer towards aimlessness and self-parody – “Eat some shrooms,” Wells sings, ruining the jazz piano vibes on Party Hard Interlude. But the overarching charms of this record aren’t overly diminished.

 

Source: The Guardian

DTx2 - Blood Wine or Honey

DTx2

by Blood Wine or Honey

Released 25 June 2021

Bastard Jazz Recordings

****-

DTx2, the brand new album from Blood Wine or Honey, looks ahead to an uncertain future while drawing deep on the band's past experiences and influences. Written and recorded during 2020-21, it welcomes a host of new co-conspirators from Hong Kong, the UK and the US.

Jean Daval, aka Preservation (credits include Yasiin Bey fka Mos Def, MF Doom, RZA, GZA, Raekwon, KRS-One, Aesop Rock), provided truffle-hunted beats, synths and basses, which, when put through the BWoH mangle, emerged as 'Messenger'.

Superstar and old friend of the band KT Tunstall came to work with BWoH after they contributed a DJ mix for her lockdown ‘KTRave’ on Instagram. ‘Attraction’ was the result. Wonky bass, found-bounce beats and Buddy Rich drums smashed out by Tim Weller (Marc Almond, Future Sound of London, Goldfrapp, The Chemical Brothers, David Axelrod) resulted in a bonkers production with passionate vocals and layers of harmony.

'I Shall Rush Out As I Am' is a collaboration with legendary pop provocateur Paul Morley and Janice Lau of Hong Kong band David Boring. The track is based on the words and the spirit of sci-fi writer, satirist, literary critic and radical feminist Joanna Russ and took shape quickly, with tinges of A Certain Ratio and memories of Suicide, provoking Janice to an authentic scream-of-consciousness delivery.

Multi-talented London singer, musician and composer Kamal (Neighbourhood Recordings) took time away from being the Next Big Thing to transform 'Testing Time’ with funk-edged keys. Zoë Brewster, a key figure in the extraordinary ’90s Hong Kong music scene, contributed vocals.

Roughly divided, the album’s first set of songs make relatively short statements, punchily self-contained with common threads. The final four tracks, Testing Time, Embers, Embrasure and Echt Embrace disperse into flights of mantric fantasy, with quicksand time-signature shifts and key-changes emerging into a more introspective zone with a fervent pulse, a shift in energy: stamina over speed.

“During These Difficult Times. A clause so commonplace it’s a sardonic refrain. The hard times become the norm; the sentiment is redundant. This album is a mode of expression in a tight space—Hong Kong. The city is a limited but not limiting zone, a small world encompassing an infinite Mandelbrot set of Ballardian high-rise and hidden activity. It’s not a ‘lockdown’ album. In Hong Kong we’ve never been truly locked down, but shut in; isolated in a wider sense, provoking us to look outside the 2-person bubble and enlist some unexpected collaborators. We discovered, fittingly, that ‘DTx2’ encodes all sorts of things: it’s a human enzyme, a protein coding gene; a make of Yamaha electronic drums from 1996; a model of underwater drone.

It feels like everything has already been said but in the small spaces between all the monumental tropes there is, perhaps, room for some interstitial fauna; some remaining species of idea worth talking about. There’s a tone of agoraphobia, rather than fear of small spaces. It's dancing inside a wardrobe, a furtive, prohibited kind of fun. No one is supposed to be really having a good time. Things are very serious but there is life in small stories, stories in our small lives, our intricate journeys, reflections, interjections, modes of travel, heavy hold-baggage and carry-ons.”

Source: Bandcamp

Jessica Lauren - Almeria

Almeria

by Jessica Lauren

Released 4 May 2018

Freestyle Records

*****

Since the early 1990s, keyboard player Jessica Lauren has been a familiar part of London's alternative music scene. Jessica's keyboard skills have augmented the live performances and studio recordings of world renowned artists such as Jean Carne, Tom Browne, Dexter Wansel and James Mason, Japan's United Future Organisation, and UK soul diva Juliet Roberts.

Her previous Freestyle album 'Jessica Lauren Four' (2012) highlighted Jessica's minimalist approach, something rare and refreshing in the jazz world: she instills her compositions and playing with a refined sense of space which makes her music as much about what she doesn't play as what she does.

The albums' opener - Kofi Nomad is a deeply percussive afrocentric epic, featuring the beautiful baritone saxaphone of Tamar 'Collocutor' Osborn, one of the most in demand woodwind players working today, underpinned by a powerful foundation of percussion courtesy of Richard Ọlátúndé Baker, Phillip Harper and drummer Cosimo Keita Cadore.

Jessicas' amazing skill for writing simple, understated yet superbly memorable and catchy hooks remains undiminished. Highlights in this new collection are almost too numerous to mention, but Amalfi is a breezy bossa, which conjures up images of easy living days and sun dappled Mediterranean coastlines, whilst the angular and brooding Simba Jike has something of an Eddie Harris style deep, dark groove over which Jessica riffs and solos beautifully on grand piano - and Tamar once again blows freely, whilst 'level' Neville Malcolms' upright bass figure roots the entire thing in a solid, almost primeval sound.

The albums closing statement Argentina is a masterpiece of pathos and perfectly demonstrates Jessicas' approach which is almost akin to a minimalist architecture style of composing and playing, such is the strength of its atmosphere and subtlety.

Source: Bandcamp

Grandbrothers - All the Unknown

All the Unknown

by Grandbrothers

Released 15 January 2021

City Slang

****-

On the leafy cover for their third album, All The Unknown, Grandbrothers invite the spectator to peer through the thick foliage of a hawthorn bush, seemingly powered by a similar sense of curiosity that informed their exploratory new record. Ditching the restrictions of their former setup, with their new record the Turkish-German / Swiss duo took a leap into the dense unknown—and landed on their feet.

The album maps out a wide-open soundworld of compositional possibilities for pianist Erol Sarp and producer / electronic engineer Lukas Vogel, who have been putting their modern and unique electronic spin on prepared piano since first forming in 2012. Forgoing the need to play every single note live, this new album sees the pair juxtapose the old and new once again, venturing further into the electronic cosmos armed with a grand piano, self-built computer-controlled mechanics, and a new sense of latitude.

Source: Bandcamp

Hypnotic Brass Ensemble - This Is A Mindfulness Drill

This is a Mindfulness Drill: A Reimagining of Richard Youngs' 'Sapphie'

by Hypnotic Brass Ensemble

Released 25 June 2021

Jagjaguwar

*****

The great indie label catalogue revival is in full season as Mercury enters retrograde for the second time this year (which friends tell me is an excellent moment to reflect upon the past, with the universe rewarding patience and understanding).

In March this year, four decades of 4AD signalled in the mammoth compilation Bills & Aches & Blues, where their stars-of-new – the likes of Dry Cleaning, Maria Somerville and Tkay Maidza – reimagined their favourite parts of the label’s history, from Pixies to His Name Is Alive. 15 years behind them in time alone comes Jagjaguwar, gathering pace, with this discreet-at-first glance – but vital – offering as part of their own “JAG25” birthday celebrations.

Hypnotic Brass Ensemble’s This Is a Mindfulness Drill is a quietly contemplative song-for-song rework of Richard Youngs’ 1998 album Sapphie: a record of remarkable purity and solace, originally released on Oblique Recordings before being picked up by Jagjaguwar at the turn of the century. Its three tracks of sparse classical guitar and voice span 37 minutes with a droning brittleness, never needless, both weightless yet battered and bruised, heart-breaking yet life-affirming for the folk revivalists and ambient auteurs alike. It’s the kind of record whose meditative brilliance you wonder and worry might escape you today, should 20 years of repeat listening be so inexorably woven into an album’s being that time is the only spade needed to bury an underground classic.

Enlisting the help of Moses Sumney, Perfume Genius and Sharon Van Etten, Hypnotic Brass Ensemble’s covers build on the original’s gentle fingerpicking into an abounding brass lull, always one restrained moment away from ecstasy. Sumney’s craquelure falsetto dismisses the modesty of ‘Soon It Will Be Fire’ for a concerto, turning exposition into an immediate soft centrepiece. The solitary sage at the heart of Youngs’ ‘A Fullness of Light In Your Soul’ is transformed from “Your picture is still on my wall”-era Daniel Johnston with Mike Hadreas’s gentle confidence, while Van Etten’s still vocals on ‘The Graze of Days’ swarm into mandatory deep listening.

Throughout a remarkable tribute, the only misjudged element is the edited album title. But in Youngs’ words, “reimagining anything is unimaginable”. Across a record heralded as one of the most important, unheard treasures of the last half decade of the twentieth century, what breaks through now is no less a mystery than it was then. Even framed in communality, in contradiction to Youngs’ solitary masterpiece, this rework of Sapphie still feels like a deeply personal thing, leagues beyond some cake and candles for Jagjaguwar.

Source: Loud and Quiet

Nicola Conte, Gianluca Petrella - People Need People

People Need People

by Nicola Conte, Gianluca Petrella

Released 26 February 2021

Edizioni Ishter

*****

New music forms contaminated by various genres characterize our globalized world’s recent history; the intertwining of individual experiences creates new collaborations, as in this specifc case. Sixteen years after the release of “New Standards” (2001, SCEP336) Nicola Conte meets again his friend and colleague Gianluca Petrella, an eclectic Italian jazz scene talent, open to new experiences and collaborations: this encounter let to the publication of three new 12” EP’s in only three years, plus the recent single “The Higher Love” and the release of “Let Your Light Shine On” by Nicola Conte & Spiritual Galaxy.
The exchange between the two musicians / producers takes place not only on a songwriting level but also on a research one: vinyl rarities, the diggin’ activity, the use of samples, sounds, rigorously vintage instruments and sounds deliver a product brave enough to communicate the club culture enthusiasm to conquer a new market capable of soliciting new interests in the nu-soul and jazz scene. From Detroit future dance to afrobeat and spiritual jazz through a nu-disco sound, the unique vibe of “People Need People” drags us in search of deep music in a spiritual and mantric context. In a peculiar historical moment Nicola Conte and Gianluca Petrella send a message of hope, of aggregation and Universal Love. A feeling of elevation and solidarity is shared Through Raashan’s poetry, something that can predict winds of change for humanity, a feeling that flows from a higher love.
“People Need People” is more than just a new album, it’s a collective experience wisely directed by Nicola and Gianluca that sees the participation of numerous artists from different parts of the world: Raashan Ahmad (USA), Nduduzo Makhathini (South Africa), Magnus Lindgren (Sweden), Débo Ray (USA), Bridgette Amofah (England), Abdissa Assefa (Finland/Ethiopia), Teppo Makynen (Finland), together with young Italian promising stars Davide Shorty, Carolina Bubbico, Tommaso Cappellato, Seby Burgio, Marco Rubegni, Pasquale Calò, and the already known Pasquale Mirra and Simone Padovani. “People Need People” is the mature fruit of an unstoppable and constantly evolving work of research and exchange that’s been able to break down every possible distance during its long and complex making-of process. The songs taken from the previous EP’s have also been further revised, reworked and expanded, with the addition of six new tracks. Looking at the past and fetching sounds, rhythms and instruments typical of
tribal / African traditions, soul / spiritual jazz and cosmic music from it, Nicola and Gianluca have performed an operation of strong contamination with modern electronic sounds, disco and hip-hop, creating a completely original hybrid. Their goal is to accompany the listener through a collective spiritual elevation path, guided by the only true universal language: music. In a historical period marked by contrasts, lack of communication and forced social distancing, “People Need People” proves to be even more essential and necessary. 

