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January 2021

January 2021

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Arlo Parks - Collapsed In Sunbeams

Collapsed In Sunbeams

by Arlo Parks

Released 29 January  2021

Transgressive Records


She may be saddled with being the Voice of a Generation, but the London singer-songwriter’s warm, conversational and observant debut justifies the hype.
It’s hard to know how to feel about the state of Arlo Parks’ career. The obvious response is to be hugely impressed: here she is, at 20 years old, surfing a wave of critical acclaim, the release of her debut album heralded by vast billboards around London and what’s effectively her own TV special, courtesy of Amazon. Not bad for someone who was hopefully uploading their demos to the BBC’s Introducing site a couple of years ago. Then again, it’s a hard heart that doesn’t also feel a twinge of pity. The poor woman has been stuck with the Voice of a Generation tag, a surefire way of lumbering an artist with expectations anyone would struggle live up to: “a term that can create problems for anybody,” as Bob Dylan – who should know – once put it.
Still, you can see how it’s ended up appended to Parks’ name with such regularity and despite her protestations. She calls herself an empath – someone deeply attuned to other people’s feelings – and has been lauded for writing about “sexual identity, queer desire, mental health, body image”, according to one profile. You read a lot of fans “speaking their pain” in the comments section below her YouTube videos. The problem is that it makes Parks sound painfully worthy, part of that recent eat-your-greens strain of pop that comes with a sense of earnest moral obligation attached: music that’s sold to you on the basis of what it stands for rather than how it sounds. And that would be a desperately unfair interpretation of Collapsed in Sunbeams, an album that needs no special pleading.

Lyrics are clearly Parks’ thing – so much so that she opens the album with a burst of spoken-word poetry. But as you listen, you realise she could be singing almost anything, and Collapsed in Sunbeams would still work. She has a lovely voice: airy, natural and unshowy, with a London-accented conversational tone that occasionally recalls a less flippant Lily Allen. Her writing with collaborator Gianluca Buccellati has an unhurried melodic fluency – Green Eyes and Eugene drift charmingly along – and they’ve hit on a sound that works: commercial without submitting to current pop cliches or blandness. There are crisp, looped breakbeats and subtle shadings of vintage soul, as when an organ rises gently into the mix on Too Good. Reverb-heavy electric guitar ranges from funk riffs to icy, Radiohead-esque figures to the heaving shoegazey textures of Caroline and crackly samples that betray her love of Portishead’s Dummy. Stripped of its vocals, the bass-heavy For Violet might have slotted neatly on to Mo’ Wax’s mid-90s trip-hop compilation Headz.

The lyrics, meanwhile, tackle distinctly 21st-century anxieties. An lot of pop in recent years has attempted to deal with body image, mental-health issues or problems with sexual identity; so much so that you don’t have to be a terrible cynic to make out the sound of boxes being ticked. That isn’t the case here: Parks writes with a diaristic tone that suggests lived experience rather than a self-conscious desire to tackle the burning issues of the day. She has a great turn of phrase – “wearing suffering like a spot of bling”; “the air was fragrant and heavy with our silence”, “shards of glass live in this feeling” – and a desire to be, as she puts it, “both universal and hyper-specific”.

If you were minded to nitpick, you might suggest that she’s rather better at the latter than the former, that the broad brushstrokes lean a little on self-help platitudes of the “you gotta trust how you feel inside” variety. Her real skill lies in observing small, telling details: the depressed friend whose overload of makeup leaves her looking “like Robert Smith”; the “artsy couple” she watches arguing in the street on Caroline, “strawberry cheeks flushed with defeated rage”; or in the sudden switch to a blunt, colloquial tone. “You know when college starts again you’ll manage,” she counsels a friend struggling to live at home on For Violet. “I wish your parents had been kinder to you,” she tells an ex whose struggle with her sexuality scuppers their relationship.

Arlo Parks: ‘When you approach the world with vulnerability and openness, people return that energy.’
Arlo Parks on her superpowered empathy: 'It's hard, but it's opened my heart'
Read more
But then, why would you be minded to nitpick with a debut this good? It appears to announce the arrival of a major new talent, though you never know: the path of an artist stuck with the Voice of a Generation tag is fraught with pitfalls. You can succumb to self-importance, you can discover your skills lay in describing a specific moment in time and struggle to move on. But that’s the future, something that currently feels more imponderable than ever. Right now, Collapsed in Sunbeams feels like a warm breeze in the depths of a miserable winter..

Source: Alex Pedris, The Guardian

MidnightRoba - Golden Seams

Golden Seams

by Midnight Roba

Released 29 January 2021



MidnightRoba's solo debut album, Golden Seams, marks the return to music, after many years away from the scene, of the artist who made her reputation as the voice of UK trip-hop trio Attica Blues,

So-named for the seminal 1972 Archie Shep album) Attica Blues released two albums, the first on Mo Wax in '98, the second, Test, Don't Test in 2000 on Columbia.

Roba has also worked with King Britt on Moksha Black 09 and As It Should Be and with Ben Marc on his upcoming release "Breathe Suite".

Golden Seams is a collection of 9 original compositions by Roba, who contributes vocals, keyboards, drum programming and drums throughout the album, but is accompanied by various other artists on individual tracks including American jazz pianist Jason Moran on "Bitter Boy".

Mixing and production is credited to former Attica Blues member Tony Nwachukwa..

Opening track "Self Doubt" is a beautifully constructed blend of intertwined vocal and instrumental lines, in a song that describes self-doubt: "In the dark of night, you creep inside / Plant your seed inside my head / Cycling thoughts, they twist within my cells I can't free myself ... Overthinking I / Why can't I let it lie? / Why?"

