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YouTube | February 2022 SunNeverSetsOnMusic

YouTube | February 2022 SunNeverSetsOnMusic

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Black Country, New Road - Ants From Up There

Ants From Up Here

by Black Country, New Road

Released 4 February 2022

Ninja Tune

*****

“The next Arcade Fire – that’s our goal,” experimentalists Black Country, New Road joked at the start of 2020, riffing on the fact that the two bands have sprawling casts (the latter boasted seven at the time) while sounding almost nothing alike. Yet, surprisingly, with their second album, it seems they’ve delivered on that promise. Arriving just 364 days after the band’s debut – and mere days after lead vocalist Isaac Wood’s shock resignation from the group – this is a reinvention of striking proportions.

2021 debut ‘For The First Time’ introduced a virtuosic, London-formed band who traversed experimental rock, post-punk and more with a compellingly restless nature, but ‘Ants From Up There’ sees them settle into a completely different stride. An outlier on the debut, ‘Track X’, was a tender curveball that found Wood singing akin to Sufjan Stevens – rather than speaking – over soft indie, hinting at a very different future for the outfit, and this collection takes that sound to the next level.

On ‘Ants From Up There’, a truly remarkable collection, Black Country, New Road manage to pivot towards more familiar, accessible sounds and embrace traditional song structures – without sacrificing an ounce of their musical wizardry or inventiveness. The album’s ‘Intro’ begins with a whirlwind of sax and violin, but swaps the intensity of older tracks for a gorgeous warmth, before guitars and drums reminiscent of Los Campesinos! (yes, really) crash their way in.

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This leads straight into ‘Chaos Space Marine’, a three-and-a-half minute tune closer to a traditional indie single than it ever felt possible to hear from this band. When it careers into a simply joyous, thunderous chorus imbued with the communal power of, yes, Arcade Fire, it feels like the group are barging down the door and charging into a new era. Elsewhere, highlights ‘Concorde’ and ‘Good Will Hunting’ flow towards cathartic, cacophonous endings, while ‘Mark’s Theme’, written for saxophone player Lewis Evans’ uncle – a huge early supporter of the band who passed away from COVID in February last year, the day before they released their debut – is a blissful interlude suitably led by Evans’ sax.

As well as swapping talking for singing, Wood’s lyrics on ‘Ants From Up There’ are also deeply – and at points hopelessly – romantic. Where ‘For The First Time’ saw Wood strive to be Mark E. Smith or Slint’s Brian McMahan, here he’s Conor Oberst or Neutral Milk Hotel‘s Jeff Mangum. “It’s just been a weekend, but in my mind we summer in France with our genius daughters,” he sings on ‘Good Will Hunting’, later thinking of a girl with “Billie Eilish style.”

Despite the bombast, there’s a new intimacy here. On ‘Bread Song’, he laments being kicked out of bed by a partner for eating toast between the sheets; when he sings “I was made to love you / Can’t you tell?!” on ‘Concorde’, he sounds utterly incredulous, letting his endlessly literate and wordy musings from the debut album be replaced by pure feeling.

 

It’s strange to think that had Nervous Conditions – the experimental post-punk group from whose ashes Black Country formed – not imploded, we may never have seen Wood emerge from the shadows to take up the mic front and centre and become a generational storyteller. The record’s music and messages seem feel doubly vital in the wake of frontman’s announcement and immediate departure, meaning ‘Ants From Up There’ may be his footnote as well as the band’s masterpiece.

Through the anthemic ‘The Place Where He Inserted The Blade’ and slow-building ‘Snow Globe’, all roads here lead to mammoth closer ‘Basketball Shoes’, a track Black Country, New Road have had in their pockets since 2019. Across 12 astonishing minutes, it sweeps majestically through verse after verse, stopping for delicate instrumental breaks and incorporating a raging two-minute emo song halfway through, led by Luke Mark’s twangy, addictive guitar riff. An outro befitting of an album as grand in scale as this is then duly rolled out, with guitars, saxophones, violins and Wood’s voice rising like a hurricane.

“We’re all working on ourselves / And we’re praying that the rest don’t mind how much we’ve changed,” he sings halfway through the track, surely aware that this is precisely what makes the band such a fascinating, unknowable prospect. Of course, the DNA of Black Country, New Road means that ‘Ants From Up There’ is surely far from a final form for the group, especially as they have confirmed that they will continue as a six-piece in Wood’s absence.

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It’s futile, then, to debate over what album three and beyond might hold for the now-sextet, but wherever they do end up, this singular record will remain a stunning collection to be cherished for years to come, and a remarkable high on which to end Wood’s tenure at the front of the band. It’s a future cult classic.

Source: NME

Tears For Fears - The Tipping Point

The Tipping Point

by Tears For Fears

Released 25 February 2022

TFF UK

*****

Seventeen years is a long time between albums. It's even longer when you consider the magnitude of how much life happens during that interval. Tears for Fears had experienced mega pop successes (and loads of industry pressure) with Songs from the Big Chair (1985) and The Seeds of Love (198(). Curt Smith, sick of paying fame's price, quit in 1991. Roland Orzabal carried on the name for two more lackluster albums. The lads reunited for 2004's Everybody Loves a Happy Ending, but it was short-lived. They planned to record again shortly thereafter, but Orzabal's wife Caroline became gravely ill. Further, their record company tried pairing them with contemporary hitmaking songwriters. They scuttled the sessions. Caroline died in 2017, and a bereft Orzabal turned to his old friend Smith for community and solace; the duo began touring and writing together again in a room with two acoustic guitars. The Tipping Point was eventually completed during the pandemic.


You can hear the intimacy between these songwriters in "No Small Thing." An acoustic guitar introduces Orzabal's vocal amid reverb, subtle yet glitchy electronics, and an organ. Smith's harmony enters atop a slide guitar and bass drums. The duo deliver an anthemic chorus that refuses to let go. The title track offers the same elegant pop swing and production polish that fueled Songs from the Big Chair. Its subject matter addresses living through the final stages of Caroline's illness. "Break the Man" is sung by Smith and offers a master class in Tears for Fears' glorious psych-pop sound; it may be the catchiest song ever written about smashing the patriarchy. "My Demons" is a rocking big beat Orzabal anthem with zigzagging synths and guitars. Set highlight "Rivers of Mercy" is a poignant, tender ballad juxtaposing emotional states of healing and letting go with living through COVID-19 and the racially charged upheaval that engulfed America during the summer of 2020. The grain in Smith's voice carries the listener through grief, confusion, and the desire for peace. "Please Be Happy," also sung by Smith, bravely bears witness to Caroline's suffering and depression as her illness accelerated. (He knew her from the time they were teens.) Strings frame a piano, majestic drums, and deeply stirring vocals. A muted trumpet meets the sweeping strings in a chorus that momentarily recalls the Beatles' "The Long and Winding Road." "Master Plan" offers melodrama in spades. It's a hooky, bombastic dig at former management and the music industry's ability to transform artists into commodities amid deliberately grandiose production. "End of Night" is transcendent neo-psychedelic pop layered in electronics, with lush vocal harmonies, massive basses and drums, and an earworm chorus.

Varied, poetic, and poignant, The Tipping Point is, after all this time, the very album the duo wanted to make. This set is a classic-sounding Tears for Fears record, one that makes the listener take emotional, spiritual, and mental inventory of their inner world even as the one outside roils with trouble, violence, and madness.

Welcome back gents, we've missed you.

Source: AllMusic

Binker and Moses - Feeding the Machine

Feeding The Machine

by Binker & Moses

Released 25 February 2022

Gearbox Records

****-

In 2015 Moses Boyd and Binker Golding emerged on the music landscape with a seminal album called ‘Dem Ones’ on Gearbox Records. It was an album that had as much to do with jazz’s past as it did with hip-hop and grime. It was a melting pot of ideas and showcased what prodigious talents Binker and Moses were. They followed this up with the more prog-influenced double album ‘Journey To The Mountain Of Forever’ in 2017. They then released two live albums ‘Alive In The East?’ and ‘Escape The Flames’ in 2018 and 2020, respectively. Now they have returned with their boldest and bravest album to date, the transcendental ‘Feeding The Machine’. 

Listening to ‘Feeding The Machine’ I’m reminded of the paintings of Mark Rothko. In his later work Rothko removed objects from his work, leaving only colour. The same can be said of ‘Feeding the Machine.’ Binker and Moses have pretty much done away with the lyricalness of their early work. Listening back to their 2015 debut album ‘Dem Ones’ it’s remarkable how much they have stripped away. That album was a joy because it was full of massive melodies, tangible drumming and a sense of fun that was hard to ignore. The music exploded out of the speakers and put a bounce in your step and a smile on your face. There is very little bounce going on here, but the smile remains.

‘Active-Multiple-Fetish-Overlord’ is the one track that probably resembles their earlier work the most. The duo seems to be playing with each other rather than against. Their phrases go hand in hand, and, in a conventional sense, it makes the most sense. Much like with Rothko the sounds seems to hang suspended in the air. Swelling and drawing all the light out of the room. It’s remarkable stuff. 

‘Accelerometer Overdose’ starts off like the previous two songs, with fugs of sound emanating from the speakers. Then, all of a sudden, Moses Boyd delivers one of the finest drumbeats of his career. The stuttering percussion and saxophone comes to a grinding halt, and for a few moments the duo turn into one of the finest hip-hop backing bands. Then, as soon as this newfound order starts, it all collapses on itself. It’s wonderful as it reminds us that Binker and Moses are very capable of playing organised jazz. It also offers a brief respite to the way the drums and saxophones ricochet off each other.

‘Feeding The Machine’ revels in its abstraction. It basks in how it delivers the swaths of sound. From the opening blasts to the last faded out moments the album makes us question firstly what is going one, secondly what its role is (to entertain, make us think or both) and lastly it makes us feel slightly sorry for the next piece of music we listen to, as this is such a hard act to follow.

Part of this new sound is down to the inclusion of Max Luthert on tape loops and electronics. Luthert’s contributions add an extra layer of sound that hasn’t been heard on previous Binker and Moses releases. These soundscapes sound contemporary, but also have a slightly retro feel to them. The combination of free jazz and electronics feels like a continuation of Miles Davis’ ‘On The Corner’ album. Much like that project, the electronic motifs add punctuation to the dense phrases that Binker and Moses have created. It gives the duo a firm, if not glitchy, foundation while they laydown some free jazz phrases.

What really comes across is how much fun Binker and Moses are having: the pair clearly love playing this free. This might be the album they’ve always wanted to make but have been afraid where it may lead. The only problem after listening to ‘Feeding The Machine’ is wondering where the pair go next. If they reel in this newfound freeness some fans might feel it a step back. If they push their compositions even further forward, they might alienate some of their core group. At the end of the day, however, it's all immaterial. That isn’t a worry we fans need- we just need to concentrate on what is at hand, and that is an incredibly brave album made by two of the finest musicians working in music today.

Not only is this their biggest album to date, it’s also their best. It builds on their remarkable career, as a duo and solo artists, to date and makes us question what jazz should be doing in 2022. The answer is a resounding “THIS!” It’s brave, accomplished, daring and wonderfully catchy in ways you don’t expect. Shove the tube back in as I need some 

Source: ClashMusic

Robert Glasper - Black Radio III

Black Radio III

by Robert Glasper

Released 25 February 2022

Loma Visa Recordings / Concord

*****

It is now precisely two decades ago that the first installment of Robert Glasper's Black Radio trilogy was released, and in almost equal measure, Black Radio III is both different from and similar to the previous two albums - both are natural syntheses of R&B, jazz, and hip-hop carried out with his fluctuating gang of singers, rappers, and instrumentalists.