Source: Bandcamp

Lost Girls - Menneskekollektivet

Menneskekollekitvet

by Lost Girls

Released 26 March 2021

Smalltown Supersound

*****

Norwegian duo Lost Girls, artist and writer Jenny Hval and multi-instrumentalist Håvard Volden, release their first album after collaborating for more than ten years. Volden has been playing regularly in Hval's live band for more than a decade, and their duo project goes back to an acoustic collaborative album from 2012, using the moniker Nude on Sand. Instead of resurrecting the previous band, Hval and Volden opted for a fresh start for their 2018 EP Feeling, taking nomenclatural inspiration from the 2006 graphic novel by writer Alan Moore and comics artist Melinda Gebbie.

For their first LP, Hval and Volden booked an actual studio (Øra studios, Trondheim, Norway), which they had never done before. Recording sessions took place in March 2020, even if they felt like the material wasn’t really ready for recording. This left a lot to improvisation, and so Menneskekollektivet was created in-between set structures and the energy of collective exploration.

Perhaps this is what makes Menneskekollektivet unique: The quality of trying something, to see if the structures fit. In a way this is a more physical version of what Hval has been exploring lyrically over the past decade in her solo work. The title is Norwegian and translates to human collective, which adds to the feeling of a recording made as part of a strange, improvised performance project.

The music flickers; between club beats and improvised guitar textures; between spoken word and melodic vocal textures; between abstract and harmonic synth lines. Throughout the piece, Volden’s guitar and Hval’s voice come across as equals, wandering, wondering, meandering. Sharing the space.

The writing process began with short, more concise forms, but then Volden brought in experiments with seasick synth loops and drum machines, and the work went off on a longer durational tangent, inspired by chance and intuition. This allowed for an unfinished, raw feel, and the song structures and words were expanded and improvised in the studio. Hval says: “There are lots of late night ideas at work, begun as half-asleep, slack vocal takes on top of something really strange Håvard has sent me. We both record before we know what we’re actually doing.”

Lyrics has a peculiar place on Menneskekollektivet. Hval felt she couldn’t write anything for this music that really mattered, and she decided to concentrate on words as performed situations, sometimes just talking into the mic, sometimes finding rhymes or musical phrases and using them like a bot or music software. Yet they relate to each other, like the many repetitions of “making me in opposition” on Love, Lovers build emotional complexity like a club track would build intensity with its drum machine pattern. Volden’s guitar somehow works in the same mode, building intensity with lines that are sometimes jarring, sometimes harmonic.

In this way, Lost Girls leave both form and content, music and words, suspended in a piece in the puzzle of human performance. A human performance that resembles a rave party, but after the party’s over and the music has been switched off. What is left is a collective inner monologue: The ravers have forgotten that the night can end, and as the sun rises, they slowly turn to stone, or melt down to water, or they are in the middle of some other metamorphosis that is more than just coming down. 

Source: AllMusic

JK GRoup - What's Real?

What's Real? (Preview)

by JK Group

(Full Album due1 October 2021)

La Scape

*****

JK GROUP IS:
A collective of forward-thinking "jazz" musicians from Australia. We owe our thanks and gratitude to the founding mothers and fathers of the music people call jazz. We respect and continuously study their legacy whilst embracing our current surroundings in making music that honestly reflects our time and space.

THIS RECORD IS:
The second batch of tunes we hit record on, though the sessions could not have been more different to the first. Where The Young Ones was meticulously planned, this recording was made on a whim as the busy touring musicians happened to line up their respective touring schedules at the same time. Many of the songs were just sketches, musical experiments that were leaping off out of the territory of the first record and pushing the sound in a number of different directions at once. Some tunes were still in progress right up until the moment of recording, and one was written on the spot in the studio. There was no focus or talk of outcomes for a future release. As with all experiments, some songs did not make the cut. But the selections that have made it onto this vinyl really capture the magic and spontaneous energy of the session with the musicians in full flight, in sync. We welcome Phil Stroud to the collective to offer up a rework of one of these tracks, and further deepen the dialogue between jazz and electronic music.

THIS MUSIC IS:
Conceived, written, recorded, and printed on land that historically belongs to the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin Nation. We acknowledge the traditional owners and pay our respects to Elders, past, present, and emerging.

THIS LABEL IS:
Contributing to healing our natural world through planting trees and reforesting land back to rainforest in Australia in conjunction with Reforest NOW.

Source: Bandcamp

Zeitgeist Freedom Energy Exchange - Kreuzberg Kix

Kreuzberk KIx Vol. 1 (EP)

by Zeitgeist Freedom Energy Exchange

Released 26 March 2021

Secretsundaze

*****

Whilst the club setting may feel detached from many of us at this time, Secretsundaze’s latest release, courtesy of the Zeitgeist Freedom Energy Exchange, will transport you back to the depths of the dancefloor’s energy. A three track EP which is sustained by Ziggy Zeitgeist’s rhythmic consistency on the drums – his scintillating live performance at Church of Sound in August 2019 caught the eyes of the label, leading to the fruition of this project.

Ziggy’s impressive artistry is demonstrated by his ability to inject club levels of energy into his live performance, bridging the gap between the jazz influences from his work in 30/70 and the broken-beat elements of Z.F.E.X
His sonically ambidextrous ear has culminated in this compelling piece of work. Having met Berlin-based artist Wayne Snow at a record shop in Neukölln, the pair started jamming together at a converted office space in a building that was attached to a techno club. Their afterhours sessions were mixed with spontaneous trips to the club, allowing Wayne’s soulful vocals and Ziggy’s broken drum patterns to seamlessly merge with the darker, more heavy textures of the club environment.

Wayne’s silky offering on Something Special allows the serenading seven-and-a-half-minute meditation to unravel gradually, enchanting the dancer with its harmonious house beat, accompanied alongside interweaving melodic layers, from Finn Rees on keys, that build its trance. The spaced-out quality of this joint is followed up by the more hard-hitting Kreuzberg Kix, which Ziggy recorded in Berlin with his Melbourne crew throughout a week in the summer of 2019. The congas of Javier Fredes dictate the track’s tempo, allowing the live element to remain felt on top of the bass of Matthew Hayes. Lewis Moody’s keys create a multi-palleted sonic landscape, echoing that of Yussef Kamaal, injecting a loosened groove that neutralises the song’s heaviness.

Long-term label friend and NYC-based virtuoso GE-OLOGY exercises his brilliance on a flip of Kreuzberg Kix. He uncompromisingly instills a murkier club sensibility upon the soulful jazz foundations of this track, allowing the deeper textures to dominate with a rhythmic ease.
This gripping project incorporates a sonic width that will simultaneously appeal to the house heads whilst resonating with the jazz folk too. Secret Sundaze have delivered with bold execution, interlacing faraway musical elements with an effortless poise. A deep hitter for the dancefloors that beckon.

Source: Bandcamp

The Roundtable (Various Artists) - Pyramid Pieces 1

Pyramid Pieces 1

by The Roundtable (Various Artists)

Released 2 August 2021

Rhe Roundtable

****-

Borrowing its title from an infamous Australian jazz composition, Pyramid Pieces is a  compilation of Australian modern jazz. 1969-1979.

The album includes rare modal, spiritual and ‘Eco Jazz’ tracks from artists such as Jazz Co-Op, The Alan Lee Quartet, The John Sangster Quartet, The Brian Brown Quintet. 

This is a long overdue compilation which documents a period of Australian modern jazz that flourished during the late 1960s and 70s. A brief yet vital survey which examines an isolated yet thriving vibrant scene that was largely unheard outside of its own country. Whilst many local musicians found success abroad in the UK or the USA, those that remained found limited support for jazz from the commercially-minded mainstream music industry, thus an empowered independent movement was born, represented by labels such as Jazznote and Horst Liepolt’s 44 Records.
This compilation is a showcase of this period and the various forms of modern jazz indicative of the scene, from modal and deep spiritual jazz through to avant-jazz film soundtracks and the unique sub-genre ‘Eco Jazz’ (a distinctive style which drew vivid inspiration from Australia’s natural environment). Featuring essential tracks from celebrated Australian jazz icons such as John Sangster and Alan Lee, the collection also asserts the importance of other often overlooked groups including Jazz Co/op and The Brian Brown Quintet amongst others. Pyramid Pieces is the first entry in a new series that will explore the largely unheard yet incredible sound of Australian modernist Jazz.

Source: Bandcamp

Pat Jaffe - Eldorado

Eldorado

by Pat Jaffe

Released 20 March 2021

Patrick Jaffe

*****

Recorded in Reykjavik, Iceland, this is a highly impressive debut album from a thoughtful and sensitive musician. Melbourne pianist Pat Jaffe, 22, has nine of his compositions here, two of them accompanied by a string quartet. To describe the album, terms such as refinement and understatement come to mind. The music is peaceful and ruminative but, under an apparently seamless surface, there are substantial nuances which are very subtle and exquisite. In the two pieces which include the Siggi String Quartet, the strings are skilfully employed to effectively amplify the pianist’s most expressive moments. Jaffe is obviously an accomplished jazz pianist and arranger, but there are few signs of conventional jazz references, such as the blues, which some consider to be essential to jazz. Instead the flavour of the music suggests the twilight zone between jazz and contemporary classical music.