The mellow mood continues with "Reminded" whose smooth, low-range vocals invoke Sade, Joan Armatrading or K.D. Lang, recalling  a past relationship and asks "How does it feel to you now?", and admitting "Although we didn't stand the test of time ... So grateful for all the love we shared ... Remembered, not with bitterness, but joy".

Close relationships also dominate the succeeding songs: "Don't Let This Change" ("Always you that comes to mind when I need insight"); "Shelter Within" (""Be my shelter from the storm / Hold me tight in your warmth") and "Safe With Me" ("Feel these arms around you close / Shield your heart / I won't let go").

The pace and focus of the set shifts to an entirely more urgent setting for "Bitter Boy", which is described as a song in two parts; a Mother's Plea and a Mother's Lament. Part I- a cry of the loss of innocence and the truths faced by parents of black children; the conversations that need to be had to protect them and the helplessness of not knowing if it will be enough.

The instrumental "If Time Heals" provides a gentle interlude release after the tension of "Bitter Boy" but when Roba;s vocals return for "Be Still" we find her at the top of her register singing "Be still, my beating heart / Pray you don't betray this cooled exterior".

Title track "Golden Seams" concludes Roba's triumphant return and speaks of "The rebuilding of a soul ... Don't be shy to show with pride / The mark of what you have repaired / Golden seams will trace the dreams".

If this song is a reference to her own return to performance, then dhr should indeed be proud, as golden seams are all that is in evidence.

Jazmine Sullivan - Heaux Tales

Shout Out! To Freedom

by Nightmares On Wax

Released 8 January 2021

RCA Records


Sliding into middle-age, Nightmares on Wax hits upon a hot streak – aided and abetted by the considerable talents of Greentea Peng, OSHUN, Haile Supreme, and Shabaka Hutchings

At fifty-one years-old, Leeds-born George Evelyn has now been releasing trip-hop and techno records as Nightmares on Wax for thirty whole years. Influenced at first by the b-boy and rap scene of his home city, he was an early signee to Warp Records and soon became a key figure in their glitchy rise to dominance.

But while Aphex Twin and Autechre pursued more challenging and propulsive sounds, Evelyn plunged towards far warmer territory. With records like 1999’s Carboot Soul, a nostalgic, crate-digging soundtrack to many a toke, he became a legend in the downtempo scene to follow.

As anyone who’s dabbled in a ten hour Lo-Fi-Beats-To-Study-To mix on YouTube knows, music which is laidback to the point of sedation can feel blissful and utterly inconsequential in equal measure. Even a craftsman like Evelyn began the last decade somewhat drifting, releasing albums which sounded soothing to the point of snoozing. But it’s a joy to announce that Nightmares On Wax is on something of a hot-streak. It began with 2019’s Shape The Future where he adopted the Avalanches-Gorillaz approach of bringing in a gamut of guest-singers and MCs, a formula he returns to with even greater success here.

The press which has surrounded this latest album emphasises that it was made by a rejuvenated creator. For him, the pandemic came at the end of ten years of relentless touring and a cancer scare. Like many people, the 2020 lockdowns brought Evelyn a chance for pause and self-reflection. He began writing with the focus of a man working on his final testament. The album which came from those sessions does indeed sound like one made by an artist deeply engaging and in love with his own music again. Frankly, Shout Out! To Freedom.... is a joy to listen to, packed as it is with warm tones, a boat-load of guest-stars, and an eclectic sound which dips between dub, rap, and house.

The guest stars certainly help keep the mellow vibe consistently fresh, from the deep-voiced neo-soul of OSHUN to the repeated presence of New York roots-reggae artist Haile Supreme, who brings the ghost of Curtis Mayfield to closer ‘Up To Us’.

Less a lockdown record and more a post-lockdown record, various lyricists return to themes of freedom – physical and otherwise. Singing about 5G and fluoride in the water, buzzy Londoner Greentea Peng skirts around questionably conspiratorial themes on ‘Wikid Satellites’, but the sound of her voice is such a harmonious match for Evelyn’s horns and pianos that, together, they even make libertarianism sound sexy.
The star of the show though is London saxophonist Shabaka Hutchings, who totally hijacks ‘3D Warrior’ with a subterranean groove which turns the album briefly into a Comet Is Coming LP. That’s not to diminish the skills of Evelyn though, who is still more than capable of bringing the goods without assistance, as he shows on early highlight ‘Imagineering’, a track which takes you on a journey straight to the Cuba of Buena Vista Social Club, but hands you a couple of brownies for the trip.

The song and the whole album are testament to the fact that – even with largely-instrumental, crate-digging music – when the creator is making their songs with a smile, you’ll feel it. Oh, you’ll feel it.

Source: The Quietus

Tenderlonius - Quarantena


by Tenderlonius

Released 21 August 2020



Tenderlonious returns to his own 22a imprint with a brand new collection of lo-fi beats and soundscapes courtesy of the lockdown studio sessions from his home in South London. Armed with an arsenal of hardware and inspired by sci-fi & fantasy movies, he has delivered an expansive opus of varying tempos that glide across imaginative synth sculptures and meditative soundscapes. The soundtrack to his quarantine - Quarantena.


When COVID-19 hit the UK back in March (2020) the music game changed almost overnight - no more gigs, no more studio sessions with the band, many music stores and outlets shutting up shop. This drastic change offered plenty of time for reflection, opening up a new portal of exploration for Tender - he purchased his first piece of studio equipment at the age of 16 and has since then amassed a serious arsenal of studio hardware.