However, it's just as much an extension of Glasper's activity since 2016's ArtScience -- what stands in 2022 as the last Robert Glasper Experiment session -- part of a sequence that follows August Greene: Collagically Speaking, Fuck Yo Feelings, Dinner Party, a bunch of soundtracks, and dozens of concomitant recordings the keyboardist augmented as a collaborator.

The change most evident from the outset is that Black Radio III is not credited to Robert Glasper Experiment. Derrick Hodge is the bassist on more than half of the cuts, and fellow band vet Chris Dave drums on two of them, but Glasper in the rhythm section is often flanked by other familiar associates such as Burniss Travis II and Justin Tyson.

The additional musicians enhancing the shared complex simplicity of the principal players are greater in number, ranging from turntablists Jahi Sundance and DJ Jazzy Jeff to guitarist Isaiah Sharkey.

Also unlike the first two volumes, this was over a year in the making and enabled by remote contributions, rather than knocked out within a week with everybody in a room. In one way or another, each selection is either a love song in the traditional sense or at least filled with love. Interpersonal ballads are most common. "Better Than I Imagined," a Grammy-winning 2020 single, is a meeting between a distressed H.E.R. and seductive Meshell Ndegeocello that smolders. Jennifer Hudson struts and shrugs through "Out of My Hands," a midtempo thumper (co-produced by Terrace Martin) that rates with her "Spotlight" and "Angel." Ledisi and Gregory Porter make the best match of all on the quiet fire of "It Don't Matter," harmonizing as Glasper takes a lilting rare solo. No more than a foot behind them are the vocal duo that bobs through "Why We Speak," a bolt of sunshine. Glasper's stink face-inducing electric lines set up luminous Esperanza Spalding, singing mostly in French with a dizzying mix of percussive and elongated notes -- reminding "not to sell our soul" -- and Q-Tip somehow finds a seam to further brighten the song without getting in the way. There are also some harder-hitting moments, such as a poignant opening with unwavering Amir Sulaiman poetry leading to a pro-Black summit with Killer Mike, BJ the Chicago Kid, and Big K.R.I.T. The unexpected touches, such as Glasper's own drunk-funk drums on "Shine" and the Theo Parrish-like beatdown house gait of "Everybody Love" (featuring Musiq Soulchild and Posdnous), are as welcome as the familiar ones. Speaking of which, the Lalah Hathaway-fronted cover here is a slow-swaying update of Tears for Fears' "Everybody Wants to Rule the World" that would have made for an apt finale. Instead, it's smack in the middle, and no less effective for it.

Source: AllMusic

Robert Glasper - Black Radio 2

Black Radio 2

by Robert Glasper

Released 29 October 2013

Blue Note

*****

On Black Radio 2, the Robert Glasper Experiment attempts the near impossible: create a sequel that delivers fully on the promise of its groundbreaking, Grammy-winning predecessor. Glasper's group -- bassist Derrick Hodge, Casey Benjamin on vocoder and synth, and drummer Mark Colenburg -- again enlists a stellar cast of vocalists. Instead of relying on covers, this set is almost entirely comprised of originals. There is an organic feel as well: there are no programmed loops on the record; everything was played live. Standout "I Stand Alone" juxtaposes hip-hop and pop as Common raps about growing up in Chicago, with a sung refrain by fellow Illinoisian Patrick Stump of Fall Out Boy. Michael Erik Dyson adds an inspiring spoken word outro. The set's first single, "Calls," features vocals by Jill Scott. It’s a dreamy, repetitive, nocturnal, neo-soul groover with Glasper's Rhodes and Benjamin's synths sparkling above the clipped rhythm. The RGE weds neo-soul to hip-hop to very fluid jazz on "Worries" with Dwele. The popping snare and toms are accented by Glasper's acoustic piano and a bumping, bubbling bassline from Hodge, as the vocalist alternately sings and raps. Anthony Hamilton offers an exquisite, deeply moving vocal on "Yet to Find," a tune that weds adult contemporary R&B to modern gospel seamlessly and convincingly. Faith Evans underscores the pop/R&B notion on "You Own Me," a track illustrated by Glasper's crystalline middle-register piano, Benjamin's winding, circular synth line, and Colenburg's ticking, in-the-pocket hi-hat. The set's most bracing cut is "Let It Ride." It was written by Glasper and Munsinah, and driven by Colenburg's dazzling breakbeat snare, which is so accurate it could be a loop. It's mixed far above the acoustic piano vamp, an atmospheric Rhodes, layered synths, and a sparse, seductive bassline. Norah Jones' slippery, slurry, vocal phrasing rises over the top, making the track an expansive, syncopated meld of dubstep, jazz, and pop. The set closer is a cover of Stevie Wonder's "Jesus Children." Introduced by the RGE in a nearly modal mélange of acoustic piano, electric bass, and skittering snare, vocalist Lalah Hathaway finds the melody and adds her signature utterance, which is equal parts gospel, old-school soul, and bluesy jazz. She trades verses with Malcolm Jamal Warner, who delivers a searing, spoken tribute to the victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting, thereby exiting the set on a poignant note. Black Radio 2 is much more subtle than its predecessor. While it's true that it possesses fewer standout performances, it's wholly consistent, and on some level, it's braver for relying on original material to carry it. It requires more listening to appreciate fully. Taken as a whole, however, it serves and fulfills the role of a sequel: the album deepens the band's music-making aesthetic, and further establishes their sound not only as a signature, but even, perhaps, as its own genre.

Source: AllMusic

Robert Glasper - Black Radio

Black Radio

by Robert Glasper

Released 28 February 2012

Blue Note

*****

Black Radio, the title of the Robert Glasper Experiment's proper Blue Note debut, is a double signifier. There's the dictionary's definition: "the device in an aircraft that records technical data during a flight, used in case of accident to discover its cause." And there's Angelika Beener's in her liner essay. She defines Black Radio as "representative of the veracity of Black music" which has been "...emulated, envied and countlessly re-imagined by the rest of the world...." With jazz as its backbone, Glasper, drummer Chris Dave, bassist Derrick Hodge, and Casey Benjamin on reeds, winds, and vocoder, cued by the inspiration of black music's illustrious cultural past, try to carve out a creative place for its future. The album is a seamless, deeply focused meld of jazz, hip-hop, adult contemporary R&B, neo-soul, even rock, with an expansive use of rhythmic and melodic invention; all of it surrounded by spacious, natural-sounding production that's smooth, never slick. The various elements yield the desired result: making the whole greater than its parts. Sa-Ra's Shafiq Husayn introduces it with "Lift Off." Erykah Badu takes the Cuban jazz classic "Afro Blue" and extends it using hip-hop rhythms and neo-soul groove wedded to her signature, jazz-tinged croon. Benjamin's airy flute and Glasper's Rhodes and piano converge in the center; Hodge's bass adds slip for the drum kit. Lalah Hathaway's gorgeous vocal on Sade's "Cherish the Day" finds the rhythm section bumping around the fringes and creating a new pocket, which she embraces while finding spaces inside the song that weren't there before. On "Always Shine," Lupe Fiasco's flow meets Bilal's emotive modern soul. The band stretches conventional 4/4 time, and the piano and synth shapeshift through the melody, adding depth and musical drama. "Gonna Be Alright" is a re-imagining of Glasper's "F.T.B." with new lyrics and a rousing, elegant vocal by Ledisi. King dreamily croons through "Move Love," as the Experiment pushes the time accents to a near breaking point. "Ah Yeah," with Musiq (Soulchild) and Chrisette Michele, is a sensual babymaker that expands the reach of contemporary jazz. The subtle yet fragmented breaks in "The Consequences of Jealousy," combined with Glasper's right-handed, upper-register chord creations, give Me'Shell Ndégeocello's vocal room to step outside the frame to fully inhabit the brooding musical simmer as an improviser. On "Why Do We Try," Stokley's (Mint Condition) breezy vocal is the bridge between Glasper's counterpoint melodies (one on each hand, with plenty of block chord improvisation), and the organ-esque timbres, popping breakbeats, and rumbling bass harmonics. The title track, with Yasiin Bey (formerly Mos Def) commences with hip-hop in the tune's head; the rhythm section charges full press to meet his rapid-fire delivery, but Glasper and Benjamin offer gentler modal grooves on the margins without blunting the impact. Bilal uses his elastic phrasing to offer an iconic reading of David Bowie's "Letter to Hermione," as the band follows and builds upon his twists and turns. A drum machine and slurred speaking voice introduce Glasper's modally strident reading of "Smells Like Teen Spirit" to close. As Benjamin sings through his vocoder, loops, blips, and sample fragments haunt the middle like ghosts. Glasper approaches the melody elliptically; but grounds the entire tune, even as the rhythm section and effects gather steam. Before long, everything converges to propel it into the stratosphere. Black Radio creates an entirely new context for popular music in its near erasure of boundaries. It is the sound of the future -- even if no one knows it yet.

Source: AllMusic

Grace Cummings - Storm Queen

Storm Queen

by Grace Cummings

Released 14 January 2022

Sugar Mountain Records

****-

To say Grace Cummings sings songs is something of an understatement. On her new album, Storm Queen, the Australian artist uses her voice like a force of nature: it can devastate as much as it can bring a surprising sense of relief. At her fiercest, like on the Dylan-esque single “Up In Flames”, she snarls the titular phrase with an incandescent rage that could light up a city during a blackout. Equally, when she strips back the attack, her vocals are disarmingly delicate and tender. On “Two Little Birds” she sounds almost disheveled, torn apart and picking herself off the ground piece by piece. She doesn’t just sing the song; she is the song.

And it’s not just her voice that Cummings uses with a vehement purpose. She wields her acoustic guitar like barbed wire, a jagged set of strings that add threatening weight to her words. On the optimistic and reservedly jubilant “Raglan”, her strums of guitar are like jolts of electricity, while on the phenomenal “Storm Queen” it’s like a force strong enough to demolish a building.

When she adds in additional instruments too, they can feel bluntly forceful, if not strongly deliberate motions to accentuate the songwriting. The somewhat surprising, ambling, folksy fiddle on “Freak” and “Here Is The Rose” bring an unexpected light, even weightless feeling to the tracks (no doubt influenced by her and her father’s love of Irish folk music and melodies), while on “Heaven” the tambourine flourishes are played like castanets, giving the song an almost demented flamenco feel.

Cummings’ skill as an actor plays to her favour here. She knows not to over utilize big dramatic moments – and not just with her vocal ferocity. She adds in some delicate piano atop the finger picked guitar notes on “Two Little Birds”, like the titular animals playfully soaring in the sky. At the other end of the spectrum is the aforementioned “Storm Queen” where reverberating, low piano chords, timpani, and Harry Cooper’s vengeful saxophone playing swirl together to create a tempest of thundering noise. Come final track “Fly A Kite” a theremin is even thrown into the mix, and with its alien, operatic moans it feels perfectly fitting next to Cummings’ guitar and mournful voice. She knows when to unleash a snarl or reduce the performance to a whisper, and listening to Storm Queen can feel like being transfixed by a solo stage performer with nothing more than a spotlight on them.

