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YouTube | January 2022 SunNeverSetsOnMusic

YouTube | January 2022 SunNeverSetsOnMusic

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Various Artists - Summer of Soul (…Or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised) Original Motion Picture Soundtrack

Summer of Soul (…Or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised)

by Questlove  / Various Artists

Released 28 January 2022

Sony

*****

Like the documentary, most of the audio recordings that were recorded during the 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival have not been heard for over 50 years, keeping this incredible event in America’s history lost - until now. The Summer of Soul (…Or, When The Revolution Could Not Be Televised) Soundtrack is a joyous musical celebration and the rediscovery of a nearly erased historical event that celebrated Black culture, pride and unity.

For the album, Said Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson, (songwriter, disc jockey, author, music journalist, and film director, drummer and joint frontman (with Black Thought) for the hip hop band the Roots) carefully selected 17 live renditions of jazz, blues, R&B, Latin, and soul classics performed over the course of the Harlem Cultural Festival in 1969 as chronicled by the film.

The soundtrack boasts everything from Sly & The Family Stone’s performance of Sing A Simple Song to B.B. King’s poignant and powerful guitar-driven gem Why I Sing The Blues to the rapturous Precious Lord Take My Hand by The Operation Breadbasket Orchestra & Choir featuring Mahalia Jackson and Mavis Staples. And let’s not forget Gladys Knight & The Pips showing out on a simmering I Heard It Through The Grapevine, while Nina Simone’s voice smolders on Backlash Blues and Are You Ready.

Questlove said “It goes beyond saying that you can’t have a monster music journey on film without an equally awesome soundtrack. The people demanded ‘more!’. So for the people, we bring you musical manna that hopefully won’t be the last serving. These performances are lightning in a bottle. Pure artistry! Enjoy.”

Over the course of six weeks in the summer of 1969 (just 100 miles south of Woodstock), the Harlem Cultural Festival was filmed in Mount Morris Park (now Marcus Garvey Park).

Subsequently however, the footage was largely forgotten.

That this might have occurred in the first place is a tragic testament to the parlous asymmetry between races in the mid-20th-Century in America. That the materials remained in obscurity until now, while the legend of Woodstock grew in common appreciation as a "generation defining"  moment, is cruelly ironic i retrospect, serves to illustrate the magnitude of redress that is due, and the further work that is required. 

'Summer of Soul (…Or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised)' shines a light on the importance of history to our spiritual well-being and stands as a testament to the healing power of music during times of unrest, both past and present.

The feature includes concert performances by Nina Simone, Sly & the Family Stone, Gladys Knight & the Pips, Mahalia Jackson, B.B. King, The 5th Dimension and more.”

Source: Tinnitist

The Weeknd - Dawn FM

Live From Blackalachia

by Moses Sumney

Released 10 December 2021

TUNTUM

****-

"Now that all future plans have been postponed, and it's time to look back on the things you thought you owned, do you remember them well?" actor Jim Carrey, serving as narrator, asks listeners on the final track of The Weeknd's new album. The dawn climbs out of the darkness where we've roamed for the erratic past two years to give its clearest radio signal — Dawn FM. The album's cover objectifies the future by way of a depiction of an elderly version of singer Abel Tesfaye, the version who escapes Cain and the legacy of his name, and remains a good shepherd like we're told in the Bible. It's an image that suggests we enter eternity by enduring the bleakness of now.

The cover functions the same way images of Daniel Dumile as MF DOOM in his signature metal mask function — to distort our perception of a familiar messenger so that we can hear new territories in the sounds they're about to deliver.

The Weeknd relishes his new territory, moving from brooding the horrific to a lighthearted and at times epiphanic acceptance of it that allows a more upbeat narration. The album's synths hit like hunting daggers instead of misplaced cupid's arrows, which allow for the romance of self-aware introspection instead of the distraction of star-crossed lovers.

From the meditative prayer that is the opening and title track of Dawn FM, which pleads for faith and sets up the album's combined world of a radio show and an afterlife, we move into "Gasoline," a cheerful track about disaster. The song confesses restlessness, nihilism and detachment from the body — "It don't mean much to me," he sings.
A dance track that flirts with sabotage is exactly what this era calls for. Where we might have expected The Weeknd's signature indulgent love songs with their wisp of divine afropessimism, Dawn FM advances the persona of his work from an "us against the world" pantheon to a post-apocalyptic register where love accents despair and chaos, and a blissful inner decadence drives survival. The song is reeling but also entirely composed, a consummate balancing act, and it's a philosopher's song in that it explores the concept of dying and being reborn into your own life. Even the title "Gasoline" combines the utilitarian and the destructive by purposing what is used for fuel toward getting rid of the singer's body in the event that his soul leaves it in the middle of the night, high on drugs and the erotic.

The common image or myth of walking into the light of eternal life along with the concept that the darkest hour is before the dawn propels the music. Across the album, depictions of the end of the world merge with the feeling of being at a party where some grand renewal will be unveiled. The lyrics brood and lament, but paradoxically cheerful beats and chipper synth play evocative of the boldness and resilience of '80s music from New Order to Thriller override any tendency to wallow, proving two realities are possible simultaneously and can even co-exist oblivious to one another. One can be both suffering and saved, in love and indifferent, in the afterlife and being reborn. The mask and the agony in Abel's eyes as they peek through it becomes cautionary and lets us consider whether we would like to age into the shape of our fears or the shape of our most heroic dreams.
All of this depth from a "pop" album.

Where the genre is often accused of being deceptively or deliberately naïve about the troubles of the world, The Weeknd's new work is anything but as it confronts and serenades the constant threat of abrupt endings that marks this era, and refuses to oversimplify that menace with pure dejection or pure ecstatic. It's terrible and alarming and exhilarating and lucky to be alive now, even amidst the thrills. He fittingly calls one track "Every Angel is Terrifying." Just when it feels like nothing is coming to rescue us, honest music does. The track features a poetic musing about rescue: "Who, if I cried out, would hear me among the angel's order?" The layering of soothing beats and tones suggestive of the illusion that life is a party, with doomsaying lyrics that expose the harsh truth that everyone at that party is suffering the effects of its overstimulation, gives listeners the unexpected jolt needed to face that shape-shifting messenger on the cover without recoil — candor is energizing here.

Screaming into the abyss is replaced by skipping, trotting, and dancing into it on Dawn FM, and coupled with its haunting cover, an accusatory is formed. Are we too shallow to endure the now? What happens when glamour recedes but its ghost remains? Why is the sound so retro it floats, while the lyrics describe someone inconsolable, even suicidal? Do we have collective fantasies about ruining ourselves before the world tries to ruin us? "You'd rather leave than to watch me die," the song "Less Than Zero" assumes like an inverse of Prince's "7," blaming the self: "I'll always be less than zero." He situates the self and the light in the underworld as entities we must be brave enough to call forth and bring with us above ground, redemptive possibilities that mumble beneath our habits of consumption and play.

It's a brave way to construct the universe of an album, during a time when almost everyone is searching for dawn on the dial, within the brutal frequency war between upheaval and peace we find ourselves navigating. It's impressive without being desperate — this is the work of someone who possesses equal parts ennui and enthusiasm for life, who wants to see into the future of his hero's journey but has the humility to cast himself as mortal rather than the hero of that uncertain future. Everything we long to transcend is here to be danced off the stage of our consciousness the way the sun goes dark for hours so the subconscious of the planet can breathe and reset, make impossibly frightening demands, and then wake up to those demands grinning and thinking: maybe I can accomplish that in a song, if not in the flesh.

Tesfaye's Ethiopian roots feel present throughout the album, as both a source of faith and the keen ability to layer lament and praise, hope and turmoil, death and eternity, as if they share one skin. Some of the beauty and complexity of Ethiopian jazz is transferred to Western popular music by way of this work, an unlikely achievement that proves music is where the impossible happens. When you surrender to Dawn FM, one of the album's central confessions — "back then I was starry eyed, and now I'm so cynical" — seems to recede or move in the opposite direction. You feel how exploration of the darkest hours compels us to transmute them, while pretending we're in an easygoing world and ignoring the rest would leave us forever jaded.

Fantasy, finally, is the work of Dawn FM.

Not all fantasies are about ideal realities, some contain a mixture of the what-if of dread and the what-if of perfection, and turn that into the yes of desire.

The music here traces Abel Tesfaye's own path from risk to reward. He pursued his dreams in a pattern that many would find frightening, and reached them at a level that many wouldn't be able to sustain. To hold onto his authentic self requires this looking in every direction at once, a willingness to grapple with demons and ability to face the fact that today's world is confounding and many want to disassociate and project to cope with it. Rather than reaching for salvation, Dawn FM descends into heaven, assuring on the album's outro: "Heaven is closer than those tears on your face."

Source: NPR

 

Orchestra of the Swan - Labyrinths

Labyrinths

by Orchestra of the Swan

Released 19 November 2021

Signum Classics

*****

The Orchestra of the Swan has performed all around the United Kingdom and beyond, often performing programs that mix newly commissioned works with music of the 20th century and standard repertory. Through concerts and multiple residencies, the orchestra has woven itself into the life of central England. Based in Stratford-upon-Avon and holding concerts in that city's Civic Hall, the Orchestra of the Swan was founded in 1995 by conductor David Curtis. He was succeeded by David Le Page, who serves as the artistic director. There are about 30 members, with many remaining a part of the group for many years. 

The Orchestra of the Swan is known mostly for recordings of early 20th century orchestral music. The group has done thematic albums, but the COVID-19 pandemic has seen it shift to programs that mix diverse materials under a single concept. One might use the word crossover for these efforts, but they strive not toward the familiar but toward surprise. In this case, there is a general title, Labyrinths, plus the reader learns that the music focuses on "ideas of pilgrimage, contemplation, exploration and enlightenment."

Moreover, "[t]hemes of isolation, distance and a longing for human connection are filtered through beautifully atmospheric and exquisitely rendered sound worlds." All this may be a little hard to pin down, but the music speaks for itself, achieving the difficult trick of being both meditative and varied.

Conductor David Le Page, who also wrote the elegant notes, draws on classical pieces from a 14th century Italian song with darbuka to Nico Muhly, progressive rock (Brian Eno, Joy Division), folk singing, film music (a Yann Tiersen piece from the well-worn Amélie score is here), and even jazz, in a unique and entirely fresh arrangement of a Buxtehude Lamentation by pianist David Gordon. Le Page and the Orchestra of the Swan have been breaking new ground in orchestral programming, and listeners are invited to check it out. Signum Classics' sound, from Saffron Hall, is entirely in line with the album's aims, with a sheen but also some depth.