Some people collect stamps, some of us collect records, Tender collects synths and drum machines.

The lockdown period offered up the opportunity of more time in his home studio, brimming with hardware, that due to his busy schedule, had yet to be exhausted.

Besides, isn't this one worth inclusion for the album artwork alone?

Tenderlonius - Ragas From Lahore Improvovisations with Jaubi

Ragas From Lahore: Improvisations with Jaubi

by Tenderlonius, Jaubi

Released 27 November 2020



In April 2019, Tenderlonious embarked on a trip to Pakistan to work with Lahore based instrumental quartet, Jaubi. Following on from the highly acclaimed, three track limited edition 10” vinyl release of "Tender in Lahore" this is the full suite of improvised ragas from a one day recording session in Lahore, Pakistan.

Tender tells the full story of how this recording canme about on Bandcamp, and I recommend you to it.

He concludes: "Through many hours of hard work and planning we arrived in Lahore on the 9th of April 2019, greeted with nothing but love and humility. Lahore is something special; full of positivity, care and hope. It was, thankfully, all a stark contrast to the negativity we heard about Pakistan before arriving. It was not long into the first day and that first studio session that we realised this trip would be a real awakening. Nothing whatsoever was written down during the recording sessions - no sheet music, no song titles. It was sincere. All egos were left behind and hearts and souls were open and poured into the music."

Many of the so-called east-west musical collaborations between European and Sub-continental artists are among my favourite recordings of all time. This includes Ravi Shankar and Yehudi Menuhin's "West Meets East" (Parlophone, 1966); Charlie Mariano with R.A. Ramamani and the Karnataka College of Percussion "Jyoythi" (ECM, 1985) ;Ry Cooder & V.M. Bhatt "A Meeting By The River" (Water Lily Acoustics, 2011) and Shye Ben Tzur, Jonny Greenwood and the Rajastan Express "Junun" (Nonesuch Records, 2015).

This new recording is a worthy addition to this formidable canon.

Praed Orchestra - Live In Sharjah

Live in Sharjah

by Praed Orchesra!

Released 23 October 2020

Morphine Records


Shabbi is the name of the popular synth-based music heard in cabs, cabarets and alleyways throughout the Middle East. Mouled (also Mulid and Mawlid) is the word for the birthday celebration for the Prophet and other Islamic saints and is celebrated by great assemblies of Sufi music and dancing. Egyptian composers Raed Yassin and Paed Conca formed Praed Orchestra to perform music based on their extensive research that sought to find the links between Shaabi and Mouled  and the hypnotic structures of both these genres. 

Their music incorprates repetitive beats, loud Mizmar (conical flute) and loads of energy, with a strong contemporay influence from psychedelic rock, free jazz and electronica.

Having produced 4 albums and performed on numerous stages around the globe, Praed started working on an ambitious, expansive project: an orchestra that could transpose this study of rural and popular culture into an immense, iconic work.

In autumn 2018, supported by the Sharjah Art Foundation, Praed Orchestra! premiered “Live in Sharjah”, interpreting new material merged with some of the band’s iconic pieces. Recorded live in Sharjah’s Calligraphy Square, the resultant music ranges widely in content, in a series of seven compositions, each more than ten minutes in duration, commencing with the startling vocal extremity of opening piece "The Last Invasion" and concluding with a prog-rock-like "IL A3SAB".

For me, this is a mind-bending redefinition of the boundries of Middle Eastern music.

Godtet - III



Released 4 December 2020

La Sape Records


Guitarist and Producer Godriguez (producer of Sampa the Great's “The Great Mixtape") marshalled together some of the best musicians of the new generation in Sydney:

Dominic Kirk: percussion

Andrew Bruce: keys.

Jan Bangma: bass.

Tully Ryan: drums.

Together thay have produced a sensive recording that sits somewhere between ambient and contemporary jazz.  Following previous releases entitled "Godtet" (2027) and "II" (2019), "III" is the final installment of triptych of works by the artist, who admits that he's always wanted to make a triptych since becoming obsessed with Francis Bacon.

Godriguez says "It feels like the essence and definition of our sound... for now. Whilst the whole GODTET concept for me is about organic development and evolvement and to remain always searching, this album feels like the end of an era. Like everything is now for many people I think. Its been 3 years of very intensive playing, recording and gigging. The first record felt like an explosion of our minds meeting for the first time even though we’d all played together for years in various contexts. An explosive release from the lack of freedom in the musical contexts we’d previously been involved in. The second record found us exploring improvising with a sample loop as a launch pad to playing. Marrying the worlds of beat production and improvised band. Then in reaction to only improvising we recorded a through-composed suite. GODTET III saw us return to the beginning where we recorded purely improvised with no sample or composed or preconceived launchpads. It is interesting comparing the first record and GODTET III. Both came from open improv but are quite different. You really can hear a distinct subconscious concept of what the GODTET sound is or has become. You can hear 3 years of intensive playing, recording and gigging. GODTET III is the final album of this initial triptych where the GODTET sound was forged. It is the end of an era. What best sums up GODTET is the fact that at the very same sessions for III we simultaneously were playing and improvising a brave new world for GODTET. You will hear this soon too. But for now let us relish in what has been the culmination of 3 intensive years as we present you the final piece of the GODTET triptych: GODTET III." 