Compared to her 2019 debut Refuge Cove, Cummings feels much more comfortable in her own skin here. While both are folk records at their hearts, on Storm Queen she moves beyond the label with deliberate vigor. Most of the tracks were caught in the first few takes, and Cummings self-produced the record too; the result feels undeniably exciting at the best moments, an instinctual, impulsive album that doesn’t feel overly fussed over.

While every track might not leave you a little breathless like “Storm Queen”, “Heaven”, and “Up In Flames” (and the stodgy “The Day In May” is something of a forgettable dud), the album still lingers in your head after it’s over. Phrases like “It’s winter now / And I feel like Robert Frost”, “I weigh 61 again”, or the way she simply sings her syllables (the lingered on, biting final “s” of “You’re one of those freaks”; the vocal gymnastics of “Ave Maria” on “Heaven”) are like scars she digs into your back with her nails.

“I always have things very close to the surface—it’s actually harder for me to just exist in the normal world,” Cummings has explained, and the album makes this sentiment all the more understandable. On Storm Queen she’s an actor given complete creative freedom with a classic text; the voice of an avenging angel; a ballet dancer performing with a sharpened sabre in hand. Summoning thunderclouds and hurricanes with her inflections and rippling vocal cords, she is the Storm Queen through and through.

Source: Beats Per Minute

Bonobo - Fragments

Fragments

by Bonobo

Released 14 January 2022

Ninja Tune

****-

From the moment Fragments begins, you know you've arrived. Where is of little consequence — it's certainly not bearing of any physical location. Rather, it's a place of spiritual reflection and familiar reverie that British producer and DJ Bonobo, a.k.a. Simon Green, has carefully refined for over two decades. From early days as a downtempo solo project to becoming a worldwide headliner and five-time Grammy nominee, Bonobo has become synonymous with some of today's best emotive dance music.
 
Fragments is Green's seventh album and follows 2017's wildly successful Migration. Recorded over 2020 and 2021, the album took shape during periods of intense isolation and personal turbulence. Green sought solitude among nature to reignite his inspiration, reaching out to other artists like Miguel Atwood-Ferguson to add to the album's rich texture (see the string arrangement for opener "Polyghost").

The aptly named Fragments was born, featuring collaborations with Jordan Rakei, Jamila Woods, Joji, and Kadhja Bonet among others (a particular delight is the use of harpist Lara Somogyi's samples throughout). Oscillating seamlessly between downtempo and dance, Green's music continues to inspire introspection and contemplation among listeners. It's hard to imagine a world in which this latest release will not garner the same critical acclaim as its predecessor.
 
The most awe-inducing moment of Fragments arrives with "Otomo," featuring O'Flynn. With little access to a real dancefloor, Green somehow manages to bottle the magic of a rave through its bass-heavy breakdown and pulsating energy. Most notably, the six-minute masterpiece samples a Bulgarian choir, elevating the dance track to anthemic proportions.

Similarly, "Age of Phase," "Rosewood" and "Closer" hold dance floor potential, while "From You," "Tides" and "Day by Day" elicit Bonobo's classic roots. In particular, Bonet's vocals on "Day By Day," as well as the elegiac saxophone, are immediately reminiscent of Andreya Triana's liquid gold on 2010's Black Sands. It closes the album with the hopeful refrain, "Inch by inch, day by day / We'll make this a better place." In this way, Fragments charts the ebb and flow of our collective struggle and perseverance, choosing to end in optimism.   
 
Though Green excels at the many production-heavy elements, such as stitching together the perfect loop or drum beat, he remains unchallenged when it comes to his ability to create organic sound that is at once full-bodied, warm, and filled with textures from around the world. Bonobo's growth, too, across the past two decades has seen a natural and consistent progression, each record building beautifully on the last. Fragments is no exception. It is an album to find love again; to reignite creativity; to regain hope; to find connection.

Source: Exclaim

Khruangbin, Leon Bridges - Texas Moon

Texas Moon (EP)

by Khruangbin, Leon Bridges

Released 18 February 2022

Dead Oceans and LisaSawyer63

****-

Two of the acts boldly leading Texas music into the future have now delivered a second chapter of their groundbreaking collaboration, further extending the region’s sonic possibilities. Singer/songwriter Leon Bridges, from Ft. Worth, and trailblazing Houston trio Khruangbin have joined forces for the Texas Moon EP, a follow-up to 2020’s acclaimed Texas Sun project. While the five new songs are clearly a continuation of the first EP, they also have an identity all their own—Bridges calls it “more introspective,” while Khruangbin bassist Laura Lee says it “feels more night time.”

When Texas Sun was released, AllMusic called the results “intoxicating” and Paste noted that “their talents and character go together so well.” Now comes the next stage—a set of songs that touch on themes like love, faith, and death while exploring new dimensions of inventive, hypnotic grooves.

Significantly, both parties’ musical directions were clearly affected by their time working together. Khruangbin’s most recent album, Mordechai, moved their own vocals much further forward, a change they readily admit was a direct result of working with Bridges. Meanwhile, since these recordings began, in addition to his genre-defying album Gold-Digger’s Sound, Bridges has put out several other challenging, shared tracks, including work with John Mayer, Lucky Daye, and Jazmine Sullivan.

Texas Moon represents a genuine and rare achievement, with two of the most respected and innovative acts of their generation truly collaborating to create something new. “As far as an essentially instrumental band, these guys are kind of the top for me,” says Bridges. “I’m honored to have been the first singer that they’ve incorporated in their music.”

“It feels really special to me,” says Lee. “It’s not Khruangbin, it’s not Leon, it’s this world we created together.” 
 

Source: American Songwriter

Amber Mark - Three Dimensions Deep

Three Dimensions Deep

by Amber Mark

Released 28 January 2022

PMR Records

****-

Over the past six years, Amber Mark has crafted consistent pop-R&B music with tasteful, glossy precision. The New York artist’s first two EPs, 2017’s 3:33 AM and 2018’s breakthrough Conexão, examined themes of grief and love through lithe R&B, pop, dance, and bossa nova, melding different sounds into one elegant, rhythmic blend. She separated herself from her peers by leaning into stormy, overwhelming emotion, whether swimming through a monsoon of tears on an undulating ballad or demanding equal footing in a relationship over a jubilant house beat.

Mark’s impressive, husky voice suits her genre-hopping music, which hit a stride in 2020 on her quarantine-made covers series that allowed her to stretch her legs and experiment, especially in its more offbeat, cheeky exercises (see: her house-infused, unexpectedly delightful spin on Sisqó’s “Thong Song”). That set serves as a playful aperitif for Three Dimensions Deep, Mark’s polished, long-awaited debut. Moving smoothly between R&B, funk, and pop, the fully realized album foregrounds Mark’s vocals and songwriting, scrutinizing her self-doubt as a way to cast it out and build self-confidence.

The album is structured in three acts mapping Mark’s journey at different stages: identifying her own insecurities, working through the messy parts of self-discovery, and finally reaching a solid sense of self-worth. Three Dimensions Deep’s secondary, figurative throughline is inspired by Mark’s love of sci-fi and interest in heady astrophysics theories, a theme that pops up through celestial metaphors in her lyrics that amplify human concerns to galactic size. In Mark’s world, romance hurtles her to another planet, kisses are astronomical, and searching for her place in the world is posed as an all-consuming, cosmic question.

Mark makes the concept work, using it as a loose framework for plush, tightly produced songs whose subjects range from tossing men in the trash to battling dark nights of the soul. “Trying to see where life leads, where the future lies/Anxiety all of me keeping me up at night,” she admits on “One” over a chopped-up blues sample and knocking beats. The concession feels honest, with Mark taking stock of the uncertainty of her future and emerging freshly determined to take control of it. “On & On” describes another battle with self-doubt over a stomping drumbeat and sumptuous strings, making the mental slump of questioning one’s worth sound refreshingly comforting. She uses the occasional astral image, like looking up into the night sky, to illuminate small junctures of uncertainty and distance.

Mark tempers the album’s vulnerable moments with upbeat songs that traipse through sultry nights out and scenes from her love life. Early highlight “Most Men” unspools slowly, as organ chords give way to a laidback beat at the halfway point and Mark immortalizes the one true commandment when it comes to dating: “Most men are garbage.” Later, she moves on from terrible exes on the seductive “Softly,” which loops the guitar melody from Craig David’s 2000 song “Rendezvous” into a throbbing R&B backdrop for the heated tension she feels with a potential partner. Mark co-produced or engineered over half of the album’s 17 tracks and makes her fingerprints known, shifting easily from velvety, percussive R&B (“Worth It”) to sleek pop-funk (“Darkside”). Small details—a slight key change, stacked murmured vocals, luxuriant extended outros—work like choice accessories on Mark’s signature, memorable style.

Source: Pitchfork

Huerco S. - Plonk

Plonk

by Huerco S.

Released 25 February 2022

Incensio

****-

The first Huerco S. album in 6 years, Plonk’s world does not wholly resemble anything Brian Leeds has made under any alias. His sound palette has broadened to absorb and refine trap’s un-smeared geometrics and drill’s taught rhythms amongst the gaseous bodies and soul-piercing ambience that has garnered such acclaim; Where those previous veins were rooted in the pre-Columbian civilizations of his native Kansas, Plonk reflects the mournful sodium glow of cities at night, street corners that light up with painful moments of clarity you wish would disappear.

Over the last few years, Huerco S. has become a central figure of ambient music’s new school, even as he’s receded further into its background. His second album, 2016’s For Those of You Who Have Never – surely a ‘breakout hit’ if the genre has one – feels like a lifetime ago, a nuanced realisation of Leeds’ subtleties as a composer that still seems loud and brutish compared to the divine magic eye paintings of his more recent work under the Pendant moniker, released unceremoniously alongside the likes of Mister Water Wet and Serwed on Leeds’ own West Mineral imprint.

So, the most notable thing about Leeds’ fourth album Plonk is, fittingly for its title, percussion – not the stifled kick heard from outside of a club, but sharp, laser-focused hits and stabs straight to the ear holes. The opening tones of ‘I’ are the first strike in a flurry of tinny strings, accelerating and decelerating like so many attempts at starting a car. Oddly, it allows for an accommodating way into the record, like enormous creaking gates into a world of twisted metal and scattered scrap. If you squint, there are some marvellous structures in there. The episodic presentation of Plonk as a ten-part work – like so many sculptural studies in the same gallery display – plays well into the overlapping atmosphere of each track, such as in the pseudo-D&B arrangements and re-arrangements of ‘II’ through ‘IV’, each an amorphous Aphex/Oval fugue given an analogue acid hue by the unpredictability of its ramshackle drum programming.

It’s tempting to think of Plonk as the Huerco S. ‘dance’ record, but it’s more like the elements of his past work have finally been galvanised into a levelled-up version of what we heard back in 2016. This is evident even as the album slips back into the ambient mode towards the latter half. Stronger even than the luminous 11-minute closer is the penultimate song, a haze of beat poetry-meets-tone poetry which sees guest vocalist Sir EU sparring with the flow of Leeds’ prickly, abstract rhythm.

The gulf of difference between Plonk and what came before seems superficial at best – but the discrete parts that run the Huerco S. vehicle are still as intricate and beautiful when they’re strewn about the floor. Even as Leeds evolves as an artist, it’s encouraging to find that he’s still in hot pursuit of hypnotic transcendence via the scenic route. 

