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July 2021 Highlights SunNeverSetsOnMusic

July 2021 Highlights SunNeverSetsOnMusic

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Favourites|July2021

Kutch Edwards - Circling Time

Circling Time

by Kutcha Edwards

Released 9 July 2021

Wantok Music

*****

'Circling Time' is the fifth studio album from singer, songwriter and Mutti Mutti man Kutcha Edwards. The country, blues, roots, jazz and soul infused album is a powerful showcase of Kutcha's singular voice. Lyrics reflect on the singer’s past and his inspirations in the present.

‘’In telling my story, I believe I’m telling my family’s story. Within the structure of family there are members whose role it is to protect country. For others it’s to protect the memories such as photos. I believe I have been given the responsibility to protect my family’s Songline,’’ Kutcha says in an album statement. ‘’Justice, heritage, forgiveness – all are words that resonate with me deeply. It’s my role to give songs meaning so that they can continue to connect my family and all my clans to country. This album is filled with spirit. It’s this spirit that I need to share and pass on so we can begin to heal and understand what our ancestors have passed on to us… the true meaning of ‘Circling Time.’’

At the heart of the album is the single 'We Sing', featuring a chorus of nearly one hundred voices, including Archie Roach, Paul Kelly, Judith Durham, Emily Wurramarra and Emma Donovan. Each singer was recorded remotely from across the globe during 2020, but brought together in the recording, a reflection of the spirit and connection central to 'Circling Time'.

'Excuse Me Mrs. Edwards' is an equally moving moment, a musical celebration of Kutcha's mother. And the recently released single 'Singing Up Country' is a soaring ballad that celebrates Kutcha’s connection to family, his ancestors and the land

Source: 3rrr

Emma-Jean Thackray - Yellow

Yellow

by Emma-Jean Thackray

Released 9 July 2021

Movementt

*****

Bandleader, multi-instrumentalist and producer, Emma-Jean Thackray was born and raised in Yorkshire but is today a resident of Catford, south-east London. Her 2020 EPs Um Yang 음 양 and Rain Dance marked Thackray out as standard-bearer of a spiritually-minded, dancefloor-angled take on jazz that stood at a slight remove from the broader UK scene.

Pitchfork describes her debut album Yellow, as "a fascinating blend of spiritual jazz and brass band that can sound full-on psychedelic while staying grounded in its clever arrangements".

Their review continues: "In a world of musical utility, it is incredibly satisfying to come across an album as supremely impractical as Yellow, the full-length debut from English bandleader and producer Emma-Jean Thackray. It’s so deliciously circuitous that it develops its own gravitational pull. The album takes inspiration from a number of modish sources, including Flying Lotus’ wonky beat sorcery, the mystic jazz of Alice Coltrane, Roy Ayers’ sunshine-soaked funk, and Sun Ra’s cosmic overload. At times, the result is not that far from Kendrick’s towering To Pimp a Butterfly or the jazzier shade of Tyler, the Creator, as witnessed on Flower Boy.

But Yellow splits off into its own lane thanks in part to Thackray’s overarching lysergic bliss. She says she approached the record “by trying to simulate a life-changing psychedelic experience,” which explains a lot: Yellow is fascinating and profoundly befuddling, a voyage deep into nowhere in particular. Just when you think you’ve got your bearings—when you’ve got “Sun” pegged as a kind of disco number, for example—Thackray throws in an impetuous chord progression or rhythmical stutter to pull the ground from under your feet.

The album’s other distinguishing characteristic comes in its use of low-end brass and, in particular, the liberal employment of the sousaphone. Its sonorous parp comes across like a trad jazz send-up of modern producers’ obsession with electronic sub-bass. As a teenager in Yorkshire, Thackray was the principal trumpeter in her local brass band, a musical tradition often associated with the North of England. The use of brass here, with the sousaphone joined by the trombone, trumpet, and saxophone, seems to call back to that era, giving her cosmic jazz a fascinating Northern English (and New Orleans) tint. Thackray has previously wondered whether “some Yorkshire white girl” should participate in the Black American musical tradition of jazz. This, perhaps, is her answer, with the tremble of brass making Yellow something more than a straight copy of someone else’s musical innovation".

Source: Pitchfork

Joel Culpepper - Sgt Culpepper

Sgt. Culpepper

by Joel Culpepper

Released 23 July 2021

Pepper Records

*****

Hailing from south-east London, with a unique soulful voice and explosive showmanship, Joel Culpepper’s star is rising. His sonic palette blends an array of genres and influences, that looks back to the greats whilst simultaneously absorbing London’s contemporary musical landscape. His charismatic Colors Studios performance of ‘Woman', the standout cut from Joel’s 2017 EP ‘Tortoise’, has amassed over 13 million views on YouTube (and counting).