Source: AllMusic

Immanuel Wilkins - The 7th Hand

The 7th Hand

by Immanuel Williams

Released 28 January 2022

Blue Note

*****

Brooklyn-based alto saxophonist Immanuel Wilkins mightily impressed critics with 2020's Omega. His wispy yet resonant tone revealed a wildly inventive soloist with an advanced compositional facility executed with authority by his quartet -- pianist Micah Thomas, bassist Daryl Johns, and drummer/percussionist Kweku Sumbry. That group returns on The 7th Hand to ask an audacious question across seven tunes: What would happen if God joined the band? This hour-long suite of seven stand-alone movements investigates the space between two existential poles: the abundance of sacred presence and the nihilistic poverty of nothingness. The music on the provocative The 7th Hand moves through evolutionary stages. As it plays, elegantly rendered post-bop embraces harmonic modalism, then develops outward in the echolalia of free improvisation. In considering his existential question, Wilkins pondered the biblical significance of the number six, which represents the maximum potential of human possibility. He wondered that if the band actively sought divine intervention as an intended part of their creative process, would God's spirit, the heavenly seventh element, possess and guide them?

Opener "Emanation" balances release and tension with harmonic inquiry through modernist post-bop. Played with intricate melodic invention and barely restrained energy, Wilkins' horn offers a plethora of harmonic ideas. Thomas' piano employs expansive chord voicings as the rhythm section swings hard underneath. "Don't Break" features the Farafina Kan Percussion Ensemble. The djembe drums employ chantlike rhythmic motifs, directly reflecting the evolution of the African diaspora as Wilkins and Thomas answer with the blues. "Fugitive Ritual, Selah" is a gorgeous ballad derived from prewar Black gospel. It's introduced by a lyric statement from Johns before a recurrent riff claims the center. Sumbry's delicate brushwork gives way to a relaxed beat caressed by syncopation from piano and alto. "Shadow" sways alongside the blues with a minimal riff-laden theme in a deceptively easy groove until it drifts naturally into restrained abstraction. Both "Witness" and "Lighthouse" feature flutist Elena Pinderhughes. Her graceful approach adds a spectral dimension to the former, while on the latter, her cerebral lyric invention provides both contrast and depth to Wilkins' skillful, intuitively tempered improvisation amid forceful drumming and frenetic bass runs. The sprawling, 26-minute closer, "Lift," is a furious labyrinthine group improvisation that recalls John Coltrane's Ascension. Wilkins' knotty blowing acknowledges the modal intention in Thomas' spiky, harmonic piano stabs. Propulsive intervallic bass lines accentuate crashing cymbals and clattering tom-toms as snare and kick drum drive the molten flow of energy.

The 7th Hand is a major work. It travels dazzlingly from tranquility and comfort to ambivalence, restlessness, and impatience before it engages re-entry, rebirth, and transcendence. This band understands that Wilkins' bold question may be unanswerable, but they play as if they know. They commit to asking it with music-making as compelling and inspired as it is exploratory and dazzling.

Source: AllMusic (Thom Jurek)

Moses Sumney - Live From Blackalachia

Live From Blackalachia

by Moses Sumney

Released 10 December 2021

TUNTUM

****-

Ghanaian-American musician Moses Sumney is a force of nature, and his latest release, Live from Blackalachia, is the sound of an artist who refuses to accept things as they are, creating new methods to avoid the madness of the past 18 months. In January of 2020 Sumney and his band assembled in North Carolina to envision the coming festival season’s stage show. But that season never came. Sumney, however, decided the show had to go on, just in a different format. That summer in Asheville, he created an entirely new concept for the show, and, with Sumney as director, they sang to the assembled multitudes of birds and bees, crickets, squirrels and frogs.

Even the animals had to appreciate Sumney’s voice, an instrument of incredible range and aching beauty. Varying his natural baritone with falsetto, he attacks his music with a gusto that sends chills down your spine. Watching the video version of the album and discovering that every vocal was created by him and him alone, one starts to wonder if there is anything that he cannot do. Tapping the repertoire from his previous albums Aromanticism and grae, Live from Blackalachia was recorded live, accompanied by seven musicians over the course of two days. Sumney has clear control over what he wants, conducting his companions with a grace that insures he gets exactly what he needs.

On “Cut Me,” Sumney wrestles with uncomfortable truths that begin with, “Masochistic kisses are how I thrive” and lead to, “If there’s no pain is there any progress?” Moments like this tell you all you need to know about Sumney’s music: He’s not afraid to ask big questions, and he won’t give you pat answers.

The unusual instrumentation, which varies the original versions, here includes a combination of violin, cello, bass and drums, supplemented at times with a range of synths, two saxophones and a trombone. These new arrangements make the studio takes feel almost rigid by comparison. Each piece is longer than the originals, but there seems to be no additional weight.

Perhaps most interesting is the way Sumney is able to use his voice in so many different contexts. His ability to perform freestyle operatic vocal runs on “Bless Me” only begins to hint at what he is capable of doing. Amidst the Blue Ridge Mountains, one begins to understand what led him to leave Los Angeles behind in 2017, escaping what he termed a “cult of personality.” Moving to Asheville, North Carolina, he clearly hasn’t looked back.

The one new track in this set, “Space Race Nation,” finds Sumney lying naked in a bathtub surrounded by a field. The camera pulls out with him becoming smaller and smaller. Finally, all that one sees are trees. Sumney’s spoken word narration, “I’ve needed a space to articulate my own loneliness, not at the level of state, or nation, or race, or place,” illustrates a means of connection, first with the environment and then offers listeners and viewers a means of becoming one with the natural world.

It’s hard to classify Sumney; phrases like art rock, psychedelic soul and indie folk don’t even come close to capturing a musical world that transcends such categories. Rather than expanding definitions, we have to expand our field of vision. On “Vision,” Sumney makes it clear, “Too much is not enough.”

Live from Blackalachia illustrates how Moses Sumney has radically changed the nature of music. He creates from a framework that extends beyond the world as we currently know it, forging a framework radically different from anything that has come before.

Source: Spectrum Culture

Burial - Antidawn (EP)

Antidawn (EP)

by Burial

Released 6 January 2022

Hyperdub

****-

Continuing his long-running preference of releasing singles and EP's (rather than LP's), the mercurial London experimentalist Burial has a new release. "Antidawn" is a 5-song, 43-minute "EP" - the closest we've come to a full-length album since his influential 2007 manifesto "Untrue". 

The brief Bandcamp entry for Antidawn describes the work as " ...reduc(ing) Burial’s music to just the vapours". Although this is a succinct description, it does not begin to capture the tension inherent in Burial's juxtaposition of vocal or instrumental fragments with atmospheric sounds from the environment, or even silence.

The collection might have alternatively been entitled "Realities", as it in turn ethereal, funereal and surreal.

It is less musical composition than it is soundtrack or a field recording. It is like an aural recollection of a journey through an empty European city, in deep mid-winter.

SunNeverSetsOnMusic

This week, a bit sad post-Christmas, tingling with ambient Covid dread and a bit knackered from New Year’s Eve, I’ve mainly been listening to the new Burial record, ANTIDAWN; amazingly, its familiar blend of rainy, minor-key textures and forlorn-sounding field recordings hasn’t really cheered me up. 

Setting my self-indulgent moping aside for a minute though, this is a spacious, desolate return for William Bevan; it requires a fair bit of patience, but repeated listens reveal passages of spine-tingling beauty once you’ve adjusted to its glacial pace. Initially, we seem to be in classic Burial territory, the faraway chords and vinyl crackle soaking us through from the outset, but there are are subtle innovations lighting up the gloomiest corners of this release (like many recent-ish Burial projects, it’s technically an EP, but with the length and ambition to basically count as an album): the uncharacteristically clear, heartfelt vocals of ‘Shadow Paradise’; the creaking, ceremonial organ progressions that drive ‘Strange Neighbourhood’; ‘New Love’s occasional snatches of weirdly straightforward Chicago-y drum machines, seemingly playing out from inside that parked car across the road with its windows steamed up. We remain in the pallid, early-hours South London of so many Burial records, but there’s a remarkable sense of clearer air, of physical space; it’s as if we’ve walked through the spiralling overpasses and dim-lit streets of the dense inner city and jumped the fence into Burgess Park – wide, open, beautiful, and built on ruins. 

Of course, Burial has explored pure, percussion-free ambience plenty of times before – Untrue’s ‘UK’ is an early-career highlight, and newer tracks like ‘State Forest’ are cathedral-like in their washy grandiosity – but never with such a degree of intricacy or sheer temporal commitment. The slow, lengthy understatement of ANTIDAWN probably means it won’t win over any Burial agnostics, or do much for those who primarily flock to his work in search of his inimitable, naturalistic beatmaking, but for the die-hards, there’s much to love here if you’re willing to stick with it. Perhaps that’s a reason to be cheerful after all.

Source: Loud and Quiet

Chelsea  Carmichael - The River Doesn't Like Strangers

The River Doesn't Like Strangers

by Chelsea Carmichael

Released 22 October 2021

Native Rebel Recordings

****-

The River Doesn't Like Strangers is the debut album by British saxophonist and composer Chelsea Carmichael. While it is the first release from the artist, it also marks the initial offering from Shabaka Hutchings' Native Rebel Recordings label. Carmichael is member of Theon Cross' and Joe Armon-Jones' bands as well as SEED Ensemble. Hutchings caught her live and was so impressed that he signed her. Carmichael's parents are from the Caribbean and her compositions here offer an Afro-futurist musical take on the Caribbean diaspora. Her quartet includes guitarist David Okumu, upright bassist Tom Herbert, and drummer Edward Wakili-Hick. The Hutchings-produced set was recorded in three days without prior rehearsal.


This music is deeply rhythmic and personal; it relies heavily on post-bop, modal jazz, dub reggae, space age calypso, and in places, Indian raga. Opener "There Is a Place (And It's Not Here)" commences with shimmering ambience from rolling tom-toms, bright droning guitars, and a rumbling bassline. Carmichael adds long, low, brooding notes before airing the melody a little at a time, recalling Pharoah Sanders' Impulse sides. It gives way to the bass-heavy "All We Know," wherein her melody line traces calypso through smoky dubwise trap-kit rhythms adorned by spiky, reverberating electric guitars. She dialogues with Okumu in the midsection before soloing. Herbert and Wakili-Hick are endlessly creative throughout as they syncopate, groove, and frame her tenor lines with an elastic yet unshakeable pulse. The head in "Bone and Soil" is nearly majestic as Carmichael's tenor offers a compelling repetitive phrase that she transforms into an expansive harmonic line as Okumu offers painterly atmospherics and contrapuntal phrases. Herbert's solo offers lyric invention as she pulses the new theme just behind him. On "There Is You and You," Carmichael is strident, accompanied initially by Wakili-Hick double-timing and improvising on her fat, expressive lines. When the band enters, they take the groove first to Afrobeat, then soca, then biting funk. "The Healer" begins with a circular calypso pattern that branches seamlessly into West African highlife, Afrobeat, and Latin cumbia before engaging dub reggae and post-bop. In addition to Carmichael's glorious improvising, the tune offers canny cymbal and tom-tom work as well as a smoking yet mysterious guitar solo. The set's title track is nearly 11 minutes long and traverses the world of modal and spiritual jazz while exploring a bluesy lyric line. It eventually expands into a labyrinthine journey through counterpoint, tonal inquiry, and harmonic expansion by Carmichael, and rhythmic extrapolation by the band. The saxophonist dialogues intensely with Okumu, then moves off-center as another line of harmonic possibility presents itself through blues, reggae, and Trinidadian calypso as the band gels behind her. The River Doesn't Like Strangers is a showcase for a soloist and composer who emerges fully formed. Further, Carmichael's quartet is capable of creating a bracing music that resists reductionist classification while dictating a bracing new direction that carries tradition inside its singular expression of innovation and invention.