Source: Bandcamp and Loud and Quiet

Oscar Penas - Almadraba

Almadraba

by Oscar Penas

Released 26 February 2022

Oscar Penas

*****

Oscar Peñas is a poet. Having tasked himself with writing a suite dedicated to the centuries-old practice of net-fishing off the Andalusian coast of Spain, the Catalan-born guitarist has crafted a work that, even at its most programmatic, feels like an ancient ode to the sea.

Almadraba, 12 distinct compositions linked by their theme, draws on modern jazz improvisation and classical composition techniques—deeply informed by Latin folk elements—to evoke, in a strong but subtle way, the pride and pathos associated with what might be a dying tradition.


Presented on Feb. 8 at Aaron Davis Hall at the City College Center for the Arts in Harlem, the suite—as performed by the Oscar Peñas Jazz Quartet, both alone and in tandem with the strings of the Mivos Quartet—eschewed pyrotechnic gestures. Rather, it focused on Peñas’ gift for lyrical understatement, and it did so using two discrete formats.

The first part of the suite involved only the jazz group. For about 20 minutes, Peñas, pianist Marta Sánchez, bassist Pablo Aslan and drummer Richie Barshay rode a melodic wave, buoyed by the bossa-like rhythms of “Traveling Through Water,” the elegiac musings of “Ballad Of The Fishermen,” the contrapuntal conjurings of “South” and the insistent yearnings of “Oh, Maguro,” a paean to the bluefin tuna.

The four tunes offered plenty of opportunity for improvisatory exchanges. Reflecting Peñas’ easygoing manner, those exchanges were open and loose. None of the quartet’s members hurried to fill the spaces, even when the spaces begged to be filled—a risky strategy, but one that ultimately paid off. As the tunes unfolded, a powerful sense of purposeful restraint revealed itself and what might have seemed like fragments of dead air became pauses pregnant with possibility, heightening the anticipation as the suite moved into its second portion.

The remaining tunes, for which the Mivos Quartet combined with the jazz group, concentrated less on improvisation than on composition. By introducing the additional strings—Olivia de Prato and Maya Bennardo on violin, Victor Lowrie Tafoya on viola and Tyler J. Borden on cello—Peñas opened the door for more variation in tone, texture and even time. The result was a sonic mix that, despite the added layers of complexity, never sacrificed clarity for density or volume. Arguably, the demands of the larger ensemble centered the work.

That was the case when the suite served up ruminations on the actual fishing process. “Calamento,” inspired by the feat of setting up the nets to catch the massive tuna, featured an energetic 5/4 mid-section set off by lush, languid sections in 4/4. “La Levantá,” evoking the laborious extraction of tuna from the nets, built a musical infrastructure around a single guitar note struck repeatedly, the tension increasing with each reiteration. That tension found a measure of release in the form of an ethereal piano cadenza opening the following tune, “La Bajá,” a moment of exhalation suggested by the post-catch release of the smaller tuna (the means by which the fishermen attempt to sustain the species).

The stages of the fishing process represented in the music were mirrored by a set of dramatic photos—some in grainy black-and-white, others in washed-out color—projected on a huge screen behind the musicians. The multimedia effect transformed the presentation into something of a multisensory experience. While the emotions aroused were vivid, the overall feeling never was one of sensory overload. Peñas’ palette, like that of the faded pictures, remained muted throughout.

Even when the bandleader brought out his nylon-string guitar and invoked, if obliquely, the flamenco sounds of his native land—as he did to great effect in the closing piece, “Buleria De La Almadraba,” the most animated offering of the night—he demonstrated an abundance of reserve. For all its artistry, Peñas’ work retained considerable humility and remained no less impactful because of it.

So far, Almadraba has been booked in two venues: the Brooklyn Academy of Music, where it had its premiere in October, and Aaron Davis Hall, where it also was performed Feb. 7. A recording of the suite, for which Peñas recruited Ron Carter on bass, already is in the can. How that music will be disseminated remains an open question: digital, CD and vinyl formats all are being considered. That it should be disseminated, though, is beyond question.

In concert, Almadraba displayed an expansive vision. It reflected Peñas’ ability to bring together the strands of a broad cultural education—one encompassing classical studies as a teenager in Barcelona and jazz degrees at both Berklee College of Music and the New England Conservatory—in a seamless synthesis of musical idioms and artistic disciplines. In doing so, Peñas, who now lives in Brooklyn, burnished his bona fides as a multidimensional master of fusion—and a friend of fishermen everywhere.

Source: Downbeat

Rob Burger - Marching With Feathers

Marching With Feathers

by Rob Berger

Released 11 February 2022

Western Vinyl

****-

Rob Burger’s keyboard work can be heard in everything from Guggenheim showcases to the blockbuster film Ocean’s 8 -- in addition to albums by John Zorn, Laurie Anderson, and Iron & Wine -- but the moonlit compositions he spins up on his own may be his most compelling work.

His newest solo venture, Marching With Feathers, departs from the controlled exotica and kosmische of 2019’s The Grid towards a genreless seesaw of electrified apprehension and capacious piano rumination. Piano-based tracks like “Figurine” and “Still” draw the listener into a realm of quiet contemplation, while arid psyche vignettes like “Library Science” and “Hotel For Saints” imbue the collection with a vital groove, conjuring images of a searing, high desert plain.

At the core of the album is a central dichotomy between strength and gentleness, power and vulnerability. By uniting these seemingly opposing concepts, Burger catches you off guard by carving trails that turn from mirage to stark reality at every bend. As the album draws to a close, the listener feels as though they’re waking from a dream, pensive yet determined to rise, like a lost hiker reaching a vista - or a clenched fist full of feathers.
 

Source: Bandcamp

Amos Lee - Dreamland

Dreamland

by Amos Lee

Released 11 February 2022

Dualtone Music

****-

It requires a certain amount of courage to veer towards vulnerability while sharing one’s innermost fears and uncertainties. For singer/songwriter Amos Lee, that meant opening himself up, without caution or restraint, and allowing his traumas and tribulations to take center stage. That makes his new album, Dreamland, a decidedly telling narrative, one that details a journey to discovery. It’s one that led him to realize that suffering in solitude doesn’t mean having to deal with that dilemma alone.
Not surprisingly then, the titles are telling in themselves—“Dreamland,” “Worry No More,” “How You Run, “See the Light” and a succession of others describe the meaningful mantra he struggled to uncover. The expressly driven and dramatic title track, which opens the album, provides the premise:

But I’m not afraid to dream
Even when I can’t stop shaking
Even w hen my heart is breaking…
Even when I can’t stop falling
Even when the light is calling

Still, it’s far from the only example of Lee summoning up his strength. Worry no more/There’s an open door for you, he insists on “Worry No More.”  “Into the Clearing” offers another example: I can be free again, he decidedly declares later via its riveting refrain.

That vision of validation illuminates the entire album, once that consists of a series of arched anthems all connected through Lee’s declarations of promise and purpose. It’s clearly a catharsis offered for all to witness, mostly candid confession intertwined with a need to persevere in order to prosper. Or as the chorus of the song “See the Light” suggests, Everybody ‘round me says everything gonna be alright, see the light. 
Granted, waxing publicly about one’s anxieties can veer on self-indulgence. Yet Lee’s aim clearly goes beyond the desire to vent or vaccinate. His aim was to share his emotions with others, hoping that they will find some kind of comfort in knowing they don’t suffer alone. Given the dreaminess and desire infused in these riveting yet reflective musings, it’s easy to understand the connection that was intended. As an example, the contrite and confessional “Should Have Known Better,” with its giddy gallop of a melody, manages to bridge the divide between his guilt and groove.

These days, there’s been no shortage of albums reconciling isolation with uncertainty, and while there may be those who are tired of witnessing yet another example of a downcast disposition, the old axiom that insists misery loves company still holds true. In that regard, Dreamland echoes the notion that an empathic attitude can allow us all to sleep a little more soundly.

Source: American Songwriter

Delvon Lamarr Organ Trio - Cold as Weiss

Cold as Weiss

by Delvon Lamarr Organ Trio

Released 11 February 2022

Colemine Records

*****

It’s impossible to avoid using some keywords when labeling the Delvon Lamarr Organ Trio’s instrumental sound. The adjectives funk, soul, jazz, and even psychedelic, appear in almost every review tagging the three-piece’s approach. Regardless of the repetition, all are accurate descriptions trying to move the reader closer to the deep, often intense groove these guys effortlessly craft on the album and especially live.

Existing fans will be thrilled to learn there are few changes, other than a new drummer (Dan Weiss whose name the band features in the disc’s pun-happy title), on the outfit’s third platter. Organist Lamarr keeps the focus centered with his active, always in the pocket work recalling greats of the instrument like Booker T., Brian Auger, Jimmy Smith, John Medeski, and Jack McDuff. Guitarist Jimmy James urges on the attack, laying back and sometimes exploding in a shower of fretboard sparks, and drummer Weiss keeps the rhythm snug, crisp yet loose enough to allow Lamarr and Jones to blast off when needed.

The key is the chemistry generated when this bass guitar-free (Lamarr handles those parts with pedals) collective connect on open, uncluttered arrangements that keep the six-legged machine from overpowering each other, or the riff-based material. Not surprisingly Lamarr is often the center of musical attention but his dramatic, flexible playing is never showy or hyperactive. The tendency is for the musicians to strut their stuff and push into extended jam heavy improvisations, but each restrains themselves. Most cuts like the vibrant “Slip ‘N Slide,” clocking in at a conservative 2:37, and the Motown strut of “I Wanna Be Where You Are” (pushing just past 3 ½ minutes), keep the playing time tidy and taut.

It’s impossible to keep from instantly tapping your feet along with the heavy funk of the opening “Pull Your Pants Up” propelled by Weiss’ deft drumming and ensemble playing that is the definition of locked in yet elastic. When Lamarr tears into his solo at 2:20, it kicks the vibe into overdrive. The triumvirate erupts into a blues upsurge on “Big TT’s Blues,” and on “Don’t Worry ‘Bout What I Do” James gets a chance to unleash his Hendrix/Prince infused guitar on this ten-track set. His work is a highlight of the group’s concerts but is frustratingly MIA for most of this 40 minute, nine-track set. The tone gets tamped down for the smooth ballad “Uncertainty,” the set’s quietest selection but stays frisky for the rest through to the closing “This Is Who I Is” featuring James’ tense and tensile lead.   

It’s another home run for Lamarr’s trio who hasn’t made a misstep yet. Get on board and bring a friend as these guys generate the fiery funk/soul/jazz heat.

Source: American Songwriter

Arif Mirbaghi, Kaveh Ghaffari, Farhad Safari - Saqqakhaneh, Vol. 2

Saqqakhaneh, Vol. 2

by Arif Mirbaghi, Kaveh Ghaffari, Farhad Safari

Released 7 January 2022

Qame Feraq (Tehran)

****-

Based in Tehran, Iran, Qame Feraq describes itself as an "independent record label/archive issuing 45 rpm records of contemporary music. Based in Tehran, inspired by the world."

The artists featured on this release are

Kaveh Ghaffari - piano
Arif Mirbaghi - bass
Farhad Safari - tonbak

Source: Bandcamp

Rumpistol - After The Flood

After The Flood

by Rumpistol

Released 23 October 2020

OEN Records (Denmark)

****-

“After the Flood”, the sixth album by Danish musician and composer Jens B. Christiansen under his Rumpistol moniker, is something of a departure from his previous efforts in a lot of ways. After having suffered from a severe stress-related burn-out the artist had to completely alter the way he works.