Bandcamp: GODTET III

Firetail - Glow Worm (EP)

Glow Worm (EP)

by Firetail

Released 26 January 2021

2733132 Records DK


You realise from the opener -an American-accented spoken-word intro - that Melbourne jazz-tronica outfit Firetail's second EP "Glow Worm" is a lot more than another run-of-the-mill nu-jazz record.

Local collaborations abound on the five-track EP, with songs ranging from dream pop, psych rock/jazz all the way through to drum N Bass.

Melbourne vocalist Maya Vice delivers her gorgeous, powerful vocals to second single ‘Bruce Lee Water’, while local violinist, vocalist and composer Happy Axe brings her multi-faceted skill set to third single “Axe Painting”.

There’s also Carnatic influences: the South Indian musical legacy puts a strong emphasis on vocals, and a melding of jazz and electronic influences that isn’t afraid to challenge the listener.

Formed in 2018 as a collaborative recording project by composer and bassist Jamie McElhinney, the band has developed an ambient approach to song-writing that blends soul-infused rhythms with evocative melodies and driving percussion.

From the bands earliest days playing warehouse parties and monthly dive bar residencies, the group was quickly swept into the festival scene playing shows such as Tanglewood, Folk Rhythm and Life, The Village Festival and has continued to push musical boundaries by collaborating with a wide variety of guest vocalist and instrumentalist.

Source: Beat

Celeste - Not Your Muse

Not Your Muse

by Celeste

Released 29 January 2021

La Sape Records


"Not Your Muse" is the sensational debut album for Celeste, this American-born, British-based singer and songwriter, who won the Brit Rising Star Award and the BBC Music Introducing Artist of the Year awards in 2019, and was named the number-one predicted breakthrough act in an annual BBC poll of music critics, Sound of 2020.

"Not Your Muse" suggests that the hype has been warranted and the comparisons with Amy, Jorja and Adele appear warranted.

All songs are Celeste originals, with most cowritten by LA-based British songwriter Jamie Hartman. 

Her emergence as the new soul diva seemed imminent when she packed out London's Omeara venue for three  in November 2019, which was backed up with TV appearances and contributions to soundtracks for Aaron Sorkin’s The Trial of the Chicago 7 (including Oscar contender ‘Hear My Voice’, which is tipped for Best Original Song Academy Award) and Pixar’s latest flick Soul, as well as releasing last year’s John Lewis Christmas advert song, the searching ‘A Little Love’. But while the pandemic has prevented further public forays, 'Not Your Muse' is a collection of powerful, self-assured songs, that command attention from the opener "Ideal Woman" in which she decares

"I may not be your ideal woman
The heaven in your head
The one that's gonna save you
From all your discontent
May not be your ideal woman
The freedom that you'd get
Please don't mistake me
For somebody who cares"

With that attitude and a voice to die for, I have a feeling that we're going to become very familiar with many more of these songs.

Cosey Fanni Tutti - Tutti (2019)


by Cosey Fanni Tutti

Released 8 February 2019

Mute Song Limited


"Tutti" is the 2019 release by artist Cosey Fanni Tutti, best known as a member of the challenging 70's performance art collective COUM Transmissions, the influential "industrial music group Throbbing Gristle, her work in the sex industry and her 2017 autobiography Art Sex Music.

Comprising eight pieces originally conceived as the soundtrack to an autobiographical film "Harmonic Coumaction", and performed live in February 2017 as part of a series of events that accompanied the COUM Transmissions retrospective in Hull UK,  the music has been updated and enhanced. Elements of the original tracks were re-recorded and further processed specifically to create a unique stand-alone document, separate to the live performance and installation.

The album opens with the title track and the briefly tortured sound of Tutti's cornet is soon displaced by a synthesised pulsating rhythm but returns with the energy of an air horn, developing into what might be a soundtrack for a Jason Bourne rooftop chase. Similary, "Drone" builds from a brisk drum-pad pattern as layers of droning synths are added, but assorted industrial sounds and disturbances reveal that we have taken an off-ramp from what might easily have been a cruisy "Autobhan"cruise, into darker musical streets. 

Indaba Is - Indaba Is

Indabe Is

by Various Artists

Released 29 January 2021



‘Indaba Is’ – a compilation of current South African improvised music and jazz, compiled by Gilles Peterson's, London based Brownswood label. The project is a collaboration with 2 luminaries of the South African Music scene pianist / songwriter Thandi Nthuli and The Brother Moves On’s Siyabonga Mthembu who act as curators / musical directors on the project.

South African townships were historically cosmopolitan places. Apartheid confined all classes in the same impoverished locations. Migration from across the country and the region meant kasi residents commanded many musical languages. Church music, European classical music, the latest US jazz LPs and Liverpool pop tunes from offshore radio stations fed the mix. The same woman could sing Handel in church on Sunday, traditional lyrics by the evening fireside, local and overseas standards on a community hall bandstand and songs of resistance on a march. There never was just one sound. And it’s the flowers from all those roots, and more, that Indaba Is has harvested. Questions about lineage, community and spirit thread through the tracks – not just communities of descent or language, but the communities being built now through collective creation.

Bokani Dyer’s ‘Ke Nako’ (now’s the time) opens with an irony, because that was a slogan used to get voters to the polls in the first post-apartheid election. Now, Dyer’s using it to remind us to think again about who we are and where we’re going.

That’s always been the question for The Brother Moves On (TBMO: a genre-refusing, personnel-revolving performance collective named, with a twist, for The Wire’s assassin: Brother Mouzone). Here, it’s embodied in a meditation on relationships refracted through the distorting-glass of their context.