Source: AllMusic (Thom Jurek)

FKA Twigs - Caprisongs

Caprisongs

by FKA Twigs

Released 14 January 2022

Young Recordings / Atlantic

****-

FKA Twigs’ latest is inspired by an astrological meme based on her real-life star sign. Coincidentally, a Capricorn’s best traits of being ambitious, driven, and hard-working certainly align with the UK experimentalist’s boundless creativity and penchant for reinvention.

Labeled as a “mixtape” and described by Twigs herself on one of the project’s many conversational interludes as “elevator music, but you’re going to the 50th floor,” there’s certainly an unexpected dose of cheesy, playful, and danceable energy. It’s certainly a hot take, coming from an artist who typically comes with a slight baroque pop twist and goddess-like imagery. That energy is combined with a globe-hopping showcase of her multitalented, genre-bending ways as Twigs applies her penchant for experimentation in what feels a little like her response to hyperpop’s rise.

With collaborators ranging from hip-hop heavyweight Mike Dean, anthemic pop craftsman Cirkut, and unorthodox electronic producer Arca behind the boards to drill rappers, Afrobeats stars and The Weeknd on the mic, CAPRISONGS is the most sonically disjointed Twigs album by a long shot – but that switch-up is precisely what makes it so much fun.

The only real constants are her angelic, borderline operatic vocal tone and a heavy helping of pounding synth-bass, but Twigs delivers unexpected rap verses, a standout reggae track out of nowhere, and a passionate slow jam duet with Daniel Caesar in the interim. It’s not the high-concept masterpieces of her past, but this is the result of FKA Twigs letting her creativity run wild. It’s about time we regard her on the level as some of pop culture’s most impressive Renaissance artists.

Source: Range

Janis Ian - The Light at the End of the Line

The Light at the End of the Line

by Janis Ian

Released 21 January 2022

Desperation Publishing / Rude Girls Records

****-

Exquisitely circling guitar patterns weave around Janis Ian’s lissome vocals in the elegantly spare title track of her new album, The Light at the End of the Line. The tender wistfulness of the song celebrates the love she feels for her audiences, as well as the light with which songs illumine our lives. In the final verse, she reminds us that:

“In the blink of an eye

all that’s left is the past

and the memories fade

’til there’s silence at last.

But the song will remember

the spark will still shine

It’s the light at the end of the line

There’s a light at the end of the line.”

The graceful beauty of this song itself dwells in our hearts long after the final notes, revealing the enduring power of music.

Every song on Ian’s album - her first of original material in 15 years, which she has announced is her final studio album - peers into the shadowy corners of our existence, twirling through the labyrinthine paths of memory and presence, honoring the artists whose music inhabits her soul, and looking forward with hope to a day when

“we will dance, we will sing

in that never-ending spring.”

The bright “I’m Still Standing Here” opens with Ian’s and Jon Perry’s swirling guitars as Ian sings, the “lines on my face” are a “map of where I’ve been.”

She declares that she

“would not trade a line

Make it smooth and fine

or pretend that time stands still

I’m still standing here.”

The prowling, expansive “Resist,” fueled by engineer Randy Leago’s thumping percussion and Perry’s guitars, proclaims defiantly the power of surviving, standing firm, and contesting (“I will not disappear”) sexual stereotyping and sexual harassment. Ian’s funk anthem loudly speaks truth to power.

The Celtic-inflected ballad “Swannanoa” swirls with longing, as Nuala Kennedy’s Irish whistle evokes a lonesomeness that lies in the heart of the singer.

Ian’s elegant vocals flow over stately piano chords in “Perfect Little Girl,” a meditation on how to create one’s own identity in the midst of a society that sends messages that women should act certain ways and be “perfect little girls.”

In the ethereally spare “Nina” pays tribute to Nina Simone, while “Summer in New York” rolls in on a wave of piano notes that cascade into a celebration of New York City in a jazz lounge vamp that struts and shines. The album closes with the celebratory “Better  Times Will Come” - a kind of sonic riposte to the Stephen Foster standard “Hard Times Come Again No More” - that opens with Ian’s a cappella vocals and spirals into a hand-clapping New Orleans second line soul-strut. Where Foster's song asks the fortunate to consider the plight of the less fortunate, Ian's holds out hope for us all "When this world learns to live as one".

The Light at the End of the Line showcases Ian’s always incisive lyrics, her canny ability to call out the injustices in our world, to advocate resistance, and to overcome them, and her tender, evocative ways of writing intimately of the love that moves her heart. Even if Ian is stepping off the train of touring and making albums, her light will continue to shine brightly through this collection of illuminating lyrics and enduring music

Source: Folk Alley

Jonny Greenwood - Spencer (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)

Spencer (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)

by Jonny Greenwood

Released 12 November 2021

Universal

****-

Pablo Larraín’s Spencer is a story of fitful disappointment, an unhappy obligation from its beginning that grows only bleaker as the tale unfolds. The protagonist, Diana, Princess of Wales (née Diana Spencer), sees that her future, if it even exists, has already been written for her. Jonny Greenwood’s music for the film, accordingly, is often unsettling, amplifying Diana’s discomfort with being held prisoner at Sandringham House with her unfaithful husband and the British royal family for Christmas traditions. Greenwood’s score, sinister and moody, marries the Baroque stylings that would likely have soundtracked royal gatherings for centuries with free jazz that represents Diana’s defiant presence as the People’s Princess. The music amplifies and elucidates Spencer’s themes, the sound of a free spirit and caged bird who becomes increasingly untethered from reality as she longs to escape. And, on its own, the Spencer soundtrack is also an impressive work of fusion, an album that is ambitious in scope and exquisitely detailed.

Emotionally, Greenwood’s Spencer is alternately melancholy and foreboding. The title theme, played on piano by Greenwood in its sparest form, is closest to the composer’s music for Phantom Thread (namely, the Paul Thomas Anderson film’s title themes and the standout “House of Woodcock”) in that it’s teasingly beautiful but never blooms into its brightest and fullest form, a lovely little melody that’s akin to a deep exhale, weary of its own simplicity and purity and nearly dejected.

Greenwood expands the “Spencer” theme on several songs, including the opening “Arrival,” modified slightly and played even more morosely by a string quartet before the free jazz ensemble, led impressively by trumpeter Byron Wallen, abandons the leitmotif and draws out the more menacing elements of the composition. Pianist Alexander Hawkins and drummer Tom Skinner (a Sons of Kemet fixture and Greenwood’s bandmate in the Smile) stand out, too, their playing growing wilder as they pull the song further away from the theme and the quartet recedes to the background.

The “Spencer” leitmotif, a musical stand-in for Princess Diana, is most traditional on “The Boys” and most foreboding when played on organ, especially the near-cacophonous “Press Call.” It also serves as a grounding force for a record that flirts with chaos, as on the Pendereckian “Calling the Whipper In,” which blends stabs of string with trumpet blasts and unhinged harpsichord. Depending on how you see it, the “Spencer” melody is either the anchor or the albatross of the album, a grounding force and reminder of the elegance at its heart or a stubborn commitment to retreat to what is safe and what is expected when improvisation and discordance are more tantalizing.

Spencer, of course, allows for both interpretations. Diana, in the film’s surrealistic portrayal of a long holiday weekend in December 1991, is forced to confront the hell in which she’s found herself, a decade into her disintegrating marriage to Prince Charles and left with all the accompanying distresses and scrutiny of royalty. However she got there, it’s still a hell, and she wants out. The soundtrack features further moments of tension, such as “Home / Lacrimosa,” burying the listener amid a cascade of organ and orchestra, glistening but overwhelming. “Invention for Harpsichord and Compression,” too, finds Greenwood hurrying his tempo and increasing his volume to make his delicate instrument play with ferocity. There is beauty throughout Greenwood’s Spencer, and it always sounds as if it’s about to collapse.

Source: Pitchfork

Mica Levi - Zola (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)

Zola (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)

by Mica Levi

Released 3 December 2021

Invada Records / A24 Records

****-

Y’all wanna hear a story about why me & this bitch here fell out? It’s kind of long but full of suspense.” So began a now celebrated 2015 Twitter thread by exotic dancer A’Ziah “Zola” King, detailing a Florida road trip that spirals from stripper sisterhood into a slow-motion car crash. It’s also the jumping-off point for Janicza Bravo’s uproarious movie adaptation of Zola’s 148-tweet social media opus. It’s a blast: a brash, aggressively showy joyride to the dark side. But it’s also that rarest of things: a film inspired by new media that deftly acknowledges the platform on which the story originally played out without becoming enslaved by it.

Language is a living thing. It breaks and remakes itself, takes on by osmosis the cultural influences that flow around it. And likewise, the way we as individuals tell our stories evolves, never more rapidly than in the past decade or so – changes accelerated and magnified by technology. It’s something cinema has frequently failed to adapt to, tending to lag behind swift-moving cultural fluctuations. For every Host – the chilling Zoom horror made during lockdown – there’s a film such as Profile (also released last week), which unfolds entirely on computer screens to gimmicky effect.

As Stefani scrolls through her repertoire of toxic stripper anecdotes, Zola barricades herself behind a wall of sarcasm
What makes this particular adaptation, co-written by Bravo and Jeremy O Harris, sing is the fact that, while it winks at Twitter with a smattering of emojis, it’s the legitimacy of Zola’s voice, rather than the means of its dissemination, which is prioritised. This is crucial, as it soon becomes clear that Zola’s is the only truly authentic voice in the film; other characters adopt accents and switch personas to suit their needs with the same ease that Zola and her fellow dancers swap costumes each night.

Key to bringing Zola truthfully to life is a full-on, fleshed-out performance from Taylour Paige, as magnetic as she is sympathetic as a young woman forced to negotiate a sleazy netherworld populated by dangerous men and their hair-trigger egos. When she meets Stefani (a courageous Riley Keough) there’s an instant connection. Mica Levi’s score (one of the film’s other key assets) is a dreamy, feathery harp refrain, elated and as light as air. Such is the swell of instant kinship that Zola is carried along on the high, agreeing the next day to embark on a working weekend break, dancing the high-paying strip joints of Tampa and partying. Along for the ride is Stefani’s cluelessly gauche boyfriend, Derrek (Nicholas Braun), and her roommate, known as X (Colman Domingo, chilling and brilliant), who, we soon learn, is also unhealthily involved in her business interests.