Looking at computer screens gave Jens B. Christensen, whose 16-year career primarily has been within the field of electronic music, headaches and made him nauseated, and so he was forced to work in a completely new, quite minimalistic manner. These 12 new compositions all stem from composing on the piano. Therapeutically, as well as artistically, this turned out to be rewarding, which is evident when listening to “After the Flood”, which has an uplifting, ethereal quality to it, yet remains tangible, almost tactile, in its use of organic, non-electronic instruments and textures. As refreshingly new this musical direction is for a Rumpistol album it’s also somewhat familiar sounding to fans of the artist. The melodies seem to ebb and flow, undulating around each other, in that particular Rumpistol way that point forward (and perhaps even upwards, celestially), yet evokes memories of past works, like the strings on “Beito” from the album “Dynamo”.

The musical core of “After the Flood” is the piano, much like the works of likeminded composers like Nils Frahm and Max Richter, but Jens B. Christiansen also composed parts for other musicians to join in on these post-catastrophe neoclassical works. This ensemble consists of Line Felding (cello), Maria Jagd (violin/viola), Kristian Hoffmann (lap steel guitar), Mike Sheridan (cristal baschet), Povl Kristian (saw), and Anna Juuliska Nykvist (flute). Jens B. Christiansen also incorporated field recordings of his every-day life using analogue recording media such as reel-to-reel tape, VHS and cassette tape as well as ASMR triggers such as gentle whispering. This doesn’t mean that “After the Flood” merely is music to casually relax to. Although the album sounds very pleasing to the ear, it’s an engaging and thought-provoking listening experience.

About the artist:

The works of Jens B. Christiansen are driven by his quest for beauty and curiously creating new sounds. Since his eponymous debut album from 2003 Rumpistol has released five albums and eight EP’s and played live shows throughout most of the world. He has collaborated with Bill Laswell, Ane Trolle and MØ, and he also composes music for film, video games, and theatre and dance performances. In 2004 BBC radio legend John Peel played Rumpistol’s music on his show for the first time, and in 2016 Rumpistol’s music was used during the enormous opening ceremony for the Paralympics in Rio de Janeiro. Rumpistol has played live at the Roskilde Festival and at Mutek in Canada, and during recent years he has toured the US extensively. Jens B. Christiansen, along with his band Kalaha, won a DMA Jazz award in 2017 and the Carl Prize in 2019.
 

Source: Bandcamp

Jamaal Dean - Primordial Waters

Primordial Waters

by Jamaal Dean

Released 29 October 2022

Stones Throw Records

****-

Anything but indulgent, the much acclaimed American jazz and hip-hop prodigy, Jamael Dean, dreams big with a most ambitious new twenty-track album of tribune and social-political clout. Nothing less than raising the spirits of Black-America, Dean weaves together both a respectful acknowledgement of his Yoruba roots and a street view celestial hip-hop/jazz symphony tribute to L.A.’s Leimart Park – a predominantly Black neighbourhood that’s said to be on the ‘frontline of gentrification’, known for its Black business owned community hubs like Eso Won Books, the Sika Art Gallery, Ride On bike shop and World Stage.

Not so clear cut, nor divided, the Primordial Waters flow between jazz, soul, hip-hop and the classical; the vocals, a mix of diaphanous contoured, lush, lulled and more worked female voices and Dean’s own Freestyle Fellowship mixed with Tanya Morgan and Odd Future poetic, aggrieved observational and conscious raps.

Referencing various deities, spirits from the Yoruba peoples ‘primordial’ creation myth, much of the material splashes around in tumultuous waters as Dean’s collaborative foils, Sharada Shashidas and Mekala Session, use their voices like melodious instruments. At their most intense those vocals, which flow between ancestral dialects, lyrics and sounds, evoke a wailing Linda Sharrock, and just beautifully transcendent when untethered and free. All the while that electric piano spot, dashes and lays down baubles of brightened notes, whilst the drums splash around and offer shimmers and waves of choppy, galloping swells. Beyond-this-realm atmospherics build up a dreamy yet earthy soundtrack of Yoruba mythology.

The Yoruba’s roots began in what are now Nigeria, Benin and Togo, spreading out to all corners of the continent and overseas as a result of both conquest and enslavement. Their deities, traditions are both paid homage to throughout this mini opus. As a musical legacy this civilisation, which spawned the Oyo Kingdom and Benin Empire, is immensely rich and influential. And so across this story of creation there’s hint’s of that influence as well as touches of Sun-Ra, Bobby Hutcherson, Alice Coltrane (Dean’s own ‘Galaxy In Leimert’ is inspired, influenced by Alice Coltrane’s harp-piano spiritualist ‘Galaxy Around Olodumore’), Clive Zanda, Nate Morgan (especially ‘Mrafu’), Nduduzo Makhathini, Mango Santamaria and Pharaoh Sanders.

This grand sweeping cosmology (well, the last third of it anyway) takes a turn towards hip-hop, with Dean rapping over, in some cases, his own jazzier tracks. Like in the style of the late J. Dilla, even Madlib, these groundings are often chopped up, looped, slowed down and reconfigured: The shadowy but celestial mirage ‘Abyss’ reminded me a little of cLOUDEAD. It’s a congruous but expansive turn that takes on a whole different mood, rhythm and cadence; becoming more like a rap album then a wholly jazz orientated one: And for that it works well.

The Primordial Waters have been stirred up to create a grand scheme of spiritual, ancestral inspiration. Multi-layered with titles that in themselves encourage further study – naming a pantheon of African gods -, this is a wonderfully executed work of free-flowing picturesque and more turbulent beauty. If I believed in those fatuous scoring systems used by so many rival sites, this would be a nine of out ten: awarded not just for effect but effort too.

Source: Monolith Cocktails

Qame Feraq - Centuries of Roses

Centuries of Roses

by Various Artists

Released 4 November 2021

Qame Feraq (Tehran)

*****

Another excellent release from the Qarme Feraq label in Tehran, Iraq.

 

Recorded in Tehran, summer 2021, this album features:
Alborz Aeeni - harmonica
Behzad Danesh - guitar
Kaveh Ghaffari - accordion, synth
Aso Kohzadi - violin
Arif Mirbaghi - bass, keys, guitar, robab
Arsalan Khajehniri - percussion
Farhad Asadi - percussion
Shirin Vaezi - drums

Source: Bandcamp

Sven Wunder - Natura Morta

Natura Morta

by Sven Wunder

Released 11 June 2021

Piano Piano Records

****-

On Natura Morta, Sven Wunder is exploring art as a bridge between nature and the human ability to judge and observe in eleven musical compositions with brightly colored textures and an emphasis on vibrant melodies.

Throughout human history, we have depicted the world we live in through art. By reworking what we see in the world, the simplest things have helped us understand the beauty of nature and to evaluate the material world that we have created around us, as a window to a constantly changing reality, through our own perception. It is that absolute reality that appears in the seam of human and nature and that can be revealed through art.

Still life painting, also referred to as natura morta (”dead nature”) in Italian, stretches back to ancient times. Some of the earliest works, found in Pompeii, depict commonplace objects such as fresh autumn fruits alongside man-made objects such as a small amphora and a small terracotta heap with dried fruits. These two thousand year old paintings give a snapshot of Roman life, and also creates a link to time and space. A slice of life has been created by binding the earth’s pigments with extracts of oil, made from nuts and seeds, painted with brushes, made from a variety of fibers, such as trees and hair from animals. While life wanes with each brush stroke, by shifting reality into past, art exists to make us come alive, being a living image of a dead thing, a surface and a symbol with symbolic powers of its own. Still life works celebrate material and ephemeral pleasures by returning to nature as the ultimate source for our standards in art as well as in life itself.

Natura Morta collects pieces from a continuous variety of melodies — supported by a decisive rhythm section — creating a musical kaleidoscope of ever-changing colors. Sven Wunder brings life into this rich assortment of musical implications by fusing and combining melodic instruments with each other in a setting that spans from a classical to a modern idiom. The author evokes this panoramic portrait by articulating an instrumental dialog between a chamber orchestra and a jazz ensemble. The result is a musical celebration of material pleasures that also serves as a reminder of the brevity of human life. This album was produced with financial support from the Swedish Arts Council

Source: Bandcamp

Arif Mirbaghi - Methuselah Palm

Methuselah Palm

by Arif Mirbaghi

Released 14 January 2022

Qame Feraq (Tehran)

****-

Another excellent release from Qarme Feraq in Tehran, Iraq.

 

Methuselah Palm was recorded in Autumn 2021 in Tehran and features:

Arif Mirbaghi - bass, guitar, keys
Mahan Mohammadi - trumpet
Sepehr Abbasi - trombone
Kaveh Ghaffari - keys
Morvarid Siah (‘Black Pearl’) - percussion

Source: Bandcamp

Blue Lab Beats - Motherland Journey

Motherland Journey

by Blue Lab Beats

Released 25 February 2022

Blue Note

*****

"Motherland Journey", London-based GRAMMY and MOBO nominated Jazztronica duo Blue Lab Beats' sophomore offering, is an album that has quite literally been years in the making; the result of tireless days in the studio - a celebration of pushing boundaries, taking risks and overcoming adversity.

What started as over 70 demos has since been meticulously whittled down to the 17-track iteration that remains. It is still Blue Lab Beats’ largest project to date, and the fact it is delivered via the legendary Blue Note imprint reiterates its importance.

Kicking off proceedings is ‘Sky Reflections’, a stunning cinematic hip-hop joint that features strings from esteemed arranger Steve Hussey / Urban Soul Orchestra (Soul II Soul, 'Back to Life'). Setting the tone for the rest of the LP, it is followed by ‘Labels’, the first of four singles on the record and one of a handful of collaborative tracks. A similarly majestic sonic creation, it combines Kofi Stone’s slick bars and Tiana Major9’s head-turning vocals with the smoothest of production. Then there's ‘Gotta Go Fast’, the result of a handful of park jam sessions, featuring the soaring trumpet of Poppy Daniels, ‘I’ll Be Here For You’, featuring the soulful energy of Teni Tinks, and ‘Don’t Let It Go Away’ with Emmavie, who Blue Lab Beats have known from the “glory years” of Soundcloud.

Further singles come in the form of ‘Blow You Away (Delilah)’ and ‘Sensual Loving’, both featuring the unmistakable vocals of Afrobeats prince Ghetto Boy, and ‘Dat It’, an infectious combination of meandering piano chords and funk-drenched synths, with additional keys coming courtesy of renowned Stones Throw affiliate and Drake collaborator, Kiefer.

Meanwhile there are a host of additional star-studded collaborative tracks on Motherland Journey. Perhaps the most prominent is the title track, co-written in Accra, Ghana with Ghanaian production talent KillBeatz at 3am in the morning. It features the vocals of none other than that of the late Fela Kuti, with the estate of the Afrobeat pioneer giving BLB their blessing to release the song. Urban Soul Orchestra feature on ‘Reflections’, Ego Ella May on ‘Slow Down’, Jackson Mathod and Kaidi Akinnibi providing horns on ‘Warp’, ‘Home’ is punctuated by Pip Millet’s soulful vocals, whilst UK Soul talent Jerome Thomas features on ‘Real Good’, a track that came together in just four hours. Rounding off the album is the outro ‘Reflections’, with the emotive percussion and soft guitar licks ensuring the LP finishes on a suitably moving note.