Source: Weekend Australian 20 March 2021

Harry James Angus - Struggle With Glory

Struggle With Glory

by Harry James Angus

Released 1 March 2018

OP Records

****-

In the words of the artis: Struggle With Glory, continues to cross musical boundaries, transporting the classic Greco-Roman myths into a surreal world of old-time jazz and gospel music. If you like toe-tapping, humming in the aisles, sweating and wailing, but don’t particularly like going to church much, why not try shouting Zeus instead? Revenge, giant beasts in strange lands, the doomed love affairs of Gods and men, and the unstoppable torrent of fate is served up with the unmistakable sound of Harry's old dented trumpet.

Harry James Angus is an Australian singer-songwriter, trumpet player and guitarist, best known (along with Felix Riebl) as one of the lead vocalists in the beloved Melbourne band The Cat Empire, since joining them in early 2000. 

The album is brimming with tragedy, pathos and high drama as these ancient tales coming to life against a glorious blend of traditional jazz and gospel tropes, sublime playing and an enveloping warm production. On Paper faces is the tale of Persephone and Hades comes to life, Persephone was the daughter of the goddess of the harvest, and she was kidnapped to become Hades bride. Harry explains further, “what was different about this project was that I picked a story and then I wrote a song. There’s a song called “Light Of The Moon” which is about the Moon Goddess who fell in love with a simple shepherd and could only visit him when he was asleep. So he just slept all the time so this goddess could come and visit him!”
Another high water mark on the album is the thrilling “Kill The Priest,” the only song on the record that isn’t drawn from a myth, but is drawn from the first chapter of a famous book on mythology called call The Golden Bough, written by the Scottish anthropologist Sir James George Frazer. The author paints the picture of a Roman ritual, where the idea of a priest who guards a sacred place can only be replaced by the person that kills him. Harry continues, “So you’re the priest, but the whole time you know that at any moment the next priest that is going to replace him could be sneaking up behind him with a knife. I just thought that was quite an interesting concept.”
“I Saw Red” is another album moment full of drama and tension. Based on The Rage Of Achilles, which Harry describes as, “a really, really powerful moment in the Iliad.” “Up until this point,” he continues Achilles hasn’t joined the battle, he has sailed all the way over to Troy but hasn’t joined the battle because of some internal politics in his own camp. So all these Greeks are getting killed and he’s like the best fighter ever, he’s the hero, so everyone knows as soon as he joins the battle they’ll win, but he just refuses to join in. Not because he’s a pacifist, but simply because of pride. So essentially his love Patroclus is killed by Hector, so he flies into this rage and massacres everyone, it’s about the terrifying rage of Achilles, so that’s a great starting point for a song too.”

Source: Amnplify

Chet Faker - Hotel Surrender

Hotel Surrender

by Chet Faker

Released 23 July 2021

Detail Records

***--

Nick Murphy has had a peculiar existence since bursting on to the scene as Chet Faker working alongside Flume with his moody indie pop winning over a huge alt audience, before a back-and-forth of moniker shifts lost a few along the way.

Returning to his Chet Faker project in October 2020, Murphy has released his first album since the switch titled Hotel Surrender which is a 10-track reminiscent of his 2014 debut Built On Glass.

The charm of Chet Faker always has been the mix of sway-inducing funky and bass laden tunes, combined with Murphy’s dry, effortless and perceptively unimpressed tone. The defiant lyrics and dry and brusque vocals of single ‘Whatever Tomorrow’ underline that.

Hotel Surrender offers plenty of that charm, albeit at a slow pace which arguably lets the album down. Some high points are the carefree ‘Get High’, uber cool ‘Whatever Tomorrow’, sexy and swaggy ‘Feel Good’ and under-rated sixth track ‘Peace Of Mind’.

Murphy wrote and produced Hotel Surrender himself (like with Built On Glass), with the bulk of the tracks completed prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, but before the also the passing of his father, delaying its release.

He described the next part of the process as “mass therapy”, with that catharsis translating to a loosening of inhibitions, particularly shown on ‘Get High’ where Murphy has used his own piano skills for the first time with what he calls “drunken funk swing”.

Recognising that cathartic impact lyrically is always subjective, and for an artist who has flip-flopped between alter-egos, it feels like there’s an uncertainty from within about identity and a deep desire to define that.

But Hotel Surrender feels like Chet. Whether that’s a dramatic enough departure from Built On Glass may draw some critical attention but for the devoted they will enjoy his latest offerings.

Murphy has artfully constructed a textured album and offered up a bit more of himself. But you do leave wanting a little something more

Source: The AU Review

Joy Orbison - Still Slipping Vol. 1

Still Slipping Vol. 1

by Joy Orbison

Released 16 August 2021

XL Recordings

***--

Countless fans of the UK underground can trace their best club experiences back to London producer/DJ Joy Orbison. You could fill an entire dancefloor with anecdotes about his tracks: the catharsis of synth-y debut Hyph Mngo; the curiously quotable vocal cut-ups threaded through Sicko Cell, Ellipsis and Swims; every baptism in the submerging bass of Brthdtt; the decade-long yearn for unreleased cult hit GR Etiquette, and the collective jubilation last March when it was finally released for charity.

While Joy Orbison’s earlier releases helped define an era of underground electronic music, they’ve never quite defined him. In recent years he has collaborated with rave luminaries Overmono and maverick saxman Ben Vince, hosted radio broadcasts both on Radio 1 and in Grand Theft Auto, and peeled far away from floorfillers on 2019 EP Slipping. He continues down a left-field path on this new mixtape: the first full-length project of his 12-year career.
The mixtape embraces its longer format, its tracks slipping in and out of one continuous stream. Gone is the spirit of sun-soaked festivals; the instrumentals channel moods of nocturnes and moments alone, prompted by Covid lockdown. Shades of ambient and electronica are mixed in with Joy Orbison’s slinky, slick brand of house, garage and techno, and the array of guest singers, poets and rappers sharpen the record’s most potent moments.

Voice notes from family members puncture the music with a simultaneous sense of new intimacy and innocuous familiarity. Along with beats that feel refined yet retro enough to have come via mid-00s German labels, they create a comfort that sinks into nostalgia perhaps too easily for an artist so committed to continual evolution

Source: The Guardian

Saphire Street - Patchwork

Patchwork

by Sapphire Street

Released 27 November 2020

Groovecult Records

****-

Following 2020’s pandemic leaving their city to be confined to their homes, Melbourne locals, Sapphire Street took no hesitation in turning to their home studio to muster up a successor to their 2019 debut ‘Strawberry Glaze’. Almost as if perfectly timed to the emergence back out of lockdown, the now released ‘Patchwork’ is a saturated conceptualization of the peculiar year gone by.

This time round they delve even deeper into the realm of experimentation, whilst retaining their signature blend of classic and modern inspired psychedelia. With gigs being a lost commodity and unable to collaborate with fellow musicians, the band found themselves building up songs from their drums and guitar core. This along with a firm grasp on the whole process from engineering to cover art led ‘Patchwork’ to become a colourful journey of genre-bending riffs and grooves. All topped with contemplative lyrics and produced on their own hand-built speakers, Sapphire Street have encapsulated their signature “Wonderland of pumping psychedelic rock n’ roll” (The Freedom Arts Movement) into this new project to a degree that is unique to the band.

Sapphire Street's Bandcamp entry lists George Inglis (vocals, guitar, bass, synth, drums), Luca Soprano (drums, synth) and Shaun Samulenok (bass, synth) as the players on this release.

Source: Good Call Live

Jazzparty - Nobody Gets Away

Nobody Gets Away

by Jazzparty

Released 23 July 2021

Remote Control Records

****-

When Loretta Miller’s glass-shattering, big band voice balloons from the jazzy, sax-rich funk of “Bad Dreams,” you know you’re in for a good time. On JAZZPARTY‘s recently-released sophomore album Nobody Gets Away, no dance shoes will emerge without heavily worn soles.

“We were really happy with what we did on the first record (2017’s Monday Night) and we wanted to keep going, following our love of making whatever feels good to us, whatever style and genre feels right,” explains Miller. “A lot of people get confused by our name, which is really frustrating. We’ve considered changing it, but it’s who we are. I don’t look at it like we’re a band who play jazz; we’re a band who play original music. We’re way more rock ’n’ roll and punk really.” Add to that a dash of gothic blues, doo-wop, garage rock and funk for an idea of what makes JAZZPARTY so intoxicating; with nearly five years gone since the band’s debut, the time was ripe for another release.

Source: Audiofemme

Proto Moro - Protosynthesis

Protosynthesis

by Proto Moro

Released 23 July 2021

Remote Control Records

****-

Proto Moro is a Psychedelic Melbourne Jazz outfit comprising of Harry Leggatt aka Uno Lizard on Guitar, Jack Eden aka Madayana on Bass, Gene du Vergier aka Pearl E. Gates on Drums and Nikodimos aka Nikodimos on Woodwind.

After being first introduced to the world via Colour Club Records pandemic-produced album VA001, their contribution CLUB X received great attention from radio presenters in Melbourne and around the globe. Local stations Triple R and PBS championed it and Worldwide FM and dublab further solidified the track's success.

PROTOSYNTHESIS is their debut LP and touches on, jazz, funk, hip-hop, psychedelia and beyond.

 

After a successful sold-out residency at Melbourne's Colour Club, the band now present their opus to the masses.

Taking inspiration from other Melbourne acts such as Mildlife, ZFEX, Horatio Luna and 30/70, the band now carves their own space in the cities flourishing scene.

Source: Deejay.de

Flux - Close Counters

Flux (EP)

by Close Counters

Released 26 March 2021

Close Counters

****-

‘FLUX’ EP is a colourful array of four songs we made at the tail end of 2019 and the start of 2020. These tunes continue our deeper exploration of dance and house music, projecting positivity through rhythm and song writing. Having started playing live with a full band during the development of this project we have incorporated a lot more live playing in these recordings. With a background in jazz we thrive off the spontaneity of jamming and improvising when developing our music and are constantly trying to find the sweet spot between multiple musical worlds of groove.