It’s the singing voices on both those tracks that reference roots even as they engage with contemporary spoken flows and instrumental improvisations. Explicitly, trumpeter Lwanda Gogwana bookends his track with the idioms of the Eastern Cape – galloping rhythms, harmonies from bow music and split-tone singing, a spluttering trumpet reminiscent of Mongezi Feza – and grows from them a chill contemporary meditation: no spatial or temporal barriers here.

Chill, though, is the last term you’d use for Wretched, vocalist Gabisile Motuba’s Fanon-inspired project with drummer Tumi Mogorosi and sound artist Andrei van Wyk and the voices of Black Panther Kwame Toure and liberation leader Winnie Madikizela-Mandela: “What is history?..” Motuba demands. Mandela

describes how imprisonment on Robben Island actually sheltered those who became post-liberation leaders from the visceral realities of the struggle. Her presence poses the same question; her history is still weighed down with calumnies even after an apartheid police boss admitted not a shred of evidence linked her to the killing she was accused of: the whole farrago was deliberate fake news.

That, like ‘Ke Nako’ and The Brother Moves On's bitter allusion to “black yellow and green” (the colours of the ruling ANC) is the thread of another kind of tradition – the reminders and remainders of South Africa’s struggle not yet won – weaving through the album.

Balm is offered by what guitarist Sibusile Xaba has described as his “modal, groove-oriented roots music”. It is, he says, inspired by dreams; he sees himself as a diviner not a performer and his music as functional for healing. That echoes one of his musical masters, the late Dr Philip Nchipi Tabane. ‘Umdali’ is a reference to the Creator, inspirer of such service.

The Ancestors weave Siyabonga Mthembu’s voice into a web of musical references forward-looking and historical, including bluesy instrumentals that hark back to what South Africa’s jazz bandleaders of the ‘70s and ‘80s conjured up – another aspect of South Africa’s musical tradition.

Then pianist/composer/vocalist Thandi Ntuli returns to the theme of identity in ‘Dikeledi’ (‘Tears’). “Who are you?’ she asks. “What do you call yourself?.. the illusion [of who you are] emerges from you.” Ultimately, the song concludes, rootedness in community trumps image.

But community isn’t unproblematic. The persistent fractures in South African society were deliberately engineered by apartheid, results of an attempt to impose unitary, racially-constructed identities on all. All the tracks in this collection challenge that: they demonstrate the unifying power of collective hard music work.

In that context, iPhupho L’ka Biko’s ‘Abaphezulu’ (“They are coming, those who are above” – an invocation to ancestors, including the spirit of Steve Bantu Biko) is a fitting conclusion. Opening with the notes of Kinsmen’s Druv Sodha’s sitar, it smashes another of the walls apartheid tried to build against Black unity: between South Africans of African and South Asian heritage. The classically-inflected gospel voices of Mthembu's dialogue with Indian and modern jazz rhythms and free horn improvisations in joyous heterophony.

Like we said, there never was just one sound.

Source: Bandcamp

Madlib - Sound Ancestors

Sound Ancestors

by Madlib (edited, arranged and mastered by Kieran Hebden aka Four Tet)

Released 29 January 2021

Madlib Invazion


Music by Madlib. Edited, arranged and mastered by Kieran Hebden

Kieren Hebden: “I was listening to some of his new beats and studio sessions when I had the idea that it would be great to hear some of these ideas made into a Madlib solo album ... arranged into tracks that could all flow together in an album designed to be listened to start to finish ... we decided to work on this together with him sending me tracks, loops, ideas and experiments that I would arrange, edit, manipulate and combine. I was sent hundreds of pieces of music over a couple of years.”

Carl Craig and Moritz Von Oswald - Attenuator

Attenuator (EP)

by Carl Craig and Moritz Von Oswald

Released 23 October 2020

Planet E Communications


Attenuator is an engaging dancefloor power play double-A siided single resulting from collaboration between Chicago-based Techno producer Carl Craig and Berlin's dub maestro Moritz Von Oswald. 

Two versions of the tune are presented:

Side 1 "The Carl Craig Version" is close to 9 minutes in duration, while Side B, the "Moritz von Oswald Dub"at close to 7 minutes.

Carl Craig's version opens with a synthesised drone rising behind a fast (200bpm) metronomic beat that ramp up to a racy cresceno before it transforms to a funky, sustained Balaeric duet of sultry saxophones and soft drumpads. Von Oswald's version opens with tabla, seemingly intended to ake up where Craig's version tailed off. The tempo rises and features a sustained, soulful saxophone solo.

Caiti Baker - Mary Of The North

Mary Of The North

by Caiti Baker

Released 29 January 2021

Madlib Invazion


On her Bandcamp page Australian artist Caiti Baker says she was "raised on American Blues, Soul, Rock n Roll, Gospel, Big Band, Jazz and Country Blues (abd) became obsessed with Hip Hop, R&B, Neo Soul and New Jack Swing in her adolescence". 

Caiti's debut album shows many of these influences are still strong and the title songs "no More" and "Mirror" draw liberally upon Ray Charles' "Hit The Road Jack" and the Alabama 3's "Woke Up This Morning" (the Sopranos TV Theme). But Baker's songwriting, personality and musical talent dominate this selectrion - showcasing strong creative partnership with collaborator and producer James Mangohig and confident delivery, the result no doubt of the depth of her experience as an opening act and support artist on the Australian performance circuit.