Joel's debut album, 'Sgt Culpepper’, is an incredible modern soul album and the product of a two-year undertaking which saw him attract an array of respected producers and musicians from the UK and beyond, a testament to the reputation he had already built as a dynamic songwriter and performer among his contemporaries. With executive production from Swindle (Ezra Collective, Mahalia), mastering from Joker (Stormzy, Kojey Radical) and with co-productions that include the likes of legendary pop producer Guy Chambers, Raf Rundell (The 2 Bears), Shawn Lee (Saint Etienne, Kelis), and Tom Misch, Sgt Culpepper is a demonstration of the power of community, mingling self-reflection with wider social commentary. The record is split into four chapters: The Battle, which includes previous singles ‘W.A.R’ and ‘Return’, The Surrender, embodied by recent single ‘Poetic Justice’; The Love and The Lesson.

Joel’s desire to forge a sense of collectivism was the lifeblood for 'Sgt Culpepper', resulting in the diverse roster of talent attached to the project. As well as the aforementioned names, the record includes production from the likes of British multi-instrumentalist Redinho, South London rapper and Roc Nation signee Kay Young, Linden Jay (Poppy Ajudha, Rejjie Snow), and Grammy-award winning songwriter Jimmy Hogarth. "I've been inspired by how the UK jazz and Grime scene supports each other, it’s similar to what happens in the states. Collectives like Odd Future, Aftermath and the earliest being Motown. It’s soul’s turn to band together here, likeminded independent musicians working to support the scene and each other as a whole.”

Through charismatic storytelling, personal epiphanies, and the formation of a new creative collective that underpins his craft, 'Sgt Culpepper' ushers in a new era for Joel as an artist.

 

Source: Bandcamp

Clairo - Sling

Sling

by Clairo

Released 9 July 2021

Fader Records

****-

Taking another turn in what to this point has been a shape-shifting young career, Clairo leaves behind any trace of the pop and electronic luster present on her major-label debut, the Rostam-produced Immunity, as well as the quirky bedroom pop of her teens on the follow-up, Sling.

Her debut for Republic Records, Sling was co-produced by Clairo and man of the hour Jack Antonoff (Taylor Swift, Lana Del Rey, St. Vincent), and together they instead embrace a strikingly intimate, '70s-evoking orchestral folk-rock palette that relies on instruments spanning piano, upright bass, and lap steel to Wurlitzer and clavinet. The two multi-instrumentalists recorded the album over the course of a month in an isolated studio in the Catskills. What they captured is an often suffocatingly internal habitat, one where breathy, murmured vocals and close, Elliott Smith-like multi-tracking or harmonizing (Lorde lent additional vocals to some of the songs) are transported further inward by dreamy, delicate arrangements full of shimmer and harp-like flourishes, as on the warped "Wade." Like many of the tracks here, that song opens with simple accompaniment -- in this case, piano -- then adds light touches of lap steel before settling into a humming harmonic fabric where it becomes difficult to distinguish instruments. Eventually, horn-like timbres usher in a key change, as Clairo philosophizes on past relationships, depressions, and transitions ("If you don't do the things you do/They'll just happen to you"). It includes a dreamlike instrumental passage that lands something like the poppy field scene in The Wizard of Oz. That song also contains a false ending and quasi-denouement, a structure that recurs on tracks including the closer, "Management" ("Complain to the management about my lack of self-respect"). The latter song adds tempo changes to the scheme. The closest thing to a straight-up pop song on Sling is probably the uptempo, drum kit-bolstered "Amoeba," if only relatively speaking, though "Blouse" is an elegant highlight that's self-possessed enough to work outside of the album's otherworldly context (it was selected as the lead single). While melodies are largely stagnant on Sling, and lyrics swing between grievance and self-realization (occasional stand-out turns of phrase include the opening lyrics, "I'm stepping inside a universe designed against my own beauties"), the album's ruminative atmospheres are its defining -- and likely haunting -- strength.

Source: AllMusic

Katherine Priddy - The Eternal Rocks Beneath

The Eternal Rocks Beneath

by Katherine Priddy

Released 23 July 2021

Proper Music Publishing

*****

Feted as a folk prodigy as a teenager, Katherine Priddy has wisely taken several years to reach this debut, an accomplished set of original songs delivered in a breathtaking voice and launched on a reputation as a great live act. Her nimble guitar-picking helps. Not that this is a strictly solo album; producer Simon Weaver has supplied a rhythm section and a parade of accordion, fiddle and string quartet, but in judicious measure. The star turn remains Priddy’s voice and its soaring, lark-like turns, meaning a song such as Wolf, the title track of her 2018 EP, can suddenly take unexpected flight.