Conceived originally in a Coburg studio and developed over lockdown sessions, the album features some of Melbourne's finest musical talent. Allysha Joy (30/70) and JAYDEAN deliver two stunning vocal features on SPEAK IN TRUTH and SOMETHING IN MY DRINK, taking the songs to another level level. Other notable contributions are Paul Bender's (Hiatus Kaiyote) infectious bass-line on UP AND OUT, Matthew Hayes' bass on SPEAK IN TRUTH AND UP AND OUT and Lucky Pereira on additional drums and percussion.
A host of friends along the way also joined in various forms across the 4 tracker and the sense of community with their peers helped them overcome the challenging few months past. Close Counters has created their most well rounded piece of artistry, that further showcases their diverse soundscape at the crossroads of soulful house, funk and broken beat.


Flux comprises:

Close Counters

Finn Rees - keys, synths, drum programming
Allan McConnell - keys, synths, drum programming
Collaborators:

Allysha Joy - vocals (Speak In Truth)
Lucky Pereira - percussion, drum kit (Something In My Drink, Speak In Truth)
Matthew Hayes - electric bass (Something In My Drink, Speak In Truth)
Paul Bender - electric bass (Up And Out)
CC iso choir on Up And Out: Allysha Joy, Tiana Khasi, Abbey Howlett, Warrigo Tyrrell, Chloe Sanger, Tram Cops, Finn Rees, Ella Lawry

Source: Bandcamp

The Rookies - Play Jazz 2

Play Jazz 2

by The Rookies

Released 21 June 2021

The Rookies

****-

Describing themselves as "Melbourne’s favourite cult jazz band" the Rookies return with their 3rd LP, Play Jazz 2, a sequel to their acclaimed debut, Play Jazz.

This new collection of reimagined songs from the vast pantheon of jazz standard repertoire features arrangements of music by Eric Dolphy, Charles Mingus, Ron Carter and Ornette Coleman, as well as a post-rock-tinged vision of Juan Tizol’s classic standard (and fan favourite at the Rookies’ regular Wednesday night residency) ‘Caravan’.

Following from the philosophical eclecticism of their last release (2019’s ‘Stay Weird’), the Rookies’ latest offering sees them return to their roots, delving deep into the history of jazz to unearth and reimagine hidden treasures by some of their favourite composers. Play Jazz 2 uniquely celebrates the modernism and free-wheeling creativity of the bandleader/composers of the 1950s and 60s.
The Rookies compriose:

Greg Sher - alto saxophone
Tom Sly - trumpet
Joel Trigg - piano
Oscar Neyland - double bass
Chris Cameron - drums and cymbals

Source: Bandcamp

Angophora - Together

Together

by Angophora

Released 4 May 2021

Music For Dreams

****-

Together is the sophomore album by ambient geonauts Angophora.
How to describe this Sydney, Australian duo’s (consisting of Max Santilli and Jacob Fugar) sound when the comments on Bandcamp already do such a perfect job? Music for watching waves; music infused sharply with crushed ants and Eucalyptus; like climbing into one of those gaping holes in a big Mountain Ash that a possum has inhabited with a collection of mid-century synths.
I could add to the epithets: ‘soundtracks for turning off your iPhone’ or ‘new age John Fahey’ or something like that but I think you get the point. Angophora’s music is deeply in touch with nature and its correlate moods, in inspiration and in evocation.
We’ve got nine tracks of ambient pop, at times probing a sort of jazzy post-rock. Departing the electronically premised sound of their debut, Together finds its footing in more acoustic steppes. The two central figures are the acoustic guitar (played by both) and the percussion (Max) but listen closely and you’ll hear piano, electric guitar, synths and other various bits and pieces drifting around. Guitar figures sailing through unspoiled firmaments. Shaded percussion attending reverbed washes so you can feel the wide open spaces configuring around you. Everything ebbs and flows in gentle layers. It’s balmy, meditative, not to mention totally gorgeous.
‘Angophora’ is the botanical name for the Sydney red gum tree, an emblematic piece of the distinctive East Australian nature. Both Santilli and Fugar grew up in the semi-rural outskirts of Sydney. The connection with the natural environments of the bush fostered here is what they seek to articulate through music.
The duo first met in 2014 and started jamming in Santilli’s dad’s garage in Kenthurst. Pursuing a shared interest in electronic gear, they quickly began to incorporate synths and drum machines into sessions. A sound crystallized between them and the songs recorded during those years became their debut LP, Scenes, released in 2018 on Ken Oath Records.
By the time of that release though, they had already drifted towards a more organic sound, with a growing appreciation for acoustic instruments and Santilli picking up various ethnocultural percussion styles. This leads us to Together, the result of 4-5 years of intermittent sessions and sound work culminating in a focused stretch during 2019 in which all these works were recorded. ls

Source: Bandcamp

Kiri Uu - Creak-whoosh (Estonian, Ingrian and Votian song reimagined in Australia)

Creak​-​whoosh (Estonian, Ingrian and Votian song re​-​imagined in Australia by Olev Muska and Mihkel Tartu)

by Kiri-Uu

Released 16 June 2021

Stroom

****-

There is an overarching hypothesis that music and place are inextricably linked. Where the ancient folksong may be regionally grounded, migration and modernity have confused this notion. Who owns what is by definition the music of the people and not of the composer? Passed down by generations and subject to revision, reappraisal and re-telling, music develops over time in the public domain; new routes providing new understandings.
In the words of Charles Seeger this is the concept of the folk process.

‘Creak Whoosh’ is a collection of choral ballads originating in the Finno-Ugric regions of Estonia and Ingria, electronically adapted predominantly by Olev Muska and Mihkel Tartu, based around the contemporary arrangements of Veljo Tormis. Originally established as ‘Kiri-uu’, the project was undertaken by the children of Estonian refugees, most of whom grew up over 8,000 miles away in the metropolis of Sydney, Australia.

With the majority having never visited the land of their ancestors prior to the tour of 1989, the first generations reshaping of these ancient folk tales conveys Seeger’s process amidst displacement and its subsequent fringe-culture. Fusing modern recording technologies and synthesised instrumentation with themes of nature and eternity, for a short time the Kiri-uu choir dictated their own unique reading of Estonian music for the Australian market. Love and family, swamps and forests, seasons and desire: ‘Is it the moon or the sun or a rainbow, or are they the stars in the sky?’

Source: Bandcamp

The Public Opinion Afro Orchestra - Naming & Blaming

Naming & Blaming

by The Public Opinion Afro Orchestra

Released 30 November 2018

HopeStreet Recordings

****-

The Public Opinion Afro Orchestra
Naming & Blaming
Hope Street Recordings (39 mins)

This is the second album from the Melbourne-based Public Opinion Afro Orchestra and it is unabashedly Afrobeat. The group take many cues from the 70s style, from the instrumentation to the groove to the long-form structure of the pieces. Of course it's political too, full of pointed criticisms of Western foreign policy and imperialism as well as Australia’s colonial past and neo-colonial present.

The thing with Afrobeat is that it hasn't yet stepped out of Fela Kuti's shadow; it may never be possible. For modern bands, comparisons are unavoidable, and who can compare to Fela? That’s why the stand-out points of this album are when the group break from tradition. Whether it’s the dubby trombone solo on ‘No Passport’ or the straight-up jazz sax of the title track, it’s these little bits of difference that really stand out. Most of all, it’s the contributions of the rapper MC One Sixth that make the sound fresh – the rhythms and riffs of Afrobeat are perfect vehicles for rap, and One Six’s lyricism fits well with the themes of the style.

With Naming & Blaming, the POAO capture that classic Afrobeat sound, while mixing things up just enough to not be just another Fela clone project.

Source: Songlines Magazine #147, May 2019

Moonshoe - Limbs - for Wildlife

Limbs - for Wildlife

by Moonshoe

Released 30 January 2020

Moonshoe Records

****-

In the midst of bushfires ravaging the country on an unprecedented scale, Sydney’s Moonshoe have reached out to their coterie both at home and abroad for a benefit compilation. Tapping 21 tracks, the mood here spans quiet optimism and incised rage, often providing a reflexive reflection of the local flora and fauna that have been decimated by the fires. Whether offering a sense of solace or a headspace for a brief respite, the music here feeds into the beautiful solidarity being displayed across Australia’s musical community and further ashore; aside from a number of names from Sydney and Melbourne, RAMZi, Nummer and Max Abysmal have all contributed tracks.

100% of the profits of this compilation will go to WIRES, to provide immediate relief and help foster resilience in the future

Source: Bandcamp

Luke Yeowald - Marigold Avenue

Marigold Avenue

by Luke Yeoward

Released  8 July 2021

2000black

****-

Luke Yeoward is an artist and producer based in Melbourne, Australia.

Luke fell in love with music from a young age and taught himself to play on the acoustic guitar handed down to him by his mother. He began as a street performer in Rotorua, New Zealand at 10 years old, and his musical river flowed through his teens and twenties carving its way through different projects, genres, and territories.
Growing up in New Zealand meant the sounds of reggae would echo from fish’n’chip shops, parties and passing cars on the daily. This soulful music would seep into Yeowards DNA while he was cutting his teeth in street punk bands during his formative years. 

MARIGOLD AVENUE, was self engineered and produced during the lockdowns in Melbourne 2020.

“The moment I found out we were going into lockdown at home for over a month, I thought fuck it, I’m making this reggae record. It’s something I’ve always wanted to do and this music has been a big part of my life since I can remember. It’s healing and uplifting music to me. I wrote and recorded almost everyday for a month to get the bones of it together, then I hired PLUTONIC LAB (HILLTOP HOODS) to play drums remotely from his studio and I built up the tunes from there. As the rhythms came into fruition, I reached out to some artists I knew and/or respected from around the world. I was lucky enough to be able to work with some incredibly talented contributors like LEE ‘SCRATCH’ PERRY , TIPPA LEE, Jesse and Roger of THE AGGROLITES and Maddie Ruthless of THE FAR EAST, to name a few.

Source: Triplej Unearthed

Adrian Younge, Ali Shaheed Muhammed, Brian Jackson - Jazz Is Dead 8: Brian Jackson

Jazz Is Dead 8: Brian Jackson

by Adrian Younge, Ali Shaheed Muhammed, Brian Jackson - Jazz Is Dead 8 Brian Jackson

Released 5 August 2021

Jazz Is Dead

****-

Brian Jackson's name may not be as readily recognizable as former musical partner Gil Scott-Heron's, but it is impossible to overstate his importance in the jazz-funk pantheon. For a decade between 1971's Pieces of a Man and Real Eyes (1980), their final co-billed outing together, Jackson served as co-composer, architect, arranger, and musical director for the Midnight Band, all while playing keyboards, flutes, drums, and contributing background vocals. In writing music to suit his partner's voice and musical character, he created a sound that intersected jazz, funk, soul, poetry, and polemic with earworm hooks, sophisticated melody, and massive grooves.