Guedra Guedra - Son of Sun

Son of Sun (EP)

by Guedra Guedra كدرة كدرة

Released 1 May 2020

On The Corner


"Son of Sun"is the debut release by Casablanca artist Guedra Guedra (aka Abdellah M. Hassak) - a thoroughly intoxicating mix of musical influences, fusing techniques and approaches from contemporary dance music and traditional music, particulary from North African traditions.

Guedra Guedra "is a polyrhythmic, tribal, organic and poetic, [chaotic] project," said Hassak to publication Berlin In Stereo.

"I am trying to explore the very important ethnic, social, cultural and linguistic identity that North Africa and a large part of Africa are sharing, by challenging through music, topics like; rhythm and polyrhythm, ritual practices, the practice of trance, the notion of memory and musical transmission in African nomadic society, and more." 

The influences of Andalucian, Arabic, Sufi, Berber and Gnaua music are always close to the surface in Morocco encouraged by the many annual music festivals (such as Festival of World Sacred Music in Fez , Essaouira Festival Gnaoua and World Music , Tanjazz and and others).

Guedra Guedra succesfully brings the exhuberant musical spirit of Morocco into the studio in a fresh and dynamic way. 

I'm now eagerly looking forward to "Vexillogy", the debut LP by this artist, due out 12 March 2021.

Menagerie - Many Worlds

Many Worlds

by Menagerie

Released 15 January 2021

Freestyle Records


"Many Worlds" is the third album from this Melbourne-based, 9-piece, spiritual jazz ensemble founded by producer, songwriter, guitarist, DJ and recording artist Lance Ferguson - the driving force behind The Bamboos, Lanu, Rare Groove Spectrum and Machines Always Win.
Recorded at Union Street Studio by award-winning engineer John Castle, "Many Worlds" features some of Australia’s finest musicians, including pianist Mark Fitzgibbon (a regular performer at Gilles Peterson and Patrick Forge’s original Dingwalls sessions), drummer Daniel Farrugia (Angus and Julia Stone, The Bamboos, Mia Dyson, Missy Higgins, Renee Geyer) and renowned saxophonist Phil Noy (The Bamboos).
Inspired by both the post-Coltrane generation of the 70’s, labels like Strata-East, Impulse! and Tribe, along with the current "New Wave Of Jazz", Menagerie aligns with the world of Kamasi Washington, Shabaka Hutchings and Nubya Garcia, whilst also bringing their own unique twist.
Lead single ‘Free Thing’ leans heavily into the spiritual side of the band's sound. The hypnotic spoken word-poem is evocative of The Last Poets, an earthy yet futuristic meditation on the universal theme of freedom itself, set to a backdrop of insistent percussion, double bass and brooding piano voicings.
Hope’ carries forward the sound of spiritual jazz into the 21st century, with its epic vocal harmonies and melodic fanfare, it is an uplifting anthem for this period of global worldwide upheaval and uncertainty.
The title track ‘Many Worlds’ is a perfect example of how Menagerie incorporates their myriad influences, but manage to create a sound that feels uncannily fresh and contemporary. Book-ended by ambient, ethereal sections, the slow-burning groove builds over its 11-minute duration to create a standout crossover track.

Bandcamp: Menagerie - Many Worlds

JK Group - The Young Ones

The Young Ones

by JK Group

Released 20 April 2020

La Sape Records


JK Group is a powerhouse nu-jazz band fronted by Melbourne saxophonist Josh Kelly (30/70, PBS Young Elder of Jazz 2019). They describe their approach as sitting in the crossover of raw, live jazz and electronic / dance production: "At times synth-heavy, effected and soundscapey, while at other times hard hitting, groove laden, with spiritual jazz overtones and no-holds-barred improvising. Their sound nods respectfully to classic jazz traditions, whilst carving a path that unashamedly looks towards the future, embracing modern influences and production techniques". 
Released in April 2020, ‘The Young Ones’ is their debut release and sees Josh Kelly in full flight alongside longtime 30/70 collaborators, Matt Hayes and Ziggy Zeitgeist with keys player and producer Lewis Moody (Z*F*E*X, Sex on Toast) and special guests Audrey Powne, Javier Fredes and James Bowers.

This is another strong nu-jazz recording by some of our favourite Melbourne artists.

Bandcamp: JK Group - The Young Ones

Collocutor - Continuation


by Collocutor

Released 30 October 2020



Musician-composer Tamar Osborn's CV is like tapestry unfurling in bewildering detail. Having started out on clarinet and saxophone, performing mostly classical works, she later studied rhythms and ragas in India, then collaborated with a vast array of talents, often fusing Afrobeat and Ethio-funk into jazzy paradigms. She was part of the onstage band for Fela! The Musical during its 2010 / 2011 runs in London, and formed her own Afrobeat-informed band, The Fontanelles, in 2011. Fond of modal styles that avoid standard chord changes, Osborn used Yusef Lateef's book Repository Of Scales And Melodic Patterns as the base for Collocutor's early work.

Continuation is her third album under this guise and follows the enlightened path of its forerunners. Osborn's emphasis is less on rhythmic exuberance in this project and more on quirky meditations, using feathery woodwind and dreamy brass, with bouts of kick-ass rawk 'n' roll. Indeed, the sense of Continuation as seeking something redemptive is highlighted on the opening cut "Deep Space" which was recorded in a Baptist church in London. Solemn as a vigil, its quiet ricochets of sax and flute gradually coalesce into a restorative ritual. Osborn's hallowed sax tone here echoes the work that Jan Garbarek did with vocal quartet The Hilliard Ensemble.