That several numbers were written when she was young perhaps accounts for their unevenness; the banjo-backed Letters from a Travelling Man doesn’t pass muster with a poetic piece such as Icarus – a fond farewell to a lover seen as “a radiant stain falling like rain” – or with her funny homage to a boozy night on the Hebridean isle of Eigg. The rocks of the title is a verb, not a noun, testament to a belief that life’s fundamentals don’t change, a notion resolved elegantly in opener Indigo and closer The Summer Has Flown. A classy arrival.

Source: The Guardian

Billie Eilish - Happier Than Ever

Happier Than Ever

by Billie Eilish

Released 4 June 2021

Darkroom/Interscope

*****

"A subtle triumph in the face of overwhelming pressure and expectations, Happier Than Ever is the sound of an artist coming into their own. Without losing any of the experimental, genre-blurring spirit of her Grammy-conquering debut, Billie Eilish elevates her trademark sound and expands her scope with the assistance of her producer-brother Finneas. In addition to baring her soul with increasingly confessional lyrics, she's also strengthened her delivery and range, taking inspiration from jazz and vocal pop greats of old like Julie London and Peggy Lee, lending a timeless air to tracks like "Billie Bossa Nova" and "my future." With this sophomore set, Eilish steps out of the shadows of When We All Fall Asleep, transforming from the creepy little sibling that freaks out the neighbors into a poised and confident young adult with existential issues aplenty. Growing older (relatively) and wiser in the years following her breakthrough, she processes the flood of experiences that come with a swift ascent in the public eye. Reflecting on the pitfalls of being famous, the introductory "Getting Older" reveals the immense pressure and associated dangers of the limelight, setting her insight and measured optimism to a delicate electronic heartbeat. Later, she charts her struggles in a male-dominated industry and details encounters with predatory men and misogyny on the scathing "Your Power," an indictment of exploitation disguised as a gorgeous acoustic ballad, and on the striking interlude "Not My Responsibility," she confronts critics and toxic opinions atop ominous synths and atmospheric haze before calling out media objectification on the hypnotic "OverHeated." Beyond these emotional trials, Eilish leans into the album's title, realizing her own growth, hope for the future, and newfound feelings of self-love and self-empowerment. The nostalgic Bristol-scene trip-hop vibes of the dubby "I Didn't Change My Number," hit single "Therefore I Am," and the boom-bap-lite "Lost Cause" offer mischievous diversions from the otherwise moody meditations, but a trio of dynamic standouts steal the show. Throbbing to life with deep bass and a thick beat, the lustful "Oxytocin" is a club hit in the making, nailing the pleasure centers like the titular hormone, while the cautionary "GOLDWING" lures listeners in with an angelic hymn before skittering to life with tribal flair like early-era Björk. On the title track, Eilish begins with an old-timey vocal showcase that explodes into a '90s alt-rock rager, complete with cathartic kiss-off lyrics, crashing drums, and jagged riffs. In these moments, Eilish reclaims a bit of herself and hones her perspective, effortlessly playing with a wide range of genres in the process. Delivering on the promise of her industry-shaking debut with confidence and grace, Happier Than Ever has the markings of a big career moment, one that signals artistic growth and hints at even more greatness to come".

Source: AllMusic

Jeff Parker - Forfolks

Forfolks

by Jeff Parker

Released 21 July 2021

International Anthem

****-

After a quarter-century as a linchpin of Chicago’s overlapping experimental jazz and rock scenes, the guitarist Jeff Parker finally made his solo debut in 2016 on the aptly named Slight Freedom. For years, Parker had embedded his chiseled guitar leads within the sophisticated post-rock of Tortoise and played in audacious jazz-oriented ensembles like the Chicago Underground Duo. But in 2013, Parker split for California, leaving behind those familiar musical contexts. The move offered him the opportunity to bask uninterrupted in his rarified guitar tone and snaking sense of rhythm, an impetus for Slight Freedom. Parker still seemed reserved, though, as if negotiating his newly solitary relationship with the guitar was an ongoing process.

In the years since, Parker has issued two complicated and compelling full-band albums, his jazz verve turbocharged by funk drums and a thrilling sense of juxtaposition borrowed from hip-hop’s quick cuts. You could hear him springing away from his longtime roles back east, expressing a more robust version of his musical freedom. He brings the gusto of those recent albums to Forfolks, his spellbinding second LP for solo guitar and a new highlight of an already-rich career. For these eight sublime pieces, Parker capitalizes on solitude to make music that sounds like classic guitar jazz but often moves like a soft techno dream.