Source: Wordplay

Barney McAll - Precious Energy

Precious Energy

by Barney McAll

Released 18 February 2022

Extra Celestial Arts

*****

Barney McAll doesn’t set out to surprise the socks off people, it’s just the way the music comes out. His new album, Precious Energy, is a bigger surprise than most, partly because the world in which he made it was turned upside down by the pandemic, partly because the pianist/composer has added lyric-writing to his skills, and partly because his collaborators include members of Melbourne’s super-hip soul-jazz outfit Hiatus Kaiyote.

For many musicians, working with the HK players right now might imply a spot of bandwagon-jumping, but not for McAll. He spent 20 years in the New York band of ex-Miles Davis saxophonist, Gary Bartz, and while based there his other associations included frontline jazz saxophonists Dewey Redman and Billy Harper, soul greats Fred Wesley and Maceo Parker and the enigmatic pop star Sia, for whom he was musical director.

Since returning to Australia, he has continued to widen his horizons, his projects ranging from jazz to choirs. He collaborated with Hiatus Kaiyote’s Simon Mavin (keyboards), Paul Bender (bass) and Perrin Moss (drums) on several projects, including Moss’s own band, before McAll pooled them with tenor saxophonist Julien Wilson, singer Rita Satch and others to forge a unique, exultant brand of soul music on Precious Energy. The project ties together different areas of McAll’s career, and is crowned by the involvement of Bartz, a much-sampled hero for all involved.

The impetus for the record epitomises McAll’s quicksilver imagination. “I wanted to make something similar to the feeling I used to get when I swam in the shallows, and warm currents would wash over me as a child,” he says. “It’s kind of like a balm for myself for this last two years of chaos, and hopefully other people might find solace in it – but I’m certainly not trying to say I’m making some sort of healing music. It’s just that this helped me, and I really enjoy it.”

Of the HK members, he says, “They’re all quite brilliant in their own right … They’re just really forward-thinking young people, and I want to always be involved and understand and learn from what’s happening, as opposed to what happened.”
As McAll acknowledges, this echoes Miles Davis’s stance. “Someone said to Miles, ‘Do your players need to know about Louis Armstrong and John Coltrane and all those cats?’ This was in the ’80s, and Miles said, ‘No, man, they just need to know what’s in the air today.’ And then he said, ‘The lazy ones try to sound like us in the ’60s.’ Which I love, and I’ve always followed that … It’s good to try to find more parts of yourself that you didn’t know existed through music.”
McAll, who is helping Bartz write his autobiography, played the saxophonist on some of his new songs. The latter loved them, and agreed to contribute to the album, which happened via McAll emailing him tracks for overdubbing. “He’d call me up in the middle of the night,” McAll says, “and say, ‘I’m on a roll. Send me whatever you want.’ So I’d quickly get out of bed and send him some stuff, and the next day all this amazing music would come in. I mean when you hear the gravitas of his music, his sound, and all the years – and Miles and all that stuff is in there – it just really lifts the album. I feel very privileged to have someone like Bartz playing so beautifully on it, mixed with the Hiatus Kaiyote rhythm section. I mean, it’s like a dream.”
McAll was immediately blown away by singer Rita Satch upon his return to Australia, and says that two of the tracks on which she sings, Sweetwater and Precious Energy, have garnered more response than anything he’s ever done, including being championed by DJ Gilles Peterson in the UK. “That being said,” he adds, “I just have to continue in the long game of manifesting the most beautiful stuff that I can, and not connecting to all the external noise, which gets noisier every day.”

Source: Sydney Morning Herald

Lady Wray - Piece of Me

Piece of Me

by Lady Wray

Released 28 January 2022

Big Crown Records

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As the first signee to Missy Elliott’s Elektra imprint The Goldmind (plucked out of Elliott’s hometown Portsmouth, Virginia, no less), Wray’s 1998 debut single “Make It Hot” fell in line with her label boss’s sleek and futuristic vision for Southern hip-hop and R&B. But for Elektric Blue, the follow-up that never arrived due to creative differences, Wray told her label that she wanted to take a different direction. Inspired by The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, Wray said, “I want a live band. I want singers.”

“They looked at me like I was crazy,” she remembers.

Piece of Me, her new sophomore effort as Lady Wray, is what she envisioned for her music back then: Melodies that take listeners to the Baptist and Pentecostal churches she grew up attending damn near daily; live instrumentation that balances ‘60s and ‘70s soul with the knock from ‘90s hip-hop; her version of Hill’s “Zion,” where she sings to the child she’s always wanted, bucking industry wisdom that a woman can’t chase superstardom as a mother.

After leaving Goldmind In 2003, Wray was to be the first female R&B signee on Roc-A-Fella Records. But founders Jay-Z and Damon Dash fell out shortly after the ink dried, though Dash stayed in touch with Wray. Eventually, he tapped her to sign backup vocals for his new favorite group the Black Keys on 2009’s rap-soul mashup Blacroc and 2010’s Grammy-winning Brothers. At this career crossroads, Wray found community.

“I was nervous,” she says, “‘cause when I first heard Dan [Auerbach]’s voice, I thought he was a heavyset Black man. Then I meet him, and he’s a white guy! I was like, ‘Your voice is so soulful,’ and he said the same thing to me.”

Wray also met Leon Michels, a producer, songwriter, and member of Lee Fields’s backing band, the Expressions. Originally, Michels envisioned a girl group called Lady that would feature Wray and London singer Terri Walker. But when Walker left the group, Michel encouraged Wray to write for Fields’s 2012 album Faithful Man. In 2016, “Do It Again,” a song Wray wrote for Fields, became the lead single for Queen Alone, her debut on Michels’s Big Crown Records.

“It was refreshing to meet a group of guys that were doing live instrumentation,” Wray says. “You’ve got horn players dropping by, you’ve got piano players dropping by. You have someone coming in to shake a tambourine. And to get some amazing background vocals—this is something I’ve always wanted to do in the late ‘90s, early 2000s.”

 

Production-wise, Piece of Me is nostalgic for the era where rap and R&B first became bedfellows. Wray was pleasantly surprised when Michel pulled up instrumentals he made with her in mind—like the determined drum-and-piano shuffle in “Come On In”—because she never “beat him in the head” with the direction she wanted to take. “That is church, but it’s still got something funky,” she says. “Then he plays [title track] ‘Piece of Me,’ and it’s just hard, on some Wu-Tang Clan shit all day. He just read my mind, my soul, my spirit. I’m just like, ‘So he was listening.’”

Source: Bandcamp Daily

Rosie Kate - Silent & Grey

Silent & Grey

by Rosie Kate

Released 16 November 2021

Medium Rare Recordings

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Rosie Kate - Orbit

Orbit

by Rosie Kate

Released 18 November 2021

Medium Rare Recordings

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Rosie Kate - Orbit (Acid Journey Remix)

Orbit (Acid Journey Remix)

by Rosie Kate

Released 24 February 2022

Medium Rare Recordings

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Rosie Kate has been in demand in Australia as a selector for house & techno since 2016. Expect a high energy DJ set mixing the latest club records with dance floor heaters as she fires up any room into turbo mode!

Recently signing to Medium Rare Recordings, she has also released on Neon, Astrx, etcetc & ATN, gaining regular radio play on triple j with a guest set on Mix Up! and support from The Aston Shuffle.

Her remix for Benson’s Misbehave (Ultra) was playlisted by Apple music and her most recent remix of Jordan Burn (ASTRX) was added to Spotify’s Club Nights.

No stranger to a festival line-up, Rosie Kate has drawn in crowds for Splendour in the Grass, Groovin’ The Moo, St. Jerome's Laneway and most recently supported Dom Dolla at the Fortitude Music Hall.

Rosie Kate has supported an impressive list of international producers: Will Clarke, Riva Starr, Bruno Furlan, Franky Rizardo, Croatia Squad, OFFAIAH, Sirus Hood, Tough Love & Foals to name a few.

Her debut track on ATN 'Silent & Grey' was charted in the ARIA Buzz Club for 12 weeks and reached #16.

Rosie Kate’s remixes for Tiff Cornish, Wildfire & Sophiegrophy, L’Tric & Chloe Wilson and Kyro have all placed in the top 50 of the ARIA Club Chart.

Source: Soundcloud

Alexander Flood - The Space Between

The Space Between

by Alexander Flood

Released 28 January 2022

Stretchmusic / Ropeadope

*****

Alexander Flood is one of Australia’s most creative and versatile young drummers and percussionists, presenting a strong and progressive voice on his instrument. Developing and refining his own unique sound and style on the kit has been an important focus throughout his 17 years performing and studying music.
Alex has honed his unique sound, and passion for world music and creative improvisation to blend influences and sonic palettes from diverse cultures around the globe. Combined with his strong compositional style and interest in production, this experience has allowed him to deliver a unique, creative, and rich tapestry of sound and improvisation.
Holding a Bachelor's degree in Music Performance and graduating top of his year in 2017, he has been the recipient of many prestigious awards including Australia's Best Up And Coming Drummer in both 2012 and 2016, The John ‘Slick’ Osborne Scholarship in 2017 and the Helpmann Academy Jazz Award for Top Overall Graduate in 2018, among many others. 
Flood has performed with renowned artists including Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah, Marquis Hill, the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra, West Australian Symphony Orchestra, amongst many others. In 2019, Alexander joined the Australian performance company Gravity & Others Myths on a 12-month global tour, which saw him perform in 20+ countries. 
In 2019 Flood signed with 6x GRAMMY® nominee Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah’s record label Stretch Music (via Ropeadope Records), to release his debut album “HEARTBEAT” in June 2020. The album was greatly received by both critics and the public, landing the front page of iTunes USA under New and Noteworthy in June 2019. 
Flood’s sophomore album “The Space Between”, (is) a hard-hitting, genre-defying conglomerate of creative composition and collaboration. The music aims to expand and diversify our listening experiences, opening our ears to an immersive ecosystem of rhythms, instruments, and sounds spanning many different cultures across the globe, from North and West Africa to India, The Middle East, and Southeast Asia.

Leaning on dance music, tranced rhythms, improvisation, urban textures, contemporary production and collaboration, The Space Between features an all-star lineup of international artists including 6x GRAMMY nominee Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah, Vivian Sessoms, Nelson Dialect, and Zayn Mohammed amongst others.
 

Source: Alexander Flood Music

Erin Rae - Lighten Up

Lighten Up

by Erin Rose

Released 4 February 2022

Good Memory

****-

Early in the pandemic a lot of focus was put into going inward. being mindful and practicing self-care. Some of us took these themes and ran with them to create long overdue life changes and are better for it. Some folks succumbed to the daily pressures after few months and are back to being fully burnt out. Life takes on new meaning all the time as we continue to evolve and as exciting as that can be, even major breakthroughs can be exhausting these days. Erin Rae is here to remind us all to go easy on ourselves, to “Lighten Up.” Sometimes this simple phrase is exactly what we need to hear.

Three years removed from the excellent debut record, Putting On Airs, Erin Rae’s latest release adds some vintage pop romp to her classically subtle singing voice. With the help of producer, Jonathan Wilson, some songs stretch into gorgeous musical pieces with accenting strings and fresh California sunshine. Her work has always been emotional, but Lighten Up covers a wider array of emotions. It’s still not all sunshine, but Rae allows plenty of room for grace and to accept all of our human tendencies. Recorded with Wilson in Topanga Canyon, the Nashville artist takes on a more full, and at times, more fun sound.