The title track has a skinny guitar motif on repeat, as the band drifts in floating every note towards a kind of birdsong finale amid chattering tablas.

"Pause" is made of breathy drones, urgent strums and a down-tempo rhythm that could be from the 1990s British trip-hop scene. Such a slowed down funk beat is a neat foil for Osborn's gyrating sax and finds a likeness on the final offering "Pause Reprise" which awakens muzzily until scalding guitar riffs meet Osborn's trancey sax over looping snared percussion.

Elsewhere we get a jolt of Osborn's love for Afrofuturism on "The Angry One" and "Lost & Found" then unveils some classic rock snortings, with a stuttering sax riff that hints at Led Zeppelin's "Kashmir." Changing tack midway, the piece adopts a pastoral hue as the woodwind wafts us to closure.

This album confirms Osborn as a soulful talent on the vibrant London scene.

Continuation is a potent reminder that music, like spirit, has no physical form. It simply takes us, it simply moves us.

Source: All About Jazz

Jeremiah Fraites - Piano Piano

Piano Piano

by Jeremiah Fraites

Released 22 January 2021

Rough Trade Records


From co-founder of the Lumineers, Jeremiah Fraites, "Piano Piano" is a collection of songs featuring gorgeous, intimate piano-centric instrumental songs capturing Fraites’ reflective moments from his Denver home. 

Piano Piano has been a long time coming: Fraites says he first started writing some of these songs a dozen years ago. As he wrote material that didn’t seem right for 'The Lumineers', he set it aside and began thinking of doing a solo album - but between his band work and becoming a father a couple of years ago, it never seemed like the right time to do it.

That changed when the pandemic forced The Lumineers to cancel the remainder of their 2020 world tour dates.

Rough Trade accurately describes Piano Piano' as "an achingly gorgeous set of songs, emotionally direct yet profoundly revealing", adding "Fraites’ songwriting reaches into deeply personal spaces with moving grace and stark elegance, retaining the folk-inspired melodicism so familiar from his work in The Lumineers, transported into a more classically sophisticated setting".

In addition to piano, Fraites plays nearly every instrument on the album, including guitar, drums, synths, and programming.

It was co-produced and engineered by David Baron (Jade Bird, Vance Joy, Shawn Mendes) and features other collaborators such as The Lumineers’ violinist Lauren Jacobson, cellists Rubin Kodheli and Alex Waterman, and Macedonia’s 40-piece Fame’s Orchestra.

Rob Luft, Elina Duni, Fred Thomas, Matthieu Michel - Lost Ships

Lost Ships

by Elina Duni, Rob Luft

Released 13 November 2020



Elina Duni and Rob Luft’s programme of songs of love and exile has been gathering momentum since 2017, when the Albanian-Swiss singer and the British guitarist began their collaboration. Along the way the duo has been augmented by distinguished guests, with Swiss flugelhornist Matthieu Michel and UK pianist/percussionist Fred Thomas here making significant contributions to the overarching concept. The migration crisis, a theme explored on Elina’s Partir album, is again a central issue, so too ecological concerns. Material is drawn from many sources: “There are songs that touch upon past influences, with the sound of Albania and Mediterranean folklore ever-present. We wanted to explore other musical roots, too: timeless jazz ballads, French chanson, American folk song…” The broad range of music addressed runs from traditional pieces to original compositions, via songs made famous by Frank Sinatra and Charles Aznavour. Lost Ships was recorded at Studios la Buissonne in the South of France in February 2020.

Source: ECM

Joe Lovano's Trio Tapestry -  Garden of Expression

Garden of Expression

by Joe Levano's Trio Tapestry

Released 29 January 2021



Once again collaborating with longtime associates pianist Marilyn Crispell and drummer Carmen Castaldi as Trio Tapestry saxophonist Joe Lovano further explores  the spare, introspective sound of the group's 2019 eponymous ECM debut.

Tracks like "Chapel Song," "Night Creatures," and "West of the Moon" have an impressionistic quality, evoking the dream-like compositions of Claude Debussy as Lovano floats against Crispell's rippling aquatic arpeggios. Equally enveloping is the title track, in which Crispell's far-eyed chords and Lovano's dusky tones conjure the '60s spiritual jazz of John Coltrane and Pharoah Sanders.

What's also particularly compelling is just how important Castaldi's drumming is to the trio's overall sound: unmoored by a bass instrument, Castaldi's buoyant, textural rhythms seem to suggest as much of a chordal center on any given song as Crispell's playing. This is especially true in the trio's more free-leaning moments, as on "Dream on That'' in which the drummer kicks off a rambling call-and-response improvisation that goes from starkly atonal to thickly frenetic and back again.

Always at the center of the trio, however, are Lovano's warm, vocal-like tones and painterly phrases, giving the album the focused reverence and elevated emotionality of a church service.

Source: AllMusic

Tigran Mansurian - Con Anima

Con Anima

by Tigan Mansurian

Released 6 November 2020



Conceived jointly by violinist Movses Pogossian and violist Kim Kashkashian on the occasion of Tigran Mansurian’s 80th birthday, the Con anima project brings together a dedicated cast of players to perform the Armenian composer’s chamber music. The emphasis is on newer pieces - only the Third String Quartet dates from the 20th century - but there is a timeless quality to Mansurian’s work, all of which resounds with the spirit of his homeland. “His works are full of signifiers that come from Armenian ornaments, paintings or stones, “ writes Elena Dubinets in the CD notes. “His music itself feels as if it was carved out of stone.” Sonata da Chiesa is dedicated to the memory of priest-composer-folklorist Komitas, an enduring inspiration for Mansurian. Agnus Dei is influenced by Armenian sacred music, and Die Tänzerin is based upon an Armenian folk dance.