Twenty hours into the road trip down to Florida and the shine is already dulling on the friendship between Zola and Stefani. The latter’s appropriation of Black vernacular fails to conceal the fact that she’s also kind of racist. As Stefani scrolls through her repertoire of toxic stripper anecdotes, Zola barricades herself behind a wall of sarcasm, sporadically firing off a tart put-down. “Were you home-schooled?” she snaps at Derrek at one point. A doofus like Derrek is easy to handle, but X is a different matter. When Zola stands her ground against him, his voice drops in register and takes on a snarling Nigerian accent. Levi’s eloquent score loses its soft airiness and sharpens with brittle electronic edges; the agitated editing shares something of the rattling energy of Sean Baker’s Tangerine. It becomes clear that this road trip is sex trafficking by another name, and Zola’s streetwise sharp wits are her best hope of getting out unscathed.

Source: The Guardian

Sparks - Annette (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)

Annette  (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)

by Sparks

Released 2 July 2021

Universal

****-

Sparks have been very busy of late. In 2020 they released A Steady Drip, Drip, Drip, which was followed by a very interesting documentary directed by Edgar Wright about the Mael brothers. Now, in 2021, they have released a soundtrack for the musical Annette. This is not an official follow-up to last year’s album, but it does contain new music written by and performed by Sparks. As far as I am concerned, this is a reason to celebrate.

Ron and Russell Mael have been releasing records under the Sparks banner since 1972, and as this album demonstrates, they are in no way slowing down or lacking inspiration and originality. They have always pushed the boundaries of what is pop or rock , and given they have been tasked to write a musical, there was no reason to suspect that this would be a conventional soundtrack.

Sparks opens the album with the wonderful “So May We Start” which builds to include principal cast members Adam Driver, Marion Cotillard, and Simon Helberg. It is the perfect opening track which allows all concerned to present some foreshadowing of what is to come, at least in the plot. It paves the way for the musical to begin. Having not seen the film, it is difficult to assess how the songs are used in the actual movie, however, as a standalone soundtrack, they work quite well and fit together very nicely.

The songs, even those not featuring Sparks in the forefront, sound like Sparks tracks. Even when Adam Driver and Marion Cotillard sing the beautiful “We Love Each Other So Much”, it is not difficult to picture Russell Mael singing here. It is a lovely number with sweeping orchestration. And who knew Adam Driver could sing?

“She’s Out Of This World” opens with “breathe out, breathe in” repeated in mantra-like style with Mael’s incredible vocals. While “You Used To Laugh” featuring Driver is pure Sparks humour mixed with incredible unease. Finally, “True Love Always Finds A Way” features one of the most beautiful tunes Sparks have ever created. It starts sparse with layered vocals and continues to build, an effect which is quite astounding.

As a musical, this is one that I probably could sit through. The music takes twists and turns and is full of melody, whimsy and incredible arrangements. Sparks have never sounded better, and a great deal of credit must be given to the cast, who rise to the challenge of adding their vocals here.

A shorter (41minute album is also available:  Annette (Cannes Edition – Selections From The Original Motion Picture Soundtrack) 

Although the soundtrack may not be the official follow-up to A Steady Drip, Drip, Drip, but it is a fine collection by a band who has carved out its own distinct genre.

Source: Pitchfork

Federico Mompou, Lilit Grigoryan - Mompou - Musica Callada

Mompou: Musica Callada

by Federico Mompou, Lilit Grigoryan

Released 15 October  2021

Orchid Classics

****-

The Orchestra of the Swan has performed all around the United Kingdom and beyond, often performing programs that mix newly commissioned works with music of the 20th century and standard repertory. Through concerts and multiple residencies, the orchestra has woven itself into the life of central England. Based in Stratford-upon-Avon and holding concerts in that city's Civic Hall, the Orchestra of the Swan was founded in 1995 by conductor David Curtis. He was succeeded by David Le Page, who serves as the artistic director. There are about 30 members, with many remaining a part of the group for many years. 

The Orchestra of the Swan is known mostly for recordings of early 20th century orchestral music. The group has done thematic albums, but the COVID-19 pandemic has seen it shift to programs that mix diverse materials under a single concept. One might use the word crossover for these efforts, but they strive not toward the familiar but toward surprise. In this case, there is a general title, Labyrinths, plus the reader learns that the music focuses on "ideas of pilgrimage, contemplation, exploration and enlightenment."

Moreover, "[t]hemes of isolation, distance and a longing for human connection are filtered through beautifully atmospheric and exquisitely rendered sound worlds." All this may be a little hard to pin down, but the music speaks for itself, achieving the difficult trick of being both meditative and varied.

Conductor David Le Page, who also wrote the elegant notes, draws on classical pieces from a 14th century Italian song with darbuka to Nico Muhly, progressive rock (Brian Eno, Joy Division), folk singing, film music (a Yann Tiersen piece from the well-worn Amélie score is here), and even jazz, in a unique and entirely fresh arrangement of a Buxtehude Lamentation by pianist David Gordon. Le Page and the Orchestra of the Swan have been breaking new ground in orchestral programming, and listeners are invited to check it out. Signum Classics' sound, from Saffron Hall, is entirely in line with the album's aims, with a sheen but also some depth.

Source: AllMusic

Mary Lattimore - Collected Pieces 2015-2020

Collected Pieces 2015 - 2020

by Mary Lattimore

Released 14 January 2022

Ghostly International

****-

In the afterglow of her acclaimed 2020 album *Silver Ladders* (a year-end favorite of NPR, Pitchfork, The New Yorker, and others), Los Angeles-based harpist and composer Mary Lattimore returns with a culminating counterpart release, *Collected Pieces: 2015-2020*, out January 14, 2022. The limited-edition LP sequences selections from her two rarities collections, *Collected Pieces I* (2017) and *Collected Pieces II* (2020), bringing archive highlights and fan favorites to vinyl and CD for the first time. Lattimore has described the process of arranging these releases as akin to “opening a box filled with memories,” and here that box continues to populate, accessible for both the artist and fans. Evocative material separated by years, framed as a portrait of an instrumental storyteller who rarely pauses, recording and often sharing music as soon as it strikes her. Seemingly in constant forward motion for the last five years since her Ghostly debut, Lattimore glances back for a breath, inviting new chances to live in these fleeting moments and emotions; all the beauty, sorrow, sunshine, and darkness housed within.
A familiar harp sequence opens the set, making its first vinyl appearance is “Wawa By The Ocean,” Lattimore’s ode to her favorite convenience store, Wawa #700 in Ship Bottom, New Jersey. “Twelve summers of solo trips to Ship Bottom and it hasn't really changed. I'll always visit it in my dreams,” Lattimore said upon its initial release, and surely that beachside landmark still appears each time this delightful pattern unfolds, hoagies and all. Next is a newer single, “We Wave From Our Boats,” which she improvised after walking her neighborhood during the early days of lockdown in 2020, and shared on her Bandcamp. “I would just wave at neighbors I didn't know in a gesture of solidarity and it reminded me of how you’re compelled to wave at people on the other boat when you’re on a boat yourself, or on a bridge or something. The pull to wave feels very innate and natural.” The heart of the track is a somber loop, over top which Lattimore’s synth notes ruminate, each a gentle shimmer of optimism in the most anxious and absurd of days.
Also recorded in 2020, “What The Living Do” is inspired by Marie Howe’s poem of the same name, which reflects on loss through an appreciation for the mundane messiness of being human. The echoed, slow-marching track has a distant feel to it, as if the listener is outside of it, watching life play out as a film.

“Princess Nicotine (1909)” scores actual footage, a dream sequence Lattimore imagined for J. Stuart Blackton’s surreal silent film Princess Nicotine; or, the Smoke Fairy (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_UvG5ItVzxc).

She adopted the same approach for “Polly of the Circus,” explaining it was the name of one of the old silent films discovered in permafrost in the Yukon [featured in the documentary *Dawson City: Frozen Time*], “the only copy that survived and it kind of warped in the aging process.”
“Mary, You Were Wrong” mirrors an author’s bout with a broken heart. “It’s about how you have to keep on going even if you make some mistakes,” she says. The bittersweet refrain cycles throughout, a little brighter every time, slowly, like the way time tends to heal.
A trove of pieces are collected here, most recorded in the moment, just Lattimore and her Lyon and Healy Concert Grand Harp, contact mics, and pedals. There’s the one about the late Twin Peaks actress Margaret Lanterman (“We Just Found Out She Died”), the American astronaut’s homecoming (“For Scott Kelly, Returned To Earth”), the joke about the cannibal’s wife (“The Warm Shoulder”), the Charlie Chaplin-like character who lost their glasses (“Be My Four Eyes”), and the high school kids driving their shiny cars in a parking lot (“Your Glossy Camry”). Like her most affecting work, these songs showcase Lattimore’s gifts as an observer, able to shape her craft around emotional frequencies and scenes. Her power as a musician is rooted in how she sees the world: in vivid detail, profoundly empathic, with deep gratitude for nature and nuance. 

Source: Bandcamp

Mary Lattimore - A Unicall Catches A Falling Star In Heaven

A Unicorn Catches A Falling Star In Heaven

by Mary Lattimore

Released April 2021

Bandcamp

****-

On her Bandcamp site, Mary Lattimore wrote:

"Made a song in April at the height of the first COVID surge bc I was scared to death (nothing's changed). It's got a little bit of a Lisa Frank title to combat the strange panic vibe of this pandemic - A Unicorn Catches A Falling Star in Heaven. Maybe it'll be a mini escape route for you. It's 28 minutes long, a zone-out jam. I tried it out on my friends, little Emmie and Allie who are twins, and they liked it and drew me some pictures to go along with it. Here is one of the pictures. Take care and please wear a mask. We gotta try our best to isolate and distance thoughtfully for the sake of the future, even if we have too-long hair and hate cooking and have really terrible fingernails and love drinking cocktails at bars and miss hugging people we care about. Thank you for listening and I really hope you like this one. It's the first song I've made with no secret story, made just for basic relaxation. Xx"

Source: Bandcamp

Coşkun Karademir, Tord Gustavsen, Derya Tűrkan, Őmer Arslan - Silez Silence

Silez Silence

by Coşkun Karademir, Tord Gustavsen, Derya Tűrkan, Őmer Arslan, 

Released 14 June 2021

Kalan Müzik

****-

A master of the traditional Turkish long-neck lutes, Coşkun Karademir has released several remarkably adventurous recordings. With The Secret Ensemble and by himself he recorded two splendid albums with Iranian singer Mahsa Vahdat. His jazzy album, Kerbela, is dedicated to the holy city of Shia Islam. On Silence he is joined by Norwegian pianist Tord Gustavsen, Derya Türkan on kemençe and Ömer Arslan on percussion.

The opening track, ‘Gondol’, starts with Gustavsen's piano, then the kemençe sets in, followed by subtle percussion, creating an evocative backdrop for Karademir's gently strummed lute. Track two, ‘Sirdaş’, is the opposite: fast, ecstatic, reminiscent of the drive of some of Dhafer Youssef's ‘spiritual trance’ music. These contrasting elements return in ‘Zahit Bizi Tan Eyleme’, with a soft-spoken opening on the lute, before a heavy low drum appears, speeding up the tempo, followed by the kemençe and finally the piano, all weaving into an almost funky groove.