Though Jackson has appeared on many recordings since, JID008 is his first date as a leader since 2000's wonderful Gotta Play. Further, this was the first album recorded for JID back in February 2019. Label heads Ali Shaheed Muhammad and Adrian Younge cite Jackson's work ethic and creative inspiration as a primary influence in developing the blueprint for the Jazz Is Dead aesthetic.
This quartet includes Jackson on Fender Rhodes, monophonic synthesizer, and alto and C-flutes, with Malachi Morehead on the trap kit, and Muhammad and Younge playing various basses, guitars, clarinets, and saxophones.

The vibe across these eight jazz-funk songs is gauzy and atmospheric but in the cut. Opener "Under the Bridge" offers a martial snare, fingerpicked electric guitar, and Muhammad's rolling bassline guiding the flow. Jackson waxes modal on alto flute above the Rhodes. He punctuates the slithering groove with synth flourishes while dialoguing with Younge and Muhammad. Combined, they expertly layer four separate lyric ideas on top of one another. First single "Mars Walk" and the succeeding "Young Muhammad" are deeply funky exercises anchored by wrangling basslines and rolling drum breaks. On the former, Rhodes and synth entwine along a humid, reverb-laden vamp, while guitar haltingly puts forth a pointillistic harmonic plank. The latter resembles a soundtrack cue. Jackson offers a spidery, swirling clavinet to meet Younge's grand piano as cracking snares, organic percussion, reverbed, droning clarinet, and a walking bassline push it all forward. Jackson plays only the alto flute on "Nancy Wilson," which unwinds like a lost outtake from John Barry's score for Midnight Cowboy. Muhammad's bass delivers harmonic counterpoint from the jump as the flute solo provides a master class in harmonic economy. "Baba Ibeji" contrasts a sunny Rhodes with a skeletal funk vamp as the quartet plays incremental harmonic extensions. Closer "Ethiopian Sunshower" threads post-bop and Latin jazz through a startling array of Afro-Cuban and Brazilian rhythms provided by Morehead. Layered flutes, alto saxophone, and electric bass assert a lush, bossa-inspired melody in a daisy chain of cadences. On first listen, Brian Jackson JID008 sounds almost amorphous in its deliberately articulated indefinition. Those notions are quickly dispelled with repeated spins. What ultimately emerges is a canny, somewhat impressionistic aural portrait balanced by intricate, multivalently charted lyricism, framed in gorgeous, spacious textures and an imaginative, meaty, seductively rendered beat vocabulary. This is one of the finer entries in the Jazz Is Dead series.

Source: AllMusic

U-Roy - Solid Gold

Solid Gold

by U-Roy

Released 16 July 2021

BMG

****-

The late reggae icon U-Roy was the first DJ to bring sound system toasting into the recording studio, so it’s appropriate that Solid Gold U-Roy – his final album – plays like his definitive songbook of the genre’s classics: Queen Majesty, Stop That Train, Wake the Town and Man Next Door are brought up to date with contemporary instrumentation without losing the spirit of the originals. The high point is a joyously berserk take on Every Knee Shall Bow, with U-Roy and Big Youth skimming freestyle lyrics across a sizzling hi-stepping tempo, an overload of horns and random SFX mixed by Scientist.

U-Roy: the singularly musical toaster was a vital part of reggae's bloodline
Lloyd Bradley
Read more
Even on the tracks that don’t feature such an illustrious collaborator, U-Roy – in his late 70s at the time of recording – is at the top of his game, always toasting the track but never letting the song get in the way of his impressionistic approach to lyricism. Vocal sidekicks Shaggy, Rygin King, Santigold and David Hinds understand the mutual benefits of tag-team toasting and flourish in the presence of a true great, although Ziggy Marley and Richie Spice haven’t quite grasped their role in proceedings, bringing an introspective energy ill-suited to the collaborative atmosphere. Other weaknesses lie in Small Axe and Tom Drunk – the thin, demo-like mix not nearly strong enough to support U-Roy’s big voice.

Fortunately, none of this spoils Solid Gold U-Roy: a lovely reminder of the giant we lost and a righteous reminder that his legacy should be handled with care

Source: The Guardian

Desire - Desire

Desire

by Desire Marea

Released 30 January 2021

BMG

****-

In the opening bars of Desire Marea’s astonishing debut Desire, a feeling of ceremony is established with a steady organ line that’s ungraciously disrupted by flashes of combative brass. These tonal punctuations scorch like lava spitting from a volcano, the late arrival of a darkly-toned loop conjures a blanket of charcoal clouds above. In under 90 seconds, the KwaZulu-Natal born multi-disciplinary artist creates a vivid soundscape that instantly sucks the listener into their intoxicating world. As album openers go, ‘Self Center’ is a triumph in itself. 

A founding member of FAKA, a Johannesburg collective, Marea’s intricately textured compositions, which previously fit within the gqom strand of electronic music cultivated in Durban, South Africa, now sit somewhere between harrowing avant-garde sound design à la late-era Scott Walker on ‘The Void’, warm jazz instrumentation (‘Ntokozo’) and infectious dancefloor-fillers like ‘Tavern Kween’, a song inspired by Marea’s aunts fight for empowerment in male-dominated spaces, sung in their native Zulu. 

Desire is a truly singular record. One where the varying styles incorporated shouldn’t co-exist as harmoniously as they do. Their assured artistic sensibilities drive the tonal dexterity at dizzying speeds. And yet, there isn’t a moment across the nine songs that feels rushed. Each creative decision feels considered and necessary to the patchwork of the song. As a whole, outside of compelling lyricism and captivating production, it’s Marea’s striking operatic vocals that are undeniably the standout success of this record. 

Day-to-day, the listener will have a different favourite track depending on mood. Whether that’s the sweet floating synths on ‘Uncle Kenny’ or ‘Studies in Black Trauma’s intensely claustrophobic arrangement, Desire is a record that leaves a lasting imprint.

Source: Loud and Quiet

Bossa Nova Sunset Club  by The View from Madelaine's Couch

Bossa Nova Sunset Club

by The View from Madelaine's Couch

Released 3 November 2021

The View from Madelaine's Couch

****-

Courtesy of the bossa nova, a ubiquitous time-feel found everywhere in jazz, Brazilian music enjoys a mythical status. This Brisbane group has spent 24 years dedicated to developing a rare empathy with Brazil’s sensuous music. Their unusual album features Anje West, singing virtually the whole repertoire in the Portuguese language. As most Australian listeners will hear her vocals as an instrument, it’s fortunate that her voice is understated, well recorded, not too lush, and has a lovely vibrato, ideal for Brazilian-flavoured music. Solos, chiefly by Kym Ambrose (vibraphone) and Bruce Woodward (guitar) are unfailingly appealing, and the inner rhythmic structures of 12 tracks are well thought through, underpinned by the great Brazilian drummer Marcio Bahia. Time-feels other than the bossa nova, with interesting rhythmic nuances, are explored here too, suggesting a genuine study and absorption of Brazilian music.

Source: Weekend Australian, March 13, 2021

dego - The Negative Positive

The Negative Positive

by dego

Released 30 April 2021

2000black

****-

Dego declares -

"Many adverse perceptions are envisioned when faced with a negative meaning popular opinion often thinks the worse.
The Negative Positive see's the benefit of defeat,obstacles and a straight NO.
The Negative Positive grows stronger under detrimental circumstances.
The Negative Positive knows to truely live you must have felt pain".
Only his third release in over two decades - following "A Wha'Him Deh Pon?" (2011) and "Lord & Dego" (2000), The Negative Posative demonstrates all the above through an invigorating blend of techno, boogie, soul & jazz.

Many modern artists push the aesthetic of Afrofuturism, but Dennis McFarlane is living it. Dego has been at the forefront of modern soul music for decades, from his teenage days absorbing electro and hip-hop through breakdancing in the early '80s, to his partnership with Mark Clair as 4hero, where they pushed the boundaries of jungle and drum & bass to create broken beat. This lifelong quest to push soul music forwards has culminated in his current projects as Dego and his collective 2000BLACK. With three decades of artistic experimentation behind him, Dego now sits as one of the masters of the family tree of Black electronic music.

Coming off of a tumultuous year for musicians, especially those in the African diaspora, The Negative Positive appears to be Dego's answer to hard times. As such, no time is wasted. These pieces are intense and to the point, with only a single track coming in at over four minutes. "The Negative Positive grows stronger under detrimental circumstances," says the press release that comes with the record, hammering home the point that this is an album for times of adversity. There's a general air of sweet melancholy throughout the record. Each track seems to recognize the despair of the moment, but still provides a feeling of resistance through hope. Dego provides a majority of the production and instrumentation, but he also brings in frequent collaborators for moments of elevation.

"Stained With The Tears On Their Faces" is a standard Dego track, which still rates heads and shoulders above what most imitators try to achieve. Double time percussion and breakbeats take center stage, while layers of melody breathe a freshness into the syncopation. Mr Mensah plays Yamaha CS-50 on "Is It The Whole Truth," an excellent slice of future jazz with playful keys and a squelching bassline.

The Negative Positive's three vocal tracks are clear highlights. On "This Is A Message To You", Nadine Charles' sweet vocals pair perfectly with an excellent bass performance from Kaidi Tatham and classic Rhodes playing from Dego. "What's Good For You" features Obenewa delivering a beautiful serenade over funky synth and deep organ funk. These two are undoubtedly modern boogie masterpieces. On "Recovered Memories," Samii returns to the 2000BLACK fold for a more laid-back yet uplifting neo-soul ballad, arguably the best the track of the album.
   
The title track is the most straightforward four-to-the-floor moment, a simmering disco house number that nods to trad jazz. The Carribean overtones of "She Is Virgo," meanwhile, are a pleasant surprise. Kaidi comes back for a stunning flute performance. "What's An Inferiority Complex" brings together complex drum programming and layers of synthesizers to create a funky wall of sound. This track also acts as a showcase for Dego's keyboard wizardry.