Source: ECM

Shai Maestro - Human


by Shai Maestro and Trio

Released 29 January 2021



 In its review of pianist Shai Maestro’s ECM leader debut The Dream Thief, All About Jazz spoke of “a searching lyrical atmosphere, emotional eloquence and communal virtuosity that serves the music.” All of which also applies to Human, where Maestro’s outgoing, highly-communicative band with fellow Israeli Ofri Nehemya on drums and Peruvian bassist Jorge Roeder becomes a quartet with the inspired addition of US trumpeter Philip Dizack. Shai’s expansive pianism is well-matched by Dizack’s alert, quick-thinking approach to improvising. And, as ever, Maestro is taking the music forward while also respecting its sense of tradition. Near the end of a programme comprised almost entirely of Maestro originals, exploring a range of temperaments, the quartet offers its own take on Duke Ellington’s “In A Sentimental Mood”, while Shai’s tune “Hank and Charlie” pays tribute to the musical empathy shared by the late Hank Jones and Charlie Haden. Human was recorded at Studios la Buissonne in the South of France in February 2020, and produced by Manfred Eicher.

Source: ECM

Erkki-Sven Tuur - Lost Prayers

Lost Prayers

by Erkki-Sven Tuur

Released 13 November 2020



Lost Prayers is the first of Estonian composer Erkki-Sven Tüür’s New Series recordings to be devoted entirely to his chamber music. Scaled-back instrumental forces, however, are no indicator of reduced expressive power, and the volatility of Tüür’s “vectorial” concept emerges forcefully from the first seconds of Fata Morgana which is, with Lichttürme, one of two pieces for violin, violoncello and piano. These pieces are performed by the Estonian trio of Harry Traksmann, Leho Karin and Marrit Gerretz-Traksmann, all of whom have played Tüür’s music extensively and appeared on earlier ECM discs, including Crystallisatio and Oxymoron. The German-based Signum Quartett plays Tüür’s Second String Quartet, Lost Prayers, and Signum violinist Florian Donderer also performs Synergie together with cellist Tanja Tetzlaff. Collectively the musicians underline Erkki-Sven Tüür’s view that “one can build up a really rich and wide palette of sounds with only three or four instruments. You don’t necessarily need a full orchestra to operate with a powerful soundscape.”
The album was recorded at Bremen’s Sendesaal in April 2019.

Source: ECM

Carlos Rafael Rivera - The Queen's Gambit (Music from the Netflix Limited Series)

The Queen's Gambit (Music from the Netflix Limited Series)

by Carlos Rafael Rivera

Released 23 October 2020

Maisie Music Publishing


Over the recent decade, more and more of the most talented contemporary composers have been writing for Computer Games and TV Series Soundtracks, in addition to Soundtracks and Orchestras.

And in this regard, one of the highlights of 2020 was Emmy Award winning American composer Carlos Rafael Rivera's soundtrack for the Netflix Limited Series 'The Queen's Gambit". A protoge of Randy Newman, Rivera has produced a score that is noticably written entirely for piano and orchestra, without the apparent use of synths and production affects. The Queen's Gambit is an underdog's story of the main character Beth's rise from young orphan to world champion chess player, during the Cold War. This use of "traditional" orchestration subtly places the music in the period and as Riviera explained to "Composer' magazine: "I began by representing Beth’s life in the orphanage with piano and cello as the main colour, and slowly increased the instrumentation throughout each episode. Although her reality in the beginning was simple, what she visualised in her head when she played on the ceiling was always completely orchestral. By the time Beth arrives in the USSR in the final episode, Beth is also fully developed, and so the music, which matches the reality she always envisioned."

Although the 90 minute soundtrack is made up of 38 separate tracks, most less than 3 minutes in duration, it has been compiled in a sequence that may be enjoyed as a single piece, perhaps as a result of the relatively narrow range of themes in the drama itself.

Trent Reznor Atticus Ross Jon Batiste - Soul (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)

Soul  (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)

by Trent Reznor, Atticus Ross, Jon Batiste

Released 23 October 2020

Disney Music


I was intrigued by this album because of the personnel involved: Trent Reznor (the lead vocalist, multi-instrumentalist and principal songwriter of the industrial rock band Nine Inch Nails), Atticus Ross (theEnglish musician, songwriter, record producer, composer, and audio engineer who - along with Trent Reznor - won the Academy Award for Best Original Score for The Social Network in 2010) and Jon Batiste (musician, bandleader, and television personality - best known as musical director on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert)

Not having seen the movie, I approached this soundtrack as an album in its own right. It is in fact, two albums that are intricately interwoven by the narrative of the movie, which tells the story of Joe Gardner, a middle school music teacher from New York City,who dreams of a career in jazz, even though his mother Libba objects to it, fearing for his financial security. One day after being invited to play in the band of jazz legend Dorothea Williams, Joe falls down a manhole and finds himself as a soul heading into the "Great Beyond". Unwilling to die before his big break, he tries to escape but ends up in the "Great Before", where soul counselors (all named Jerry) prepare unborn souls for life. Reznor and Ross composed a contemporary score for the metaphysical segments of the film, while American musician Jon Batiste composed a wide range of jazz songs for the New York City-based segments of the film.  

The songs are arranged in the sequence of the movie for the online streaming services but the vinyl release is in the form of two distinct albums - a preferrable sequence for audio.

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