The album was recorded in Istanbul after a concert in late 2019. It was one of the last overseen by Hasan Saltik, the legendary founder of Kalan Müzik, who passed away this June; the August/September 2021 (#170) issue had his obituary.

Source: Songlines UK

Ben Green - Lauchie Cox

Lauchie Cox

by Ben Green

Released 14 June 2021

2021 Music Company

****-

Ben Green is a multidisciplinary sound artist from Melbourne currently living in Yuendumu in the Northern Territory of Australia.

His holistic sound is drawn from loose connections between the neo-classical avant garde, ambient, jazz, improvisation and the great outdoors.

Green’s learned improvisation and penchant for musical mindfulness enables space for a frictionless journey from his mind to his music. The body of work that makes up ‘Lauchie Cox’ is no exception.
In his words, when Ben acts "without premeditation, [he is] able to sit at an instrument and naturally draw from everything that is present in [him] at that point in time.

Source: Bandcamp

Indigo - Part I

Part I

by Indigo

Released 23 July 2021

2021 Music Company

****-

Indigo is a project run by Melbourne based musician Nick Roder that focuses on the deep sonic and musical exploration of little-heard ensembles in a contemporary space. The first album, Part I, features nine tracks for bass guitar and tenor saxophone.

Part 1 is the first release in what will be an ongoing three-part series and features nine tracks for bass guitar and tenor saxophone. Burrowing into the space between its sparse instrumentation and dulcet tones, Part I is the realisation of a minimalist and concise vision of the yield of a symbiotic relationship between two instruments.

“My aim is to create music that is sonically and musically atypical whilst still belonging to an accessible contemporary scene. Each project, album or ‘part’ will set out to explore a single ensemble or group of instruments. In the case of Part I, that ensemble is hollow body bass guitar and tenor saxophone.

Source: Bandcamp

Jose Gonzalez - Local Valley

Local Valley

by Jose Gonzalez

Released 19 November 2021

Rhythm Section International

****-

José González never sounds like he’s in a hurry. He takes his sweet time both in song and in life: The gap between the Swedish songwriter’s third solo album, 2015’s Vestiges & Claws, and fourth, Local Valley, was long enough to encompass the entirety of Trump’s presidency, several Lorde rebrands, and some 13 King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard albums. Empires rise and fall; celebrity marriages come and go. Yet the basic elements of González’s sound have been more or less preserved in amber since 2003’s Veneer: sparse arrangements, intricate acoustic fingerpicking, gently philosophical lyrics, and a plaintive voice that’s halfway between a murmur and a croon. Never freaky enough for the freak-folk movement nor chronically chill enough for the Jack Johnson dudes, González carved out his own niche, imbuing his music with a sense of timelessness that’s impervious to trends but also susceptible to a sameness that can be stifling.

Recorded at González’s bucolic home studio near the Swedish coast, Local Valley brings no grand reinventions, but does gently tweak the songwriter’s approach and inject a little rhythmic bounce into his songwriting, making for a livelier, more playful album than Vestiges & Claws. The record opens on a sleepy note, with home-recorded birdsong ornamenting the new-age reveries of “Visions” and guitars rustling like a delicate forest in the hymn-like “Horizons.” None of the first four songs rise above a pleasant murmur. But somewhere around “Head On”⁠—a standout track that’s as close as González gets to a protest song, with stomping handclaps egging on his jabs at “corrupt oligarchs” and “power snatchers”—Local Valley picks up the pace.

An English-speaking songwriter born in Sweden to Argentinian parents, González has always been a cross-cultural talent. In interviews, he has emphasized the fact that Local Valley is his first album to contain songs in each of his three languages. First single “El Invento” combines Spanish lyrics with one of his trademark open tunings, while both “Tjomme” and the album’s sole cover, “En Stund På Jorden,” a song by the Iranian-Swedish pop singer Laleh that he has pared down to its barest essence, are sung in Swedish. Covers are a longtime González tradition, but for an American listener unfamiliar with Laleh, the latter song could easily be mistaken as one of his own.

Yet the album’s most surprising element lies in the uptempo rhythms and electronic pulses that spice up the album’s back half. González spent some time tinkering with a DM1 drum-machine app on his iPad, which livens up the tempos and brings a welcome bounce to mantra-like grooves like “Lasso In.” “Lilla G,” written for González’s young daughter, is a dreamy folktronica reverie buoyed by lovely, soft-focus harmonies and well-deployed whistling. And “Swing” is the biggest departure for the songwriter, owing both to its goofy lyrics (“Swing your belly, baby,” he exhorts over and over) and its prominent reggaetón beat.

González has said the song’s Caribbean style reflects the music he likes to listen to at home. But his foray into beat-making—particularly on “Swing” and “Tjomme”—feels perfunctory at best. He has dabbled in electronic textures before; “Cello Song,” his 2009 Dark Was the Night collaboration with the Books (covering Nick Drake’s song of the same name), was excellent. These new songs are energizing for González, but they lack that sense of genuine discovery, of a songwriter being lifted away from his usual comforts. Instead of letting the drum machine reshape his songwriting, he mostly uses it as a metronome.

Local Valley returns to pastoral quietude in its final moments, with the tranquil “Honey Honey” essentially serving as a duet between González and more chirping birds. It’s a lovely little sendoff, even if the main emotion it provokes is a desire to visit the Swedish countryside. For González, I imagine, it sounds like home.

Source: Pitchfork

Mike Nock, Hamish Stewart, Julien Wilson - Out of This World

Out Of This World

by Mike Nock, Hamish Stewart, Julien Wilson and Jonathan Swartz

Released 14 June 2021

Kalan Müzik

****-

Out Of This World is the second album released by the grouping of Melbourne Jazz stalwarts Mike Nock, Hamish Stuart, Julien Wilson and Jonathan Zwartz: the follow up to their 2018 release 'This World'.

Individually, the instrumentalists are among the best known in Australia. Two of the members were born in New Zealand and have worked mainly in Oz during their music careers. The initial album, showcased compositions by various members of the ensemble and I suspect they have done this again, although there was no way to confirm it as no composer credits are provided.

Nonetheless, the result is a pleasing variety of compositions, from simple riffs that are primarily vehicles for improvisation (Danny’s OK and Yolo) to the final track, a neo-bop tune titled Hop, Skip, Jump.

The recording of this album was enabled by Fresh Start Commission, an initiative of the ABC to assist people involved in the Arts to negotiate the economic circumstances of the current pandemic.

Danny’s Ok, the initial track on the album, opens up with a simple riff that is used as a ground figure for a calypso-style tune. Wilson’s timbre on this is reminiscent of that used by Sonny Rollins on this type of tune. It is followed by a composition titled Moment, a reverential piece incorporating ‘gospel’ elements. Wilson leads with passion throughout the track.

The third tune, titled Franklin, bears some stylistic qualities of the initial two selections. It begins with a simple two-bar riff played several times by the bass. Stuart, with brushes, then joins Zwartz after which Nock joins in with some ‘gospely’ chordal piano figures. Finally, Wilson chimes in with a suitably ‘soulful’ saxophone melody. This and the previous tune are related stylistically but Franklin sounds like secular calypso as it rolls along, whereas Moment was solemn/churchy.

 ‘Cruisy’ comes to mind as a word to describe The Dream. There is also an element of majesty about the melody. Stuart and Zwartz display why they are regarded as one of this country’s top rhythm sections as they swing flawlessly in accompaniment to Nock and Wilson.

 Track five is titled Kure Atoll.  A part of Hawaii, Kure Atoll is a national park dedicated to the restoration of sea bird and animal populations endangered by human presence. This track seems to have a Latin flavour but is actually in moderate triple metre. It features excellent solos by Nock and Wilson, supported sympathetically by Stuart and Zwartz.

Yolo is a rock tune that opens with Wilson unaccompanied, playing a melodic riff for which he adopts a suitably rougher tone than that used on earlier tunes. He also employs some tenor sax squawks that contribute to the expressive palette of the track. Solos in this number show a freer approach to improvising than that used on other pieces.

The final track, Hop, Skip, Jump, is a medium tempo swing number. Nock’s piano solo on this is enriched with information derived from the various jazz sources with which he has been involved in his long career. Wilson sounds very much at home playing this composition, but that is the case for every piece in this set.

 Julien Wilson plays brilliantly on this album, with the golden tenor sound he has polished over several decades of performing a wide range of styles with various jazz ‘greats’ and giving a hand-up to other, emerging artists. I do not think that I have heard a better tenor sound from anyone than that produced on this recording. All four members of the group have spent most of their lives playing jazz of some kind, and at least some of them have experience in more than one style. Nock made records with fusion groups when he lived in the United States for twenty-five years. He has also composed and performed music for just about every size of ensemble imaginable. I can recommend this album to people who are interested in hearing playing by some of our most experienced jazz musicians. The compositions are all tonal and as a group they represent easily assimilable styles. No matter how extensive a listener’s experience of jazz, the music on Out of This World wraps its arms around them and transports them to a welcoming place.

Source: Music Trust (LoudMouth)

Emile Parisien - Louise

Louise

by Emile Parisien

Released 27 August 2021

ACT

****-

One of the foremost soprano saxophonists in Europe, Émile Parisien is a supremely balanced performer whose music is both harmonically sophisticated and kinetic, bringing together his classic influences with hard-driving jazz improvisation. It's this vibrant combination that he showcases on 2022's Louise, an album that marks his tenth year with the ACT label. While he has led various incarnations of his quartet, quintet, and sextet in the past, Parisien has put together a dynamic, globally cross-pollinated ensemble here, featuring Italian-born/France-based pianist Roberto Negro, French guitarist Manu Codjia, and a trio of Americans with trumpeter Theo Croker, bassist Joe Martin, and drummer Nasheet Waits. Together, they play as a boldly cohesive unit with a sound that straddles the line between the propulsively swinging post-bop of Wynton and Branford Marsalis' mid-'80s work and the crunchy '70s fusion of John McLaughlin. However, rather than fitting neatly into any one paradigm, Parisien's music is organic, ever changing, and rife with subtle nods to musical traditions far afield from jazz. The opening "Louise" is a brooding dreamscape, merging Middle Eastern-sounding sax and trumpet drones with ambient guitar flourishes and a far-off rumble of bass and piano. Also evocative, "Madagascar" features a bluesy, whirling dervish melody that sounds like Ornette Coleman playing with a Jewish klezmer ensemble. Yet more wild cacophony follows, as on the Thelonious Monk-esque burner "Jojo" and the wryly titled "Jungle Jig," whose wild group improv builds to a fever pitch like a high school concert band gone rogue after the director has left the room. From the frenetic to the mournful to the devastatingly beautiful, Parisien continually pulls all of this controlled chaos into something akin to poetry.