There are no surprises on The Negative Positive, no attempts to capitalize on current trends. This is an album that clearly comes from the heart of a musician who has dedicated their life to crafting emotionally compelling music. Only through time and admiration for the totality of where this music comes from can you begin to understand where it needs to go. Dego will go down as one of the masters of music from the African diaspora, fulfilling the circle by bringing soul back to electronic music.

Source: Bandcamp and Resident Advisor

Nightmares On Wax - Smokers Delight: Sonic Buds

Smokers Delight: Sonic Buds

by Nightmares on Wax

Released 8 July 2021

Luke Yeowald

****-

A full 25 years after its initial release, Nightmares on Wax revisits the breakthrough chill-out LP with its companion piece Smokers Delight: Sonic Buds.

Jazz funk textures ring out on ‘Aquaself’ with a tinkering organ beset by funky downtempo percussion and a small hint of steely glimmering in the melody. ‘Let’s Ascend’ continues vibing with sampled string stabs and an ever-building groove befitting of a gritty 1970s noir, while ‘Dreadoverboard’ gets an updated mix here with upbeat yet nicely chilled action, built up over its slap-happy bass and soul vocal sample.

Source: Bleep

Nightmares On Wax - Smokers Delight (1995)

Smokers Delight

by Nightmares on Wax

Released 24 October 1995

Warp

*****

Smokers Delight is the second studio album by Nightmares on Wax. It was released in 1995 on Warp in the United Kingdom, and on Wax Trax in the United States. It peaked at number 84 on the UK Albums Chart.

A measure of its importance and influence, Smokers Delight was included in Robert Dimery's 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die book in 2005. In 2015, Fact magazine placed it at number 15 on the "50 Best Trip-Hop Albums of All Time" list.

Source: Wikipedia

Liam Bailey - Ekundayo

Ekundayo

by Liam Bailey

Released 213 November 2020

Big Crown Records

****-

Big Crown Records is proud to present Ekundayo, Liam Bailey’s debut record on the label. This album is a long time in the making, and after listening, clearly worth the wait. It didn’t take a long time to record, but it did take years for all the stars to line up.

Bailey, born and raised in Nottingham, England, the son of an English mother and Jamaican father got his early influences from his mom’s record collection. Bob Marley and Dillinger, Stevie Wonder and The Supremes, The Beatles and Jimi Hendrix would eventually shape the singer/songwriter we know today.

Fast-forward to 2005, Liam is in London and doing the whatever-gig-you-can-get musician hustle with hopes of landing a record deal. And it was through this time that Liam first teamed up with Leon Michels, musician/producer luminary, and the co-founder of Brooklyn's own Big Crown Records. Liam flew out to New York and those first sessions together produced the now classic tunes “When Will They Learn” and “I’m Gonna Miss You” which still get spins at reggae spots around the globe. That trip helped kick off what was to follow next for Liam: a slew of record releases, label deals, and working with some wildly-notable mainstream producers. Even a just-famous Amy Winehouse heard one of Liam's apartment-made, lo-fi recordings through a friend and liked what she heard. Regardless of the audio quality, Liam's particular sound shone through—all guitar, warm-rough and genuine soul. She signed him to her label shortly after.
But, as the story can go with major labels, they already had an idea of the Liam they wanted to make, promote, and push. With the typical pay-day enticement, Liam did his best to fit into whatever shape they put him to. "'Maybe I can make it work,' that's what you're thinking," Liam remembers, "but, you quickly find out that you can't."

While Liam’s career went through a bunch of record industry twists and turns he and Michels stayed in touch and would regularly connect and collaborate. Finally, in 2019, the time was right to do a full-length album together. And this time, it would be free of any restricting major label presumptions and opinions.

Set to release in October 2020, the album is called Ekundayo. And the word's meaning may be all you need to know to get to the essence of this project. It means "sorrow becomes joy" in Yoruba, a language spoken mostly in Western Africa. Liam's potently unique voice has always had to fight against label agendas to get through. Now, teaming back up with Leon and his production, that restraint has given way to a pure, liberating freedom that trusses up the entire record like a spine. "This is the record we always wanted to make," says Michels, nodding at those past projects, where they bottled a spark of lightning in a studio session. But then there always was the slightly deflating feeling of whether or not Liam's label situation at the time would like it.

On the surface, Ekundayo is a weighty Reggae record, full of new and old textured riddims. But listen more in-depth, and you'll find subject matter that's more recognizable from a modern-day R&B record.
An example of the former is the first single off the album. Sung to the most beautiful woman at the nightspot, "Champion" is a joyous anthem powered by a silly-thick Juno-bass throb and 808-proof drums. In short, "Champion" is dancehall-ready. But then there's a song like "Don't Blame NY." Moody and sparse with a somber drive, you might have to resist the urge to compare it to a Frank Ocean-ish type vibe. Liam's voice is in a different but fitting element here, showing stripped-back emotion and soulful restraint. Anyone who has lived and tried to thrive in New York won't have a hard time relating to the lyrics but they may join the masses who blame the city, while Liam points the finger at himself and sings praises to The Big Apple.

Credit to Leon's hand, elements of Jamaican production are everywhere, peppered throughout the record. Like the pitch-perfect organ stabs that push through the authentically positive "White Light," or the muted, percussive guitar strums that chug along in the back of "Fight."

In the same vein of any fantastic singer/songwriter album, Ekundayo is a reflection of who Liam Bailey is, a portrait of him for us to consider and take in. And what we see is an artist growing into himself, taking on topics and approaches he never would think of just a few years ago. Some evidence: "Ugly Truth" is about reconnecting with his biological father, a subject he once thought would be too personal to address. Sometimes we can't express ourselves before we're ready to.

The journey from conforming to major labels to this latest record has been a long one for Liam, and a bit of a struggle. But struggle may be the only way we truly grow and evolve. With a new clarity of purpose, sound, and life, Liam has found joy out of those struggles. And it's called Ekundayo. 

Source: Bandcamp

El Michels Affair meets Liam Bailey - Ekundayo Inversions

Ekundayo Inversions

by El Michel's Affair meets Liam Bailey

Released 13 August 2021

Big Crown Records

****-

There has always been a Reggae influence in the music of El Michels Affair. From their cover of “Hung Up On My Baby” done in a Reggae style, to the general sound and approach that permeates Leon’s production style. While recording Bailey’s 2020 Ekundayo album, they did some straight forward reggae tunes inspired by different eras alongside some modern R&B tracks that would fit more comfortably next to Frank Ocean than Jacob Miller. It is this same notion that old and new can live so comfortably together that birthed the idea of Ekundayo Inversions.

Traditional dub came out of reggae in the late 60s and early 70s when pioneers like King Tubby and Lee Perry started taking the multi track recordings of songs and running them back through the board adding effects and additional instrumentation. These recordings are called “dubs” or “versions” and are typically instrumentals with flourishes of vocals from the original tracks.

El Michels decided to use the blueprints left behind and make something using the influences of today. He wound up straying so far from the traditional format that it didn’t seem right to use the word ‘Dub’, hence Ekundayo Inversions. All the songs are tied together by WhatsApp messages between Leon and Liam that perfectly narrate the story of this record and their working relationship.

One of the highlights on Ekundayo Inversions is a guest appearance from the legendary Lee “Scratch” Perry on the “Ugly Truth” version. L$P switches between singing and talking, proclaiming his powers one minute and playing with the track’s title the next. On “Awkward take. 2” Leon takes one of the most experimental songs from Ekundayo and actually straightens it out. A track that once seemed to be floating in space has now been anchored by the addition of drums and bass. “Faded”, a version of “Paper Tiger”, is given the full EMA treatment with the addition of emotive horns over an uncomfortably sparse rhythm track peppered with Liam’s voice drenched in delay and echo. “Champions” features a verse from Black Thought of The Roots and halfway through, El Michels sends the rhythm section 50 years back.

At the end of the day, Ekundayo Inversions is a testament to how strong the original songs are. Whether they’re in a R&B style, reggae style, stripped down to their bare bones, or loaded with production, the songs will move you.

Source: Bandcamp

4AD (Various Artists) - Bills & Aches & Blues (40 Years of 4AD)

Bills & Aches & Blues

by Various 4AD Artists

Released 25 June 2021

4AD

****-

The venerable UK indie label 4AD has long embodied a sensibility more than a particular sound. As the label’s U.S. general manager, Nabil Ayers, recently observed to The New Yorker, even during its halcyon 1980s and ’90s, signature acts like dream-pop fantasists Cocteau Twins and college-rock absurdists Pixies had little in common musically.

So Bills & Aches & Blues, a new 18-song set of 4AD artists covering other 4AD artists’ songs, comes with both a distinguished pedigree and a wide stylistic purview.

With proceeds benefiting an after-school program for children, the album exists for a good cause.

At its best, Bills & Aches & Blues presents beloved and lesser-known artists from the label’s roster unearthing hidden gems with the same adventurous, borderless spirit that has cemented 4AD’s status as a pioneering indie institution. Yet, especially in the form available on streaming services—four separate, side-long EPs—the compilation often feels like less than the sum of its parts. While it’s clear that the songs and musicians here are interconnected, exactly how is sometimes less so.

The tracklist for Bills & Aches & Blues—the title is from the Cocteaus’ “Cherry-Coloured Funk,” a song that doesn’t necessarily ask you to notice the words—is unpredictable, for better and worse.

It’s not exhaustive: You’ll search in vain for TV on the Radio, SpaceGhostPurrp, St. Vincent, Throwing Muses, A.R. Kane, Zomby, Camera Obscura, Gang Gang Dance, or perhaps your 4AD act of choice. It’s not a greatest-hits victory lap, either, though it opens with relative newcomer Tkay Maidza’s jubilant electro-pop take on Pixies’ “Where Is My Mind?” and includes a sadly irritating, H.O.R.D.E. Festival-hootenanny version of the Breeders’ “Cannonball” by Tune-Yards. (Two of 4AD’s unlikeliest global smashes—Modern English’s “Melt With You” and M/A/R/R/S’ “Pump Up the Volume”—are, probably wisely, absent.) It’s also not a rarities project, but the label’s mindset seems to show through most vividly when its artists take the road less traveled.