As Rae explores new sonics in her music, she seems to be using this opportunity to open up even further as an overall artist. Lighten Up is a look at the surrounding world. As brutal as it can be sometimes, there is tremendous beauty to be found on a daily basis if you slow down enough to feel it. It seems like Erin Rae does. Maybe Lighten Up is a mantra for herself, or perhaps she’s speaking it into existence for all of us.

Source: Old Rookie

Nadav Rayman Trio - Second Sight

Second Sight

by Nadav Rayman Trio

Released 25 February 2022

Nadav Rayman Trio

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With a background in Melbourne’s live Hip Hop and RnB scene, Nadav Rayman introduces his first solo composition project, arranged for an acoustic trio with collaborators Michael Evans-Barker (Drums) and Matthew Coleman (Bass).

The album draws on Nadav’s personal influences with hints throughout of Bad Bad Not Good, The Bad Plus, Robert Glasper, Terrace Martin, PJ Morton, Alpha Mist as well artists associated with the 70’s NY-based Strata East label.

Inspired by a week of dreams, each ending with a whispered premonition (specifically the subject of the title track), Second Sight charts the experiences of betrayal, loss and renewal.

Source: Bandcamp

A.R. Wilson - Old Gold

Old Gold

by A.R.Wilson

Released 28 January 2022

Impatience

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From his Bandcamp entry for this album, Melbourne auteur Andrew Wilson (a.k.a. Andras, A.R.T. Wilson, Wilson Tanner) declares that "This amazing album ... soils the ‘Australian songbook’ with a collection of fragile, private and deranged songs of parrots, pancakes and gelignite amidst the Victorian Gold Rush of 1850s.

Old Gold is filled with fakes and fools, rumbling stomachs and acousmatic terrors - a lonely, self-pitying search evoked by faintly medieval folk music that sounds almost period-perfect but somehow, oddly, wonderfully spoiled.

Gut string guitars, water-logged mandolins, bar room banjos and no-fidelity piano all sound perfectly organic - except they’re not. No acoustic instruments were handled in the making of the record, including environmental sounds which were generated during a residency at Melbourne Electronic Sound Studio. The reproduction of familiar sounds via inorganic means situates the record in a moonlit, melancholy hole of its own."

 

The album a mesmerising, creative re-making of the traditional folk-musical form as contemporary electronic music. 
 

Source: Bandcamp

A.r.t. Wilson - Overworld

Overworld

by A.R.T. Wilson

Released 30 April 2014

Numero Group

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The description of A.R.T. Williams' 'Overworld' from Numero Group label's website reads as follows:

"A new age album that draws as much from ethno-groove, Chicago house, and G-funk, as it does from primitive percussion and ’80s library music. Relaxing, gentle, and warm, the 10-song ambient suite was made for a multidisciplinary modern dance performance described as “Neo-Paganism, Pop Divas, YouTube, Yoga, and Death Metal side by side in a live performance that searches for transcendence in the most unlikely places.”

Not since The Reels' release of "Beautiful" their subversive 1982 album on the previously budget-priced, smulch-laden K-Tel label has a progressive Australian musicians released their work with such a poker face.

This is an album of chill-out music for the new millenium - the logical progression for those of us who tired of Cafe Del Mar a decade ago.

Source: Numero Uno

Checkerboard Lounge - Sun Sessions

Sun Sessions

by Checkerboard Lounge

Released 4 February 2022

Cheersquad Records & Tapes

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Just before the pandemic hit globally, Australia’s hottest act on the blues and roots scene, scored a recording session at the legendary SUN Studio, home to Howlin’ Wolf, B.B.King, Bonnie Raitt, Elvis and more. During a visit to the museum, Tim Neal (keys) sat at Jerry Lee Lewis’ piano and pricked up the ears of the studio engineer who invited the band to record in the hallowed studio.

A 5-hour late night session saw the band lay down 12 incredible tracks: blues and soul originals, rare covers and a few golden choices the band had never played before, inspired by the history of the studio that seeded so many pivotal careers. You can even hear in a quiet brooding moment of a spontaneous version of ‘It Hurts Me Too’, a ghost walk in and close a door, behind which there was no one.The electricity was alive that night and all was etched to tape.

From deep within the veins of Melbourne’s music scene, Checkerboard Lounge has become a cult-like underground institution. The brainchild of renowned singer and drummer Carl Pannuzzo, the band has evolved over thirty years; breathing fire, virtuosity and improvisation into classic soul and roots originals.

Mischievous and unyielding, Pannuzzo is joined on stage by master guitarist Shannon Bourne, Hammond virtuoso Tim Neal, and inimitable bassist Amos Sheehan. World-class musicianship, unbridled passion and an almost telepathic ability to create, Checkerboard are a powerhouse to be reckoned with. The spirit of the blues is palpable throughout their performances, all the while with an infectious and raucous sense of play.

From standing ovations at Wangaratta Jazz Festival to crammed inner Melbourne pubs, no two shows are the same. Vibrant and unforgettable, Checkerboard are a tour-de-force demanding honesty, integrity and truthful musicianship; the very essence of a live music experience.

Ever since their famed seven-year residency at the Great Britain Hotel in the early 90s, many budding young musicians have cut their blues teeth with the uncompromising fire of this band’s energy.

Checkerboard has inspired the development of some of Australia’s finest musicians and bands - Powderfinger, Dirty Three, Clare Bowditch, Jet, Spoonful/Rocket Science, Kylie Auldist, to name but a few. Checkerboard’s point of difference has always been playing with a myriad of musicians and throwing them into the improvisational hot-seat.

Over the years, band members have included Australia’s best blues exponents, such as Rev. Mick O'Connor, Ian Collard, Jeff Lang, Broderick Smith, Steve Teacle, Richard Tankard, Andrew Ogburn, Garrett Costigan, Nigel MacLean and Dave Boyle (USA).

Thirty years on, with the band’s strongest ever line up, Checkerboard continues to leave musicians and audiences enthralled by their single-minded creativity.

“You got it boy, it’s in you!” ~ Jimmy Smith

“You could run a small city off these guys” ~ Fiona Boyes

“That’s some real happening blues!” ~ Bob Sedergreen

Source: Memo Music Hall

Andras - Joyful

Joyful

by Andras

Released 1 November 2019

Beats In Space Records

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Halfway through the opening track on Andras’ Joyful, a pipsqueak voice pops up over a squirrelly acid line and giddily rolling snare, repeating a single spoken word: “Honeybird.” It makes for a strange collision of sensations: On the one hand, nods to classic rave and ’90s trance; on the other, a term of endearment rendered as a cartoonish chirp, stripped of all context. Whatever the word is supposed to mean, if anything, is never made clear, but the effect of that Rosebud-like refrain is unmistakably tender and carefree. The Australian producer couldn’t have picked a better title for his album: Suffused in romantic piano flourishes, winsome synth leads, and drums that race like a teenaged heart, Joyful’s seven tracks pursue pure, unadulterated delight.

Andras, aka Melbourne’s Andrew Wilson, is a clever manipulator of both codes and emotions. Though he got his start making sample-based hip-hop, since 2012 he has teased the outlines of deep house, lo-fi electro-funk, and new-age ambient, using aliases like Andras Fox, A.R.T. Wilson, and House of Dad, and as part of the duo Wilson Tanner. His output has gotten increasingly cheeky and occasionally arcane: 2016’s House of Dad, a tribute to his plumber father, sampled the sound of a flushing toilet; 2018’s Help generated ambient sketches from YouTube bloopers and shock videos; last year’s Boom Boom was a bongo-driven critique of the way that portable audio colonizes public space.

Joyful is a simpler project. There are no big concepts, no grand themes beyond nostalgia for some of Wilson’s earliest epiphanies as a listener: Thirteen years old, listening to trance music in the backseat of his parents’ car as it crests a hill and the ocean appears in the distance. The keys are mostly major, the riffs fetching, the sense of possibility nearly boundless. Occasionally Wilson, a seasoned crate-digger, surfaces a scrap of something vintage—a warbly aria or keening violin—and works it into the mix, sprinkling on the crackle of worn vinyl like fairy dust. When there are voices, they are digitally sped up or otherwise manipulated, mantra-like repetitions familiar from motivational posters and Instagram captions, like “live forever” or “what I feel.” Somehow, he delivers these in a way that’s guileless, unironic; he could probably get away with “Hang in there, baby” without batting an eye.

Wilson being Wilson, he can’t resist a little mischief. In “Saga of Sweetheart,” the synthesizer is an uncanny hybrid of Roland keys and Appalachian banjo; the acid line in “River Red” sounds at first like an homage to Larry Heard’s “Sun Can’t Compare,” but it turns out also to have rural origins: In a fascinating interview in Record Culture magazine, Wilson reveals it to be a note-for-note rework of John Fahey’s “Sligo River Blues,” transposed to the TB-303. This kind of tomfoolery shouldn’t work—and yet it does; nothing about Joyful scans as gimmickry. Thanks to standouts like “Harf Green” and “Goggles,” Wilson’s wistful sentimentalism and bright-eyed cheer carry the day, taking the edge off his loopier instincts.

The latter is one of the most affecting pieces of dance music I’ve heard in a long while. Never mind the vestiges of dubstep squelch or the pitch-bent echoes of Eurodance; those restless tics are folded into a whole so sumptuous, so swoon-inducing, their kitsch quotient barely registers. The core of the song is a long, melancholy organ melody that feels strangely familiar, almost like a hymn; the tempo is several clicks faster than is customary for a song so bittersweet, which lends a welcome oomph to a track that might otherwise brood. Where most of Wilson’s ode to joy sinks into simple pleasures—a catchy acid line, a reassuring syllable—“Goggles” embraces the kind of grandeur that will be familiar to anyone who’s ever gazed in awe at the view from a moving vehicle, headphones tugging on their heartstrings.

Source: Pitchfork

Kerbside Collection - Round The Corner

round the corner

by Kerbside Collection

Released 18 February 2022

Legare Recordings

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‘Round the Corner’ is Brisbane Australian ensemble Kerbside Collection’s 4th studio album, full of jazz-funk and rare grooves, is wrapped up in a story from start to finish and their most ambitious output to date.

Opening with the slightly pointy, gritty-brass-lead, swung ballad ‘Ortigas’(the Spanish botanical name of a highly irritating plant species) - referring to when the global pandemic initially struck back in February-March 2020, followed by a classic dusty Kerbside funky instrumental groove "Maygar Prelude. Before the album kicks in proper, with a sizzling rendition of a Banda Black Rio rarity (from their now legendary 1977 debut album) giving hints at what’s to come from the rest of the album with its jazz-rock-funk-fusion inflections, strutting grooves and super tight brass section.

Things stay funky with a tribute to one of Australia’s finest funk combos - Cookin’ on 3 Burners (the leader of which - Jake Mason - recorded their first album - Mind The Curb, and guested on their previous record Smoke Signals and the warmly received funky reggae single ‘Cajun Jollof’). A fun lovin’, home-cooked-style, garage-funk number with scratchin’ guitars and organ bubbling away underneath the funky flute and brass section, complete with bongo, b-boy, drum break workout.