Source: AllMusic (Matt Collar)

Tyler Mitchell - Dancing Shadows

Dancing Shadows

by Tyler Mitchell

Released 12 November 2022

Mahakala Music

****-

Bassist Tyler Mitchell briefly played in the Sun Ra Arkestra during the mid-'80s before going on to work with numerous jazz musicians and vocalists, including Art Taylor, Shirley Horn, and Jon Hendricks. He spent a decade living in Mexico and traveling throughout Cuba and South America, forming groups with several Latin jazz musicians, before returning to New York in the early 2010s and reconnecting with the Arkestra. Dancing Shadows is a studio effort that heavily features Marshall Allen, leader of the Arkestra since Sun Ra returned to outer space in 1993. Much of the track listing contains familiar Sun Ra tunes from the Arkestra's repertoire, as well as a funky rendition of Thelonious Monk's "Skippy" and compositions by Mitchell and alto saxophonist Nicoletta Manzini. As a bass player, Mitchell grounds the songs with heavy notes, yet still sounds breezy and freewheeling. It's clear that he can easily adapt to a wide range of styles and settings, and the album consists of more restrained pieces as well as spontaneous freak-outs. Allen is unmistakably the guiding spirit of the record, however. Ninety-seven years old at the time of the album's release, he's still able to conjure unheard sounds and untold feelings with his saxophone and EVI playing, particularly on songs like "Angels & Demons at Play," which he co-wrote with Sun Ra and Ronnie Boykins. He erupts on the otherwise cool and blissful "Carefree," and he's given the spotlight on Mitchell's scorching "Marshall the Deputy," the album's most unhinged and exciting performance. The reading of Sun Ra's "Enlightenment" begins with Mitchell bowing the song's melody, then the band launches into the tune with the same jumpy fervor of the Arkestra during the years when they were regularly performing songs from Disney movies. The two Manzini compositions are among the set's most sporadic and abstract, with "Spaced Out" being a particularly stunning example of the group's cosmic chemistry, ebbing and flowing in electric waves and culminating in joyous bursts. Truly a special session.

Source: AllMusic Paul Simpson)

Combo Chimbita - IRE

IRE

by Combo Chimbita

Released 28 January 2022

ACT

****-

Continuing their mystical saga, NYC’s Combo Chimbita roar back onto the global stage with their cathartic new album IRÉ.

The album's evocative title is forged upon double-edged meaning: on one hand embracing the divinely inspired blessings and prosperity foretold by our spiritual elders, and on the other a brazen, propulsive affirmation of revolutionary futures in the making.

Afro-Caribbean transcendance, bewildering chants, booming drums and psychedelic distortion lay the rhythmic foundation for IRÉ - testament to the ever expanding scope of Combo Chimbita's sonic palette and their modes of resistance, in realms both spiritual and terrestrial.

IRÉ finds its rallying spark in convulsive present day realities by metabolizing the anxieties of systemic racism, capitalist decadence, totalitarian governments and the attempted erasure of queer and trans people.

Early writing sessions in the summer of 2020 found Combo Chimbita grappling with the limbo of the COVID-19 pandemic, while a firestorm of Black Lives Matter protests swept through streets around the globe. Months later, they flew to Puerto Rico to record and mix the LP, bearing witness to the suffocating complexities of the island's imperialist tether to the U.S.

“Within the saga of Combo Chimbita,” reflects guitarist Niño Lento es Fuego about each of the band’s releases, “El Corredor del Jaguar (2016) finds this eternal being lost outside their realm and returning to Abya Yala (2017) in order to heal and restore peace to the continent. Ahomale (2019) appears as a guiding energy of resistance and now IRÉ (2022) represents those chosen to lead the revolution and materialize the good fortunes foretold in their divinations.” 

The striking album cover is by North Carolina visual artist Renzo Ortega.

Source: Bandcamp

Imarhan - Aboogi

Aboogi

by Imarhan

Released 28 January 2022

City Slang

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In 2021, the population of Tamanrasset, the chief city of the Algerian Tuareg, reached 108,289. At the beginning of 2019, the construction of the city’s first ever professional recording studio began under the supervision of local rock outfit Imarhan. Upon completion, the Tuareg rock quintet named it Aboogi, paying homage to the early structures that helped form their ancestral villages. It was in this self-built studio where the group captured their finest musical ideas to date. It was only natural, then, for them to use the name for their third LP, Aboogi. 

The significance of their hometown to Imarhan is integral to these brilliantly diverse compositions. There’s an elevating sense of community embedded in the record, providing an overarching cohesion across its duration. Whether it’s a demonstration of unity via layered harmonies on ‘Assossam’ (where collective voices explore economic corruption served by the government) or excellent individual contributions from Tinariwen’s Abdellah Ag Alhousseini (‘Tindjatan’), the wisened cadence of the poet Mohamed Ag Itlale on ‘Tamiditin’ or the unexpected appearance of Gruff Rhys singing in his native Welsh tongue on the mesmerizing closing track, ‘Adar Newlan’. 

Whilst Imarhan’s sound is firmly rooted in the traditional Tuareg style, Aboogi is an assured presentation of instrumental range. An abundance of infectious hooks exist in the masterful performances throughout ‘Adar Newlan’, ‘Achinkad’ and beyond. Compared to their previous output, however, Aboogi is a far more introspective proposition. Wistful blues inflections colour guitar tones on the enveloping ‘Temet’ and ‘Imaslan N’Assouf’. The latter, with an irresistible rippling tremolo permeating the arrangement, is one of the immediate highlights from the LP. A gripping body of work from the outset.

Source: Loud and Quiet

Elvis Costello - The Boy Named If

The Boy Named If

by Elvis Costello & The Imposters

Released 14 January 2022

EMI

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Consider Elvis Costello as the musical equivalent of the Aleph, Jorge Luis Borges’ term for “one of the points in space that contain all other points.” George Jones, Allen Toussaint, Stax, and classical music, sure; also, Burt Bacharach, ABBA and Dusty Springfield.

Costello’s monstrous appetite for genre has occasionally led him to believe he has mastered every genre. But his own instincts can get in the way: A punnery as dense as zircon has often interfered with the simple pleasure of a band as tight as the Imposters (aka the Attractions, with bassist Davey Faragher replacing Bruce Thomas in 2001), especially when Steve Nieve’s array of keyboards wheezed and squealed, mocking Costello’s objects of derision.

Costello fans will find many delights in The Boy Named If. For one, his 32nd studio album sounds smashing. Sebastian Krys’ mix stresses the textures of acoustic instruments without walloping listeners; Costello’s guitar, as restless as a child at a symphony even on solid albums like When I Was Cruel and Secret, Profane & Sugarcane, burrows right between Faragher’s bass and Nieve’s keyboards, enunciating hook after hook.

A book written and illustrated by Costello himself accompanies the deluxe edition, but one needn’t own it to understand how the album unfolds as a series of scabrous vignettes recorded during the pandemic. The mood is splenetic, but not maliciously so, like an old codger telling decades-old dirty jokes for an imagined audience. Toughening his early gusto with decades of those genre experiments, Elvis-as-Aleph treats the trad rock quartet as the ideal medium for delicacy, concision, wit, and the occasional harangue.

An artist recording since the dawn of punk must regard new material as a set of points containing all other points. “The Death of Magic Thinking” sports the deathless Bo Diddley rhythm with which he experimented on 1981’s “Lover’s Walk.” Echoes of Spike’s song-length conceit “God’s Comic” reverberate on “Trick Out the Truth,” as approximate to the garrulous Costello of yore as the album gets. Listeners might even hear bits of 1991’s Paul McCartney co-write “So Like Candy” in the aggressive ballad “My Most Beautiful Mistake,” not to mention “Brilliant Mistake,” the 1986 quasi-country chestnut where Costello revealed his attempts at ridicule as a species of self-ridicule.

Costello has tinkered for decades with a paradox: He’s most delightful when disillusionment is the subject of his formal obsessions; he’s happiest playing a cynic who needs talking off a ledge (he names one new song “Magnificent Hurt,” of course). The superbly titled “The Death of Magic Thinking,” given added resonance by arriving mere weeks after Joan Didion’s death, wastes not a second: Pete Thomas kicks up a churn on percussion that’s almost as much a lead instrument as Costello’s stun guitar, while the singer admits how his muse—a “machine that can turn ink stains into words”—requires the “spark” of frustration, sexual and otherwise. Sometimes, anyway. “The Man You Love to Hate,” one of The Boy Named If’s more plodding moments, has Costello huffing and puffing like Laurence Olivier’s fourth-rate vaudevillian in The Entertainer.

The Boy Named If has at least two classics: “The Death of Magic Thinking,” certainly, and a ballad called “Paint the Red Rose Blue,” its strong melody sung with impressive plaintiveness.

Perhaps “The Difference,” a rocker based on Paweł Pawlikowski’s Cold War, with a repeated “do ya know?” hook hounded by Nieve’s embellishments.

That’s three more than on near-misses like the Roots collaboration Wise Up Ghost. Competing with a back catalog as mighty as Costello’s repertoire must suck -“history repeats the old conceits,” he acknowledged long ago.

But to don “Elvis Costello” drag and record work as vital The Boy Named If after four decades shouldn’t impress this deeply.

Convincing audiences that role playing is an expression of self has been Costello’s subtle lesson all along.

Source: Pitchfork

Aurora - The Gods We Can Touch

Th Gods We Can Touch

by Aurora

Released 21 January 2022

Glassnote Entertainment

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Aurora’s career thus far has been a story of balancing childlike wonder with lofty ambition. The Norwegian art-pop artist can list the Frozen 2 soundtrack in her resume, but she also writes multi-part albums about climate change that look to Native American folk music for inspiration. She first found fame after a cutesy piano-backed cover of Oasis’ ‘Half the World Away’ got selected for a John Lewis advert. She’s now amassed a huge fanbase, after her early single ‘Runaway’ – a song written at the age of eleven – went viral on TikTok long after its initial release. 

Her latest album The Gods We Can Touch is a more mature and fully realised version of early work, without losing the central playfulness that’s coloured her most successful musical moments. It’s also an intentionally mixed bag of ideas that explores different kinds of pop catharsis. Aurora moves from the shuffling chamber pop of ‘Heathens’ to the quirky fairground disco of ‘Cure For Me’ with ease. 

There are country flourishes on ‘A Dangerous Thing’, as well as plenty of theatrics, like on the close harmonies of ‘Everything Matters’, which features French singer Pomme. Throughout, a more direct approach to songwriting means that Aurora can take new sounds into her world without any awkwardness. 

Despite a strong vision and dexterity as a performer, the album does occasionally falter in its generic production qualities. ‘Giving In To The Love’ aims for anthemic bluster but misses the mark, with Aurora’s vocal swallowed up by the stock film-trailer drums on the bleary chorus. The stronger moments are those that allow her performance more space to breathe. ‘Exist for Love’ is a great example, the warm subtleties of her singing on full display. Like many of her songs, it borders on naïve in its sweet sentiment, but you still get swept up in the wide-eyed spectacle thanks to its creator’s infectious spirit.

Source: Loud And Quiet Magazine

King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard - Butterfy 3000

Butterfly 3000

by King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard

Released 14 June 2021

KGLW

****-

By this point, it’s pretty much common knowledge that King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard are known to put out multiple records over the course of a year (the band famously released five records back in 2017). On top of that, they’re also one of the most imaginative bands today, making it truly difficult to predict what direction they’ll take next—in 2019 they notably followed up Fishing for Fishies, an incredibly chill album, with Infest the Rats’ Nest, their heaviest album to date. 2021 is already proving to be a productive and inventive year for King Gizzard. Back in February, the Melbourne-based group released L.W., a microtonal companion to 2020’s K.G. Together, these genre-expansive albums feature heavy moments of gritty, brutal sounds flecked with colorful bright spots. 