Bills & Aches & Blues is a frequently impressive assemblage of extraordinary artists running amok through a trove of extraordinary songs, with occasionally uneven results. If what unites them all at times feels undefinable, that’s probably the point: 4AD’s roster is most interesting when they’re exploring, escaping, closing their eyes and dipping into an ocean of swirling, immersive sound. The most thrilling and maybe representative discovery here is Irish folk experimenter Maria Somerville’s cover of the profoundly obscure “Seabird,” a 1995 song by short-lived Unrest offshoot Air Miami. Surreal and escapist, with hypnotic drones and the sounds of waves splashing, it’s a fitting 2021 successor to the reverb-drenched dreamscapes that have been inextricably associated with 4AD for almost all of the label’s astounding 41-year run.

Source: Pitchfork

Club Coco Compilation - Club Coco

Club Coco Compilation - Club Coco

by Various Artists (Club Coco)

Released 28 May 2021

Les Disques Bongo Joe

****-

Les Disques Bongo Joe, Geneva, Switzerland presents “Club Coco”, a summery outernational Latin and afro rooted music compilation curated by Coco María. An attempt to give back something to music lovers around the world and print on an object a piece of the essence of the community that has been gathering around her weekly radio show at Worldwide FM.

In many ways, the tracks of the album showcase how these artists use music to reconcile both their pride in Latin American and Afro culture as well as their interest in being part of the cosmopolitanism of big European cities. Thus, each track adds a particular detail into building a perfect soundtrack for a community that is always travelling back and forwards between both regions, always looking for songs that explore the furthest frontiers of tropical music while staying true to the roots of their genres.

This LP gathers some of the inescapable artists that have been part of Coco María’s shows. The list includes Nico Mauskovic, La Perla, Meridian Brothers y Grupo Renacimiento, Graham Mushnik, La Redada, Alex Figueira, Frente Cumbiero, Les Pythons de la Fournaise, Romperayo, Malphino, Max Weissenfeldt and even Coco María herself.
Credits
Curated by Coco Maria
Liner Notes – Pablo Borchi 
Cover & Poster – Felix Vincent
Mastering – Tim Stollenwerk
Cutting - Adi Flück
Limited cover & Posters Printing by LegnoLegno
Artistic Supervision - Cyril Yeterian

Source: Bandcamp

Lorde - Solar Power

Solar Power

by Lorde

Released 20 August 2021

Universal

****-

Who’d have guessed Lorde’s butt would be so important to understanding Solar Power. 

After staying out of the spotlight for years, she returned - and broke the internet - with what would turn out to be the cheeky cover art to her long-awaited third album. 

It was a masterstroke. A single photo, of a beachy Lorde and her tuchus leaping over the camera lens, signalled an entire shift in sound and a whole new aesthetic. A picture tells a thousand words, and this one communicates a lot about the album’s contents.

Solar Power is relaxed, low-key, and sometimes sarcastic. It isn’t the serious, late-night, turbulent teen confessional Melodrama was. Filled with anthems of pleasure and pain, angst and excitement, Melodrama became something fans, young women in particular, clung to like a sacred text, to the point that countless memes begged Lorde to instruct them on what their whole new personality would be.

But Lorde is having none of that on Solar Power. ‘If you’re looking for a saviour, well that’s not me,” she cautions in album opener ‘The Path’, which immediately distinguishes itself from anything she’s done before. The warm guitars, vocal splashes, restrained beats, and unconventional structure define so much of the album’s palette.

She paints herself as a ‘teen millionaire having nightmares from the camera flash’, a star struggling with her own stardom, who ‘won’t take the call if it’s the label or the radio.’

"That was my way of being like, if this isn't for you, it's all good," Lorde tells triple j of the saviour lyric. "Like, I probably can't be what you need me to be all the time."

But then comes the frolicking title track, where Lorde is charged by carefree energy. She cancels all her plans, throws her phone in the ocean, and jokes about being 'kinda like a prettier Jesus.' 

Toying with Lorde’s revered status is a theme the album frequently returns to. The idea is taken to a playful extreme in the accompanying music videos: imagined as the leader of a Midsommar beach cult in ‘Solar Power’; a blonde Wiccan in a pseudo-spiritual coven for ‘Mood Ring’, an “extremely satirical” poke at wellness culture.

Solar Power finds its author thinking deeply about the jarring disconnect between being an extremely private person and an extremely well-known public figure. This is someone acutely aware of the absurdity of fame, which was foisted upon her at 16 and has waned very little since. 

She revisits those early years on the lilting ‘California’. The opening line - ‘Once upon a time in Hollywood when Carole called my name’ - chronicles the moment Carole King presented Lorde with the Song of the Year Grammy for ‘Royals’. 

She’s welcomed to the high life, only to find it’s not really her thing, lamenting countless dollars and hours spent on hotels and jets. ‘Goodbye to all the bottles, all the models, bye to the kids in the lines for the new Supreme,” she sings. ‘Don’t want that California love.’ 

On the upbeat ‘Secrets From A Girl (Who’s Seen It All)’ the 24-year-old offers wisdom to her younger self. ‘Couldn’t wait to turn 15/Then you blink and it’s been 10 years/ Growing up a little at a time then all at once/ Everybody wants the best for you/ But you gotta want it for yourself/My love’. Cementing the track as one of the album’s highlights is a closing monologue from Robyn. Yes, Swedish electropop icon Robyn, who supplies a surreal flight attendant voiceover. 

She fantasises about escaping to a private island with a ‘trunkful of Simone and Céline’ and designer magazines (“of course!”) in ‘Leader of a New Regime’. Reality is, Lorde has retreated to her native Auckland, escaping the celeb circus to be left alone spending her days on low-pressure activities like sunbathing, yoga, and getting ‘Stoned At The Nail Salon’.

Finding no comfort in star power, Lorde instead finds solace in nature: the power of the sun, the ocean, the beach. The emblematic chirping of New Zealand cicadas in summer (as sampled on closer ‘Oceanic Feeling’). 

There’s even a vague paean to the climate crisis, ‘Fallen Fruit’, which channels the haunting aura of 1960s folk. It’s The Mamas & The Papas for a generation anxious about a global temperature past the point of no return. It also contains the album’s only drum machine, a snapping 808 in the bridge.

"I hope it makes people go outside,” Lorde told triple j earlier this year. “Really just get out there and listen to what the natural world has to tell them. That's my goal for this [album]."

That’s easier said than done in our current COVID-stricken climate, but the idea - that Mother Nature can heal us in ways modern technology cannot - is one that resonates with the earthier sound of Solar Power.

As much as Lorde has done a great job communicating in album press where she’s coming from with Solar Power - inspired by “Flower Child culture”, mixed with the kinds of acts that populated 2000s So Fresh… compilations: All Saints, S Club 7, Natalie Imbruglia, Nelly Furtado - it’s still a little surprising to hear how low-key she gets here.

The thematic deconstruction of stardom extends to the sound, a sunnier, mellower pivot away from the self-mythologising that big pop albums tend towards.

Solar Power is willingly out of touch with current trends, the music is easy going with almost zero grandiosity. And in a lot of cases, doesn’t bother to embellish in doing more than it needs to. 

Producer Jack Antonoff provides the intimate, organic vibe and Lorde, for the first time, harmonies with backing singers, including Phoebe Bridgers and Clairo, plus Kiwi artists Maron Williams and James Milne (of Lawrence Arabia).

But that star power is downplayed. There’s no ‘Royals’, and nothing even close to ‘Green Light’. The title track is the only thing approximating the kind of all-in sing-along that would elevate a live set. Solar Power isn’t screaming for your attention or vying to compete with big pop stars. It’s content to do its own strange little thing, and dedicated to doing that very well. 

That’s refreshing, and very much by design. But after a four-year wait, it’s fair enough if it leaves you wanting more. Even after several spins with the record, some songs struggle to make a lasting impression, running all-too-briefly and relying on evoking a mood rather than memorable melodies and choruses. 

It would be easy to dismiss some of her cheeriness as corny, or misinterpret the loungey energy as lazy. But even if she’s not engaging with the pop rules, Lorde is still a studio artisan. 

Thankfully, Lorde’s talent for lyrics has only sharpened, and a song like ‘The Man With The Axe’ proves it. It’s a moving love song, enriched by the slow-mo, spacey sensation of falling for someone as Lorde elegantly details her life on stage coming undone for ‘the boy with the plan/You felled me clean as a pine’.

Whether she’s memorialising her late dog, Pearl (‘Big Star’) or playing tongue-in-cheek (‘Dominoes’), you can hear the four years of growth and lived experience between releases. Lorde is clearly not the same person that wrote Melodrama, let alone Pure Heroine. 

Lest we forget that her career first exploded with ‘Royals’, on which a frustrated Auckland teen fixated on how alien and out-of-reach the superstar lifestyle seemed to her suburban existence in “cities you’ll never see on screen”. That was before, of course, the 16-year-old went supernova.

Whatever Solar Power lacks in some areas, it more than makes up for as a fascinating interrogation of Lorde’s own legacy. 

It’s tempting to think of it as her own Blonde on Blonde or Kid A - an album that unapologetically reshapes what we think we know about the artist.

It actively defies the Sad Girl archetype she unwittingly ushered in. It surprises by actively sidestepping being measured against the artists and spirit Lorde helped pave the way for, a generation of kindred spirits like Halsey, Billie Eilish, Olivia Rodrigo, Gracie Abrams, Mallrat, and many more.

In this way, Solar Power is “definitely [her] most complex work,” as Lorde told triple j earlier this year. “But I also love how light, playful, and fun it is."

Solar Power likely won’t define an era the way Pure Heroine did, or provide another blueprint for heartbreak, like Melodrama. But that’s the point.

It’s not a Lorde album for everybody, but you suspect that’s exactly the way she wants it.

Source: Triplej

Martha Marlow - Medicine Man

Martha Marlow

by Martha Marlow

Released 20 May 2021

Martha Marlow

****-

In a time like 2021 where disease and virus feels like its just around every possible corner, even for those of us whom are relatively healthy, you some times forget the risks and struggles many others go through to try live their lives without getting more sick.

Every day on the news you hear about people getting a virus and not recovering, or see a Gofundme page for a family struggling through illness. Throw on top of this the rise in mental illness (and push for awareness), and you’d be hard pressed not to know someone close to you not struggling. For Martha Marlow, this is a tale too close to her.