Title track ‘Round The Corner’ refers to some of the ‘unknowns’ and ‘uncertainties’ around the corner post cv-19, but also an uplifting acid-jazz funk groove affirmation looking forward to the positive things, and seasons to come round these kinds of unknown bends, featuring the rubbery, pulsating bass playing of Lachlan ‘Swampdog’ Symons and acoustic piano solo from Andrew Fincher, sharp drum grooves wrapped up into a dancefloor-friendly, contemporary live jazz-funk tune with the core rhythm section in raw, upfront trio mode.The track embodies some of the current resurgence of live jazz-house-crossover sounds coming out of Australia (Horatio Luna/First Biege) whilst also reminding us of acid-jazz music from people like Incognito, The Rebirth, and Herbie Hancock's 70's jazz-fusion years.

‘Curaidh’ conjures up some slightly Vulfpeck stripped back style grooves, lead by the funky 1970’s electric Yamaha piano and a delta-blues guitar solo workout to finish. The track title takes its name from a Gaelic/Celtic dialect word reference to ‘warrior’, penned by the collection’s long time Scottish keys collaborator Euan Gardiner, responsible for one of the groups classic soul-jazz ballads ‘41 Bernhard’ (from 1st album 2011).

Things then begin to simmer down with the golden, rustic, slightly Stevie Wonder-ish grooves of ‘Glaze’ featuring new additions and instruments never heard on a Kerbside Collection record yet – including Clavinet, Bass Clarinet and a string section, accompanied by lush fender Rhodes, jazzy guitar flourishes and some silky flute work throughout for fans of vintage 4hero, early Jamiroquai, and Mizell Brothers cinematic funk moments.

Before things cool down proper, with a mesmerising version of a Joe Sample coastal, soul-jazz classic, featuring Brazilian flautist Ney Oliveira and the breathtaking, breezy, strings section arranged by Brisbane composer Cam Bower, (and featuring the drummer’s mum on violin).
‘New Day, New Year’ is an organic, stripped back, calming, contemplative piano lead, soul-jazz, head-nod piece; featuring again the lush string ensemble and the band’s tight rhythm section trio foundation, holding things down in the groove.

The album finishes with 2 stylistically different, but also complimentary works. First up a sizzling piano-trio style lead, latin-jazz number (for fans of some classic Blue Note, Horace Silver vibes) with 2 tasty solos from the virtuosos on the album - Papa Joe on baritone sax and Andrew Fincher on acoustic baby grand piano – one for the jazz dancers!
Closing with a sublime, summery, soul-reggae outro, referring to some of the song’s origins (on the coasts of Portugal), but also emanating some coastal South Pacific sounding flavours from the band’s home town surrounds - a pleasant way to end the record and the story of things ‘Round the Corner’.
 

Source: Bandcamp

Emily Barker, Lucas Drinkwater - Room 822

Room 822

by Emily Barker, Lucas Drinkwater

Released 14 January 2022

Everyone Sang

****-

Fourteen days in one room with no fresh air is not ideal by any stretch of the imagination, but in order to visit my family back here in Australia after almost two years away, my husband Lukas and I decided it was worth the time in quarantine.

We thought a good way to kill the hours would be to set ourselves a goal. Lukas suggested recording an album.

We crammed our suitcases with all the gear we would need and travelled with guitar and folding double bass. Just after we arrived, a friend dropped off mic stands and a keyboard at the hotel; we were set.

We hit the jackpot in the hotel lottery, finding ourselves in a large room at The Westin on Victoria Square in Perth city. Big windows (that don’t open) allowed the morning sun to fill the room and afforded us a view over St. Mary’s Cathedral where we watched people gather for weddings, funerals, christenings and Sunday service; there was a verdant park – a corner of which proved a popular meeting place with Indigenous families; a hospital equipped with helicopter landing pad; and a car park. It's a view now etched in our minds that we'll likely never forget.

For a while I’d been thinking of recording some covers of songs written by Australians and Lukas agreed that was a great idea for the album. Choosing which songs to record was tricky – there are so many great songs by Australian artists. For a while I had a playlist of potential tunes to record, but I hadn’t yet played them to Lukas nor thought about how they might fit together as an album. It was a process of simmering down to what songs felt right to present in a sparse way – songs that told a story and carried themselves without a big production. Also songs that felt right to sing. For example, Archie Roach is one of my favourite songwriters, but his songs are so unique to his life as an Indigenous Australian man and I couldn't find one that would work as a cover.

I found myself gravitating towards songs that meant a lot to me in my late teens growing up in WA – songs I would put on the tape deck of my yellow VW Beetle while driving to the coast with the windows down, singing at the top of my lungs. From that period we chose ‘Black the Sun’ by Alex Lloyd, ‘Mr. Milk’ by You Am I, ‘Tomorrow’ by Silverchair and ‘The Captain’ by Kasey Chambers. I also listened to anything and everything by The Waifs, and for obvious reasons, we chose ‘London Still’. The Church's 'Under the Milky Way' and Deborah Conway's 'Will You Miss Me When You're Sober' were staples as I was growing up. It was great to share these songs and artists with Lukas, and get his thoughts on them - turns out that he was also a big Silverchair fan as a teenager.

To complete the album we chose some more contemporary songs which we both knew. ‘Boys Will be Boys’ by Stella Donnelly we discovered when visiting a record shop in Fremantle a couple of years ago when we asked the retailer if he could recommend anything new. He was glowing about Stella’s EP ‘Thrush Metal’ which we bought on the spot. We then had the pleasure of sharing a stage with Stella at Billy Bragg’s ‘Songwriters in the Round’ at Glastonbury Festival in 2019. We couldn't not choose a Nick Cave song – after much discussion we landed on 'Push the Sky Away' – nor could we miss Paul Kelly, but rather than delving into his illustrious past, we chose one of his most recent songs, 'Sleep, Australia, Sleep', which shows he has lost none of his urgency and relevance as a songwriter.

Fighting through the fog of jet lag, we started recording on day two. We soon discovered some challenges recording in our hotel room: such as the amount of audio reflection from the big windows and mirrors; the constant hum of the refrigerator which despite all the pillows and instrument cases we piled up against it, can still be heard subtly in the recording; we had interruptions from choppers flying past, police and ambulance sirens, someone with a rowing machine in the room above us, and phone calls to our room from hotel reception letting us know our meals in paper bags were outside our door (we had to quickly put on a mask, open the door and grab our meal before it got cold).

Lukas, with bags of studio engineering experience and immense patience, overcame the setbacks and the days ticked by as he captured our performances. By day twelve, we had recorded ten songs by some of Australia’s finest songwriters and Lukas mixed the album over the final two days of a somewhat surreal, but productive stay

Source: Bandcamp

Wilson Tanner - 69

69

by Wilson Tanner

Released 19 April 2016

Efficient Space

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Setting up camp where the Swan River meets the Indian Ocean, Wilson and Tanner tuned into nature, translating the warm sun, sea air and blue sky into a postcard from paradise. Lithe clarinet dances around tranquil piano, relaxed guitar decorates velvet synth textures and unhurried percussion makes an occasional appearance, as if to remind us that time’s still passing.

Employing an innovative alfresco recording technique, Andy and John invited members of the local animal community to join their jam sessions, saving a Blue Swimmer Crab from the flames of the barbecue and encouraging him to claw the ivories.

Drop the needle and drift away on the distant ocean of “Pilot”, freefall into the soothing ambience of ‘Further Than Your Headlights’, and let “Sun Room” guide you gently back to terra firma. The dream team of Australian musicians (not to mention a very talented crustacean), come together on one vinyl – and it’s better than you could possibly imagine.
 

Source: Bandcamp

Julio Resende - Fado Jazz

Fado Jazz

by Julio Resende 

Released 25 February 2022

SME (Portugal)

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Júlio Resende is a Portuguese pianist and composer, born in Faro. Resende started to play piano at the age of four and attended the Conservatório for education in Classical Music. However, he soon discovered that he was not satisfied only being an interpreter of musical pieces and wanted more freedom through improvisation. That is when he started his journey as a composer and improviser. Resende has already released five albums that explore jazz and Latin jazz, and now he is exploring Fado. Fado Jazz Ensemble is Resende’s latest album that is a union of jazz and Fado. The nine songs reflect a perfect harmony in the association of these two musical genres. On the album is Bruno Chaveiro, guitar; André Rosinha, double bass; and Alexandre Frazão, drums. Lina Rodrigues is featured in one selection.

Vira Mais Cinco (Para o Zeca) is a catchy selection with a shifting rhythmic groove. The combination of Fado and jazz yields an exciting sound that is an exploration of rhythms. Chaveiro’s guitar and Resende’s piano pair-up to play the melody. Resende’s piano solo has many textures as he mutes the strings for various phrases to get new sounds and percussive accents.

“Al The Things -Alfama – Are” is based on the jazz standard “All The Things You Are.” Presented as a jazz ballad, the brushwork of Frazão is beautiful. Chaveiro’s nylon string guitar adds a mellow texture and ethereal sounds with an abundance of reverb. Resende’s variations on the theme are interesting and flow with the influence of jazz.

Fado Jazz Ensemble has enough Fado influence that it is different than a lot of ‘Latin’ jazz projects. The ensemble is well-rehearsed, and together they present nine songs that are enjoyable and easy on the ears. This project represents a union of Fado with jazz at heart. Resende keeps exploring his instrument, which at this moment has found a beautiful home in these pieces written with Fado influences

Source: Jazz Sensibilities

Yoko Ono (Various Artists) - Ocean Child Songs of Yoko Ono

Ocean Child: Songs of Yoko Ono

by Yoko Ono, Various Artists

Released 4 February 2022

Atlantic

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Yoko Ono is one of the biggest names in rock history – and yet her music is frequently overlooked, if not actively ignored. Years of frustration at this state of affairs motivated Death Cab for Cutie frontman Ben Gibbard to helm this tribute album, intended to demonstrate the breadth, charm and brilliance of her output. Gibbard is not the first person to attempt to rescue Ono’s reputation, but the crack team he has assembled to cover her songs – David Byrne, the Flaming Lips, Sharon Van Etten, US Girls, Sudan Archives, Japanese Breakfast – will appeal to listeners previously unaware of the source material.

Various artists: Ocean Child: Songs of Yoko Ono album cover
Various artists: Ocean Child: Songs of Yoko Ono album cover
In the same vein, many of the covers make Ono’s strongly idiosyncratic, almost outsider songs more palatable. Sometimes this merely entails exposing the crowd-pleasing loveliness lingering just below the surface, as on Jay Som’s sublime dream-pop rework of Growing Pain. Others iron out some of the essential weirdness: Byrne and Yo La Tengo’s sonorous, barbershop-style version of Who Has Seen the Wind is far less jarring than the hauntingly childlike vocals and Elizabethan-style instrumental of the original. It is only the Flaming Lips that manage to make Ono odder, adding extra trippiness to Mrs Lennon.


Japanese Breakfast: Nobody Sees Me Like You Do – video
Whether Ocean Child’s tendency to replace the startling strangeness of Ono’s originals with something easier on the ear is doing her a disservice is debatable: in 2016, she said she thought her “music was beautiful all along”. This album proves there is appeal to her songwriting that goes far beyond her own inimitable presence – but it’s hard not to miss that presence. In fact, it’s impossible not to repeatedly turn Ocean Child off, and instead seek out the originality and uniqueness of the genuine article. Presumably, it’s what Gibbard would want.

Source: The Guardian