Now, King Gizzard is back with Butterfly 3000, their second album of the year, and one that’s both melodic and psychedelic. What makes Butterfly 3000 unique for King Gizz is that, while elements of psych-rock are scattered throughout the band’s discography, this album is straight up psychedelic from start to finish with modular synths and arpeggio loops proving another departure for the band. The album opens with “Yours,” a danceable, bouncy synth song with funky basslines and glam-pop vocals. There’s a warm and sunny quality to this track, inspiring wonder of discovering musical parts unknown.

While Butterfly 3000 is a psychedelic rock record that fully embraces tropes of the genre, it’s also in some ways experimental. King Gizzard take risks, exploring the limits of psych-rock, putting their own unique spin on the genre while combining others. “Blue Morpho” is a tried-and-true psychedelic track, but it also feels avant-garde in the way it incorporates electronic rock. “Interior People” starts off as a funky, upbeat dance number from another period in time. Then, like the insect of the album’s title, the song undergoes a metamorphosis to become slightly gritty and embrace melodic qualities not typically heard in Western music. 

Butterfly 3000 is an inviting, welcoming, and deeply accessible album. Through dream-pop textures and psychedelic sounds, it makes the case that this might be the most logical starting point for those who might have gone the past decade without listening to King Gizz. “Ya Love” is an especially engaging track, with surf-rock keys and vocals that are also classical and symphonic. If the gift of music is the gift of bringing different people together, Butterfly 3000 is qualified to do that by creating an engaging musical experience that can appeal to a wide range of different musical tastes. 

King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard have the gift of creating staying power with each record. Years after releasing an album, Gizzheads will still ponder and obsess over the mysteries, meaning, and connections of the band’s music. Butterfly 3000 is a most welcome addition to this discography, with all the makings of a record with relevance for years to come.

Source: Flood Magazine

King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard - Butterfy 3001

Butterfly 3001

by King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard

Released 14 January 2022

KGLW

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A remix album may seem on-brand for the Melbourne psych-rock outfit, King Gizzard & The Wizard Lizard. These are the guys who made open source the files of Polygondwanaland and a handful of their live albums—ready to use and manipulate for anyone with a digital audio workstation. But while Butterfly 3001 (the new reworkings of last year’s syncopated synth odyssey, Butterfly 3000) has arrived, its source material wasn’t always the obvious choice to remix.

“Yes it’s electronic,” explains the band’s guitarist, Joey Walker, in the album’s press release. “But so is a fridge. Have you tried to dance to Butterfly? It’s hard. It ties your shoelaces together. It’s duplicitous in its simplicity. But Butterfly 3001 expands on this. It also deviates and obliterates. We’re honored to have such esteemed people go to work on these songs.”

And esteemed people they’ve enlisted. Just to name a few of the featured guests on Butterfly 3001: The Flaming Lips, DJ Shadow, Peaches, Geneva Jacuzzi, Peaking Lights, Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith, and DāM-FunK. In keeping with King Gizzard’s artistic patronage, though, Butterfly 3001 offers an opportunity for the band’s devoted fanbase to discover new electronic musicians, and the album features lesser known producers, such as Montreal’s ZANDOLI II and Chicago’s Hieroglyphic Being.

Just as King Gizzard’s immense discography is equal parts exploratory and diverse, so too is Butterfly 3001. Every song on Butterfly 3000 gets its time in the spotlight (although “Blue Morpho” gets remixed five times). Some mixes come out better than others and Walker is right: a lot of the tracks from Butterfly are deceptively complex, and the listener can often hear the trappings of this deception in the producers’ attempts to alter the tracks to make something new and different. Some tracks wobble and topple and threaten to fall over (“Shanghai - Deaton Chris Anthony Remix”), while others more perfectly morph into their remixer’s artistic sensibilities (“Ya Love - Flaming Lips’ Fascinating Haircut Re Do”).

As remix albums go, Butterfly 3001 is certainly far-reaching and expansive. It’s a lengthy adventure, clocking in at just under two hours, but the creativity found in every corner of the record is enough to make one want to revisit this collection over and over again.

Source: Under The Radar

Go Dugong - Meridies

Meridies

by Go Dugong

Released 12 November 2022

La Tempesta Dischi, Hyperjazz Records

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Go Dugong is a producer, DJ and musician based in Milan, Italy. A global sounds lover, his productions are an intricate patchwork of rhythms, languages, instruments, field recordings and samples from all over the world.

The new album "Meridies" is the result of his ongoing investigative work into traditional Apulian music from the south of Italy, inspired by his hometown, Taranto, and the phenomenon of the Tarantella, an exploration that started with his 2019 EP TRNT.
On a quest to push the boundaries of traditional Apulian music, Go Dugong’s research has allowed him to rethink and rework these musical traditions from his homeland, leading to the creation of a soundtrack for an imaginative and futuristic ensemble of peasants and farmers.
In "Meridies" Go Dugong has collaborated with numerous musicians in order to combine traditional Apulian music with sounds and influences belonging to other Italian and Mediterranean regions, reinterpreting a genre that for many years has lived trapped in its canons.
For Hyperjazz Records, "Meridies" represents another fundamental step in the reinterpretation of the rhythmic and musical tradition of Southern Italy, filtered through electronic synthesis and contemporary languages. Rhythmic pizzica interweave with organs, old synthesizers, lysergic guitars, and makeshift objects such as old cardboard boxes and cookware, used as side percussions to the traditional tambourine, all immersed in a psychedelic magma of deep trance and hypnosis for the purpose of “healing”.

Source: Bandcamp

Oli Astral - From The Astral

Meridies

by Go Dugong

Released 12 November 2022

La Tempesta Dischi, Hyperjazz Records

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Oli Astral is a musical universe where the sound of modern jazz guitar merges with digital music technology and visual projection. The musicians of the trio  are : Frédéric Alarie on the double Bass, William Regnier on the Drums and Olivier Grenier Bedard on guitar.

The group keeps a balance between technology and a more organic approach to music. Some elements like computers on stage, virtual instruments, MIDI controllers, and Frederic’s Modular Synthesizers serve the imagination of the musicians. The musical values thought, are still deeply rooted in the tradition of Jazz. Things like Improvisation, group interaction, and risk-taking are very important in the creative process of the trio. The importance of Melody might be the number one thing. If poetry is the only truth in the world of words, then Melody is the only truth in the world of sounds.

During the production process of the album, digital audio processing techniques were used to create musical textures. The audio artists who worked on that are Thibaut Quinchon, Derek Orsi, and Olivier Grenier-Bédard. These techniques are: creative mixing, creative editing, and computer sound design. The purpose of these is to widen the sound of the Trio with musical textures, loops, and overdubs.

The Live experience is a little more immersive. After recording, the group worked with Visual Artist Bruno Scabini, From Buenos Aires. He illustrated and animated the music with creative drawing techniques and cinematic effects.  In addition to the rest, there is a video image on stage that merges with the music. This video image transforms the Live experience into a journey into the universe of the group. 

Source: Bandcamp

Maya Shenfeld - In Free Fall

In Free Fall

by Maya Shenfeld

Released 28 January 2022

Thrill Jockey Records

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Berlin composer Maya Shenfeld’s music is as powerfully evocative as it is strikingly intimate. Through a mastery of sound sculpting and visionary approach to composition Shenfeld has established herself as one of the most vital voices in Berlin’s New Music scene. Her work exists in liminal spaces, collapsing the boundaries between electronic synthesis and organic sound as it draws equally from classical tradition and underground experimentalism. Each aspect of her output, from site-specific sound installations to works for new music ensembles and even playing guitar in punk bands, combines an astute technical prowess with an authentic, tangible expression of soul. Shenfeld’s debut solo record In Free Fall merges the grand vision of orchestral music with the granularity and intimacy of deep listening, exploring a tension between immaculately structured compositional architecture and the sheer joy of noise, grain and feedback.

In Free Fall, named after Hito Steyerl’s essay, captures Shenfeld’s own feelings of “free fall” both with regards to the current moment, and to her growth as a composer. Originally trained as a classical guitarist, Shenfeld’s relocation to Berlin to study composition sparked a drastic expansion of her horizons and practice. Diving headfirst into the city’s punk and experimental music scenes, the composer found herself shuttling, literally and figuratively, between disparate musical worlds; from the grand Konzerthaus Berlin to hole-in-the-wall Indie venues. She elaborates: “playing in a punk band, writing together, jamming, opened something in me, allowed me to rediscover the joy and spontaneity in the process of music making. I feel like the band amplified my artistic “voice”, which the hierarchical (and patriarchal) classical music institutional environment had obscured. Through this experience I started engaging with classical music differently, bringing to it this sort of immediate, unrestrained, physical connection or sensation.” In Free Fall reconciles Shenfeld’s classical training with her uncompromising spirit, resulting in beautiful iridescent constellations of sound.

The physical nature of sound is central to Shenfeld’s work. She elaborates: “I’ve always been taken by the way music can seemingly stretch, bend, and even break time, its ability to touch something in you, emotionally, and the fact that it’s a resolutely physical experience.” In Free Fall’s use of space and dynamics captures the distinctly three-dimensional nature of Shenfeld’s live performances and sonic installations. Opening track “Cataphora” (“Descent”), written during a residency with Caterina Barbieri, collapses the boundaries between organic and digital instruments, tape loop and sine wave thrum inseparable from live brass recorded by Kelly O'Donohue. “Voyager” bristles with rippling distortion, a direct callback to her work with punk bands. “Mountain Larkspur'', a collaboration with James Ginzburg (Emptyset) reworks ethereal choral vocals from Shenfeld’s commission for Bethanien Youth Choir, captured at rehearsals for the piece at an abandoned 1902 swimming pool in Berlin and manipulated by Shenfeld and Ginzburg into expansive ambient atmospheres. “Body, Electric”, written following a silent meditation retreat and during the first lockdown of 2020, transmutes the physical sensations of inner reflection into a classical sonata form. “Sadder Than Water”, written during the same period, offers a more contemplative counterpoint, an elegy leading into the album’s closing track “Anaphora”(“Ascent”). This last track closes the circle of works and calls back to “Cataphora” with its use of brass and delicate ascending melody.

In Free Fall is a decisive statement from a crucial new voice in contemporary music, challenging traditional structures and narratives. Returning to the essay that gives the album its name, Steyerl’s description of “free fall” equally speaks to the wonderful sensation and innovation of Shenfeld’s music: “The horizon quivers in a maze of collapsing lines and you may lose any sense of above and below, of before and after, of yourself and your boundaries... with the loss of horizon also comes the departure of a stable paradigm of orientation, which has situated concepts of subject and object, of time and space, throughout modernity. In falling, the lines of the horizon shatter, twirl around, and superimpose." 