As she deals with ongoing battles with her health, her debut album Medicine Man takes you through these struggles, while also allowing the listener to peer into the life and stories of Marlow as she puts her best stories, influences and imagination forward into the public sphere.

A few years in the making, Medicine Man is 13 tracks of distinguished indie-folk much in the same vein as Short Movie era Laura Marling, with hints of the jazz made famous by Norah Jones and the story telling of Joni Mitchell. Now, Marlow may not be the most recognisable of acts, but I can guarantee you’ve heard her voice before.

Following in the footsteps of possibly one of the most successful marketing campaigns in Australian history by using Peter Allen’s “I Still Call Australia Home”, Qantas turned to little known Marlow to record a version of the Randy Newman classic “Feels Like Home”. Since 2014, Marlow’s version of the song has been ever present on Australian TVs and in your ears.

A delicate tone with underlying layers of strength and bounce, Marlow’s voice is the absolute focal point for Medicine Man, only borrowing the use of either a small ensemble or larger orchestra when absolutely necessary. Noting that there is definitely an overarching sense of vulnerability throughout all her songs, Marlow is clear in her opinion that you should be true to yourself and not bend to the powers and pressures of others in your life. There’s a bullet proof sentiment in this notion that transfers incredibly well into her music; whether through the lyrics or instrumentation and song structure.

An obvious early highlight comes in the form of “Don’t Want to Grow Up”, a wandering four and half minutes of Marlow being as blunt as possible in letting the antagonist know that she wants to stay true to herself and not be forced into growing up.

 

Staying with the ‘be true to yourself’ theme, “Don’t Think Too Hard” is a timely reminder that overthinking something can be detrimental to your own health, irrespective of how trivial or serious the thought may indeed be. A solemn, sweet and reflective tone with some underlying sarcasm and dry delivery, “Don’t Think Too Hard” is a mid-album peak.

Diagnosed with a rare auto-immune disease mid way through recording the album, Marlow was forced to come to grips with her new reality while ever so surely progressing the album that would become Medicine Man. Finding refuge and purpose in classic literature during hospital and doctors visits, Marlow used these words and stories to build her own lived experiences and voice which has ebbed its way into the album. The brilliant “One Flew East, One Flew West”, comes with the most sweet swear you’re likely to hear in song form in 2021.

Bordering on a slightly chaotic path in its closing stages, “One Flew East, One Flew West” well and truly cements itself in the middle stages of Medicine Man. And while her illness is part of her story, Marlow is adamant it isn’t her only story. Pointing out the word ‘heal’ wasn’t born from the words ‘to cure’ but from the words ‘to make whole’, Marlow is adamant that the 13 tracks of Medicine Man are a defiant riposte and up-yours to those in society who go out of their way to tear others down.

The titular “Medicine Man” has a surprising bounce of positivity to it despite the obvious seriousness to its content. Exploring her own mortality and what comes after this life (the refrain of ‘where do we go?’ is repeated throughout), “Medicine Man” is a welcome if not slightly confronting addition to the album. Taking things a little western and mysterious on “Rain Man”, the closing third of the album is as strong as its opening 9 tracks, with album closer “Now I Have You” proving to be the perfect end to Medicine Man.

A message of hope and a push towards to a new beginning, while it may not have the overarching themes of the rest of the album, “Now I Have You” is a subtle look to a better, healthier and more complete tomorrow.

Tackling confronting and raw themes, Medicine Man welcomes us into the world and life of an artist doing her best to not be defined by her health. Not seeking our pity, Martha Marlow is on the way to great heights, whether the Medicine Man likes it or not.

Source: The AU Review

LUMP, Laura Marling, Mike Lindsay - Animal

Animal

by LUMP - Laura Marling, Mike Lindsay

Released 2 August 2021

partisan, Chrysalis

****-

Laura Marling and Mike Lindsay are howling at the moon with Animal, their second collaborative album as Lump. Andy Brown gives the album a listen and finds so much more than a ‘side project’. He shared his thoughts for Louder Than War.

There’s a warm, organic quality to the recordings that makes the whole album feel inviting. Animal wraps you in a sonic cocoon, with a brilliantly strange undercurrent ensuring we’re never too relaxed. There’s something satisfyingly indefinable at its core. Inexplicably, Climb Every Wall manages to invoke both Fleetwood Mac and Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci. Or have I just lost the plot? The title-track, on the other hand, finds the sweet spot between an endearing yet faintly sinister delivery. “Dance, dance/ This is your last chance/ To break a glass heart,” sings Marling over a glitchy and driving folktronica backing.

Inspired by dreams and German poetry, Red Snakes takes an entirely different route and delivers something heartbreakingly beautiful. A lonesome piano and a wheezing, ethereal backdrop that recalls the fragile beauty of the much-missed Sparklehorse. ‘Haunting’ gets thrown around a little too readily as a description, yet Red Snakes really is a shiver-inducing piece of audible magic. Paradise combines the tale of a French psychoanalyst and an erotic cucumber sandwich, with one of the most spine-tingling guitar solos I’ve heard in some time. And who wouldn’t enjoy such a combination?

The shift between the dreamy, otherworldly songs and the album’s more overtly catchy moments feels seamless. The momentum is never lost over the course of the ten tracks. Animal is an album with a great natural rhythm, partly inspired by Lindsay’s move to Margate and the rhythm of the waves. The hypnotic, music-box instrumental Hair On The Pillow and the ghostly Oberon sit either side of the album’s most undeniably catchy and life-affirming track. We Cannot Resist is just a really wonderful and unashamedly joyous pop song. Honestly, if it isn’t bouncing around your noggin for weeks afterwards, I’ll be worried about you.

Phantom Limb is a witty, serene and gorgeously wonky closer. The track’s wave-like rhythm is momentarily interrupted by something that sounds like a fragmented, half-remembered version of The Who’s Baba O’Riley. It ends with Marling reading the album’s liner notes aloud. Just so you’re not getting too comfortable. Animal is an instinctively playful and curious beast, nuzzling its way through a variety of styles with a genuine sense of fun and adventure. A clever, wild and overwhelmingly adorable animal that thrives on the sheer joy of making music.

Source: LouderThanWar

Nina Simone - The Montreux Years (live)

Nina Simone: The Montreaux Years (LIve)

by Nina Simone

Released 13 August 2021

BMG

****-

If you were whiling away the summer in Switzerland in the late 20th century, which was the year to take a break from the fondue and chocolate and catch Nina Simone at her very best at the Montreux Jazz Festival? This double CD, culled from five appearances between 1968 and 1990, gives a good idea of the answer. It also serves as a history of a ferocious talent, whose career was torn between the demands of showbusiness fame, her support for black civil rights and her personal problems – not least the long-undiagnosed bipolar disorder.
Eight songs come from her final show in 1990 – decent renditions of Simone set staples including See Line Woman and Jacques Brel’s Ne Me Quitte Pas. She does a good job of owning Bob Marley’s No Woman No Cry. However, Simone’s baritone has lost its suppleness and her pitching can be suspect. There’s an encore clap-along to Simone’s smash-hit re-release of the time, My Baby Just Cares For Me, but it’s not a patch on the dazzling Bach-infused improvisations of the 1987 version.

The 1990 set is mixed in among earlier shows on CD one, which jarringly shows up how her voice aged. There is in fact only one piece from 1987, a brief classically-minded piano exploration of Someone to Watch Over Me, and just one from 1981, an improvised blues.

So it’s back to 1976, a tempestuous, angry, vulnerable and poignant show that is the centrepiece of the Netflix documentary What Happened, Miss Simone? The singer, in exile from the US, had just left Liberia for the “terrible, wonderful peacefulness” of Switzerland. She talks to the audience as if talking to her therapist – which in a way I suppose they were. Here the false start to her version of Janis Ian’s Stars is omitted (“Hey girl, sit down. Sit down. Sit down,” she yelled to an audience member trying to leave). Simone heartrendingly delivers this story of showbusiness success crumbling to dust before seemingly forgetting the words and instead paying tribute to great women singers who have preceded her. Little Girl Blue and I Wish How I Knew How It Would Feel to be Free share the same world-weariness and frayed emotion. This is Simone letting it all hang out – gripping to hear now but maybe not what the audience wanted back then.

The entire second CD is taken up with the 13-song set from 1968 and it’s soon clear why this is much the best-represented show. Simone sounds utterly engaged, she has a crack band, her voice soars and she is playing the unique mix of folk, jazz and pop that won her fame – everything from Bessie Smith’s Gin House Blues to the Bee Gees’ To Love Somebody. Although the year marked the height of the civil rights struggle in America, of her protest songs only Backlash Blues and a lustrous, gospel-infused I Wish How I Knew How It Would Feel to be Free make it to Switzerland.

The show, like pretty much everything here, has been available before, but the existing Montreux 1968 album commands eye-watering prices on Discogs.

For anyone who saw Simone only in her declining years (and I’ve never seen a car-crash of a set quite as excruciating as her slot at the Bishopstock Festival in Devon in 2001), here’s a reminder of a mighty talent at her peak.

Source: London Jazz News

STR4TA - Aspects

Aspects 

by STR4TA

Released 25 March 2021

Brownswood Recordings

****-

Producer Gilles Peterson originally made his name in the 1980s as a resident DJ in Camden at the Electric Ballroom and Dingwalls playing the contemporary dance music of the time, variously known as Jazz Funk, Brit Funk and, in a later 1990s revival, as Acid Jazz. The significance of this music isn’t just that it was the predominant British dance music of the time, but that it used the rhythms and musical inventions then coming from electric Jazz. More importantly, however, the music was a London-based hub of creativity that let British dance culture develop its own distinct path and, crucially, was colour-blind at a time when the ethnicity of a British musician was still considered worthy of attention. This was the kind of music played by the likes of British bands such as Level 42, Imagination and Incognito.

Peterson has collaborated with the leader of Incognito, Jean-Paul “Bluey” Maunick to form STR4TA.

This is an intentionally nostalgic band that endeavours to recreate the rhythms of the early 1980s, along with a consciously raw, relatively unpolished production sound. So, on Aspects, their debut album, we find slap bass, propulsive guitar, spare and punchy drums, falsetto harmony vocals, and floaty electric piano. This is dance-floor oriented music that is tight, taut and immediately danceable, but rather than being dependent on electronic instruments relies instead on musicianship and sympathetic production.