Source: Bandcamp

Lowell Liebermann, San Fransisco Ballet Orchestra, Martin West - Lowell Liebermann: Frankenstein, Op. 130 (Live)

Lowell Liebermann: Frankenstein, Op. 130 (Live)

by Lowell Liebermann, San Francisco Ballet Orchestra, Martin West

Released 19 November 2021

Reference Recordings

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Lowell Liebermann's Frankenstein, a collaboration with the late choreographer Liam Scarlett, was composed in the mid-2010s and had several performances in Britain. This recording was made live in 2018 and marked the U.S. premiere in San Francisco, featuring the San Francisco Ballet Orchestra under conductor Martin West, and it is to be recommended for the live atmosphere alone.

A good deal of enthusiastic applause is retained, and the audiophile engineering staff at Reference Recordings proves itself as able in live recording as it is in the studio; the sound has a wonderful immediacy rare in theatrical recordings.

Liebermann's score is immediately appealing. Ballet music and film scores have much in common, with both forms comprising short pieces that each illustrate a single scene. Liebermann's music is cinematic, indeed evoking the great tradition of 1930s Hollywood horror film scores, but as the music approaches its considerable climaxes in Act III, his harmonic palette darkens, as if to emphasize the modern resonances of the Frankenstein story. Conductor West is alert to both the Hollywood evocations, giving the strings a heated, melodramatic tone and the shift in style as the music proceeds. Listeners may wish to get in on the ground floor here, for this ballet is showing signs of becoming a repertory item.

Source: AllMusic

Eve Adams - Metal Bird

Metal Bird

by Eve Adams

Released 28 January 2022

Fo Foo Productions

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Eve Adams offers solace within life’s shadows. Un-numbing senses with anthems of surrender and tender-hearted tales that tingle with Californian folk-noir, her album Metal Bird takes flight with the turbulence and romance of Hollywood’s golden age, and meditates on the mysteries of love, death, insecurity and loneliness.

Like a match struck in a cobwebbed attic, Adams voice is a fiery detective, unafraid to explore the unseen; the liminal spaces between mourning and rapture, between the coldness of a corpse and the heat of cremation. Imagery of flight and the denial of gravity floats slyly through the ten songs on Metal Bird and hints at the experience of being caught in purgatory, like a passenger on a plane ride from Hell to Heaven.

Combining airy folk with haunting soundscapes the album takes listeners on an auditory voyage from sonorous lullabies, to dreamy ambience, skeletal jazz, 1930s torch songs, and 1940s film noir. Metal Bird has a distinct, genuine tone, with orchestral arrangements, ambient hallucinations, and high fidelity vocals that are unafraid to be heard loud and clear.

Source: Bandcamp

Eliane Elias, Chick Corea, Chucho Valdes - Mirror Mirror

Mirror Mirror

by Eliane Elias, Chick Corea, Chucho Valdes

Released 10 September 2021

Candid Records

*****

Pianist and composer Eliane Elias reveals a wonderful reflection of piano madness on the dazzling Mirror Mirror, capturing the mastery of two piano legends and the fabulous key work of a third legend in the making.

One can simply not go wrong listening to the late great Chick Corea and Cuban-born master Chucho Valdes providing amazing call and respond to Elias's own keyboard play.

The result is compelling, tasteful, light jazz performed with elegance and grace.

An album has been in the air for some time. Elias recorded with Corea in 2018, capturing their interplay on Corea's "Armando's Rhumba," Kenny Dorham's standard "Blue Bossa," the title track and Harry Warren's "There Will Never Be Another You." Elias and Corea kept in touch and one day Corea mentioned the recording asked and when it might be released. A few months after that, when Elias was in the process of mixing the album, Corea passed away. She had no idea he was ill and felt privileged to have made, as it seems, one of his last recordings with her.

Recording with Corea was a dream come true for Elias and so was performing with Valdes. They met for the first time in Spain years ago when Elias heard Valdes and his father Bebo Valdes performing together. They kept in contact and performed a rehearsal of the songs she had suggested while in Miami before the recording. Valdes was impressed with the selection and had no idea Elias would know these Spanish tunes. Later, recording in a Brooklyn studio, the two pianists laid down marvelous moments on the late Armando Manzanero's "Esta Tarde Vi Llover," Alejandro Sanz's "Corazon Partio," and the piece de resistance song of the set, Alvaro Carrillo's immortal Mexican standard "Sabor A Mi," where both Elias and Valdes let it all hang out on one incredible solo after another.
Arguably one of the finest jazz duet albums ever produced, Mirror Mirror is a musical treasure full of gold and Grammy dust for Eliane Elias—and well deserved at that.
 

Source: All About Jazz

Black Flower - Magma

Magma

by Black Flower

Released 28 January 2022

Sdban Ultra / N.E.W.S.

****-

Piloted by Brussels-based saxophonist / flutist / composer Nathan Daems (Echoes of Zoo, Dijf Sanders), five-piece hybrid jazz outfit Black Flower is a vibrant, hypnotic mix of Ethio jazz, Afrobeat, psychedelia and oriental influences, inspired by Mulatu Astatke, Fela Kuti and varied western musical traditions.

Black Flower is a band at the peak of their creative powers, having received glowing praise for the 2019 album ‘Future Flora’ from Mojo, Songlines, BBC Radio 6 Music’s Gilles Peterson, BBC Radio 3’s Music Planet, Worldwide FM and Jazz FM among others. 

‘Magma’ sees Black Flower embrace new synth and organ sounds from the band’s most recent recruit, Karel Cuelenaere. His influence can be heard from the outset – his keys adding a swirling, mischievousness to album opener and title track ‘Magma’. Elsewhere, the shuffling drum patterns and flighty, flute-propelled ‘O Fogo’ are rich in texture and flow.

Driving rhythms and Eastern influenced melodies serve as a rich source of pleasure that, like magma, become real and solid when finding its way to the surface. It’s the perfect metaphor for this album’s creational process. The pulsating, trance-inducing ‘Deep Dive Down’ continues the joyous process while singer-songwriter Meskerem Mees (winner of The Montreux Jazz Talent Award 2021) adds, her clear-as-spring-water vocals to the celestial ‘Morning in the Jungle’.

With the much-trusted Frederik Segers on production and London-based visual virtuoso Raimund Wong (Total Refreshment Centre) on artwork duties, it all adds up to the psychedelic and exploratory identity of the band and are key elements that helped ‘Magma’ in its ascension from deep down up to the surface.

A creative process solidified into vinyl, just as magma into rock.

Fellow musicians and spiritual henchmen are Jon Birdsong (dEUS, Beck, Calexico) on cornet, Simon Segers (Absynthe Minded, De Beren Gieren, MDCIII) at the drums, Filip Vandebril (Lady Linn, The Valerie Solanas) at the bass and Karel Cuelenaere (John Ghost) on keys. 
 

Source: Bandcamp

Lance Ferguson - Love Groove Spectrum, Vol. 2

Rare Groove Spectrum, Vol. 2

by Lance Ferguson

Released 28 January 2022

Freestyle Records

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Covering pieces by artists ranging from Carly Simon through to Mongo Santamaria via Marcos Valle and Pat Metheny - and following the championing of Rare Groove Spectrum Vol. 1​ by the likes of Gilles Peterson, Craig Charles, Jazz FM and more - this second volume of Lance Ferguson's Rare Groove Spectrum is sure to hit the sweet spot.

Rare Groove Spectrum Vol. 2 is another solid collection of re-works and re-imaginings taking in a broad range of classic tracks, traversing jazz funk rarities, balearic digs, latin groovers and more. Backed by a stellar group of Melbourne musicians including members of The Bamboos & Menagerie, Lance continues the tradition of creating "live re-edits" demonstrated on the initial volume - all pulled off with an inimitable style and playfulness, though always with an obvious love for the foundations.
As Lance says: "Some of these versions can almost be looked at as DJ re-edits, sometimes we're extending what may be a really short track into something longer, or teasing out the elements in a song that really make it work on a dance-floor. It's essentially what someone does with a club re-edit, except we went the extra step and re-recorded the whole thing with a live band"

Source: Bandcamp

GODTET - Meditations

Meditations

by GODTET

Released 19 November 2021

Rhythm Section International

****-

From Godriguez:
Meditations is GODTET diving into our own minds, journeying together, by ourselves to where we wanted at the time to go.. There was a definite sense of wanting to abandon (albeit all unspoken) any of GODTET’s previous vibes and any other musical contexts we all often exist in. It is definitely a world where we, the musicians, can create a starting point and see where our minds take us. We wait either for ourselves or each other to see where we’d like to journey (or not journey) at all and be happy to sit put in one place for a while.

The Meditations are almost a reaction; A protest? - To having to do the normal thing as musicians we’re expected to do (Make a big good exciting thing now!) If anything it's a blueprint for the future of the GODTET “sound”, it is to be unexpected. “Expect the unexpected” is quite the cliche yet it’s probably the most fitting for what I foresee the GODTET future as sounding. Unbound by any expectations or contexts or having to repeatedly play music in any certain way - it feels almost like a manifestation of our freedom and personal agent to not be beholden to anything as musicians.

Meditations is the most open statement and platform GODTET has produced to date. Wiping the slate clean, this erasure allows us infinite possibilities.. Anywhere and everywhere to go from here... To be definable or restricted is the antithesis of what GODTET is about. GODTET PLAYS FOR ITSELF. Our own curiosity, pleasure, introspection, play, ourselves. 

Source: Bandcamp

Marina Zwarg, Sexteto Universal, Sa Reston - Nascentes

Astroturismo

by Paula Tape

Released 19 November 2021

Rhythm Section International

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Mariana Zwarg represents the third generation of musicians playing and spreading the tradition of "universal music", created by her godfather, the musical genius Hermeto Pascoal from Brazil. Mariana is a flutist, saxophonist, composer and arranger and has been performing at leading festivals and concert halls all over Latin America and Europe with "Itibere Zwarg & Grupo" during the last 15 years. 

Recorded in Berlin and Rio de Janeiro, “Nascentes” is the first solo project by flutist, composer and arranger Mariana Zwarg. After 18 years of career, the album is the result of the work she has been developing for almost 4 years with her group “Mariana Zwarg Sexteto Universal”. There are 10 tracks in total: 8 songs composed by her + a theme by Hermeto Pascoal and a theme by Itiberê Zwarg, who are also the album's special guests. 
The songs were mostly composed and arranged inspired by this group. 
The project started in 2016, when Mariana was invited by a Spanish music festival to direct and organize an entire concert dedicated to Hermeto Pascoal. The band was formed by musicians from different parts of the world! After a 20-day European tour that year, they talked about the group's deep affinity with Mariana and the “Universal Music”, and then they decided to continue the project. They are 2 Brazilians, 1 Finnish, 1 Danish, 1 German and 1 French. 
Since then, there have been 6 European and 2 Brazilian tours playing at jazz festivals, folk music festivals, theaters, jazz clubs and music schools in Germany, Spain, Denmark, Finland, Brazil and France. 
 

Source: Bandcamp