The basic premise of Forfolks is simple enough: As the tape rolls, Parker creates loops from tiny snippets of his coruscant electric guitar tone or stretches single notes into long drones that wobble like an old pump organ. He then improvises to those loops in single takes with no overdubs, creating instantaneous guitar duets for one player and his pedals. The results might last 80 seconds, as with opener “Off Om,” or nearly 11 minutes, as on its showpiece, “Excess Success.” This isn’t a novel idea, of course—you’ve likely seen a self-indulgent instrumentalist in the corner of a bar, riffing atop loops generated by the ubiquitous green Line 6. Forfolks, however, never feels showy or vain; it’s joyous, Parker delighting in the ideas he unearths as he plays along with the sound of himself.

The results often feel dazzlingly complicated, as though these songs were built through some greater studio sorcery, like cobbling together various takes or recording the layers one at a time. The points where the loop ends and the playing begins are often unclear, so distinguishing what is new from what is repeating can be like trying to discern the individual spices in a delicate soup. During “Suffolk,” for instance, Parker generates a pattern of flitting notes and then flits around it himself in staccato bursts. He adds a floral hum and inscribes the hovering tone with a bittersweet melody, the guitar sighing with the warmth of an oversaturated sunset photo.

The repetitive elements of his faithful take on Thelonious Monk’s “Ugly Beauty” - blurred notes that glue together its brief sections - appear, disappear, and reappear so seamlessly you may wonder if they’re even there. Its inclusion feels like an homage to the way that Monk would twist and tease rhythms, long before such looping technology was widespread. Parker also interprets the standard “My Ideal,” but he forgoes any sort of loop, dancing alone with a beautiful tune. Just as a house cat excitedly slapping at a ball of yarn will stop and stare at it once in a while, Parker holds his plaything still and marvels.

Forfolks evokes a who’s-who of jazz guitar. Parker, for instance, embraces enthusiastic snippets of repetition like Wes Montgomery. His incisive lines move with the effortless grace of Grant Green. Hearing Parker settling into his solo role recalls the similarly singular tone of the late Jim Hall, always identifiable from the first note onward. What’s more, mixing engineer Graeme Gibson took care not to clean up these pieces, which he captured during two days in June. There is fuzz and static and room sound, so Forfolks indeed sounds like a relic salvaged from another era. You could slip it into a stack of jazz classics at a dinner party, and no one would likely notice this modern anomaly.

But just as Parker makes the lines between his loops and his improvisations fuzzy, Forfolks as a whole gets its power by making fuzzy the distinction between the contemporary and classic. The games he plays with rhythm and repetition feel like a frontier, a suggestion of new spaces to explore for solo guitarists indebted to minimalism, drone, and electronics. There is no better example than the album’s epic, “Excess Success.” Parker approaches its chiming loop like a patient electronic producer. He sometimes dances around it, adding a tizzy of extra notes. And then, he’ll pull back entirely, letting the beat ride as if to emphasize the work he’s been doing. It conjures the wild-eyed improvisations of Manuel Göttsching’s E2-E4 and the coziness of the Field’s From Here We Go Sublime, rather unexpected references for modern jazz guitar. Hearing a long-consummate instrumentalist well into his 50s grapple so clearly with the future of his own idiom is plenty inspiring; the quiet confidence with which Parker proclaims there is something else to say with just six strings and a few effects feels like a revelation, for himself and the form.

Source: Pitchfork

Allison Russell - Outside Child

Outside Child

by Allison Russell

Released 23 July 2021

Birds of Chicago

****-

Reaffirming that sometimes the only way out is through, Montreal native Allison Russell boldly confronts past traumas on the remarkable Outside Child, her debut release as a solo artist. A seasoned staple of the North American roots music scene, the singer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist came up in the early 2000s as part of the eclectic Canadian band Po' Girl before teaming up with her husband, JT Nero, in the acclaimed folk duo Birds of Chicago. Now based in Nashville, she is also a member of Our Native Daughters, an all-female banjo-driven supergroup spearheaded by like-minded Renaissance woman Rhiannon Giddens. As a songwriter, Russell has been singing various forms of her truth for years, but on Outside Child, she candidly lays bare the fraught journey that transformed her from a sexually abused adolescent and teenage runaway to the fiercely creative force who found community and healing in music. Drifting seamlessly between English and French, she offers up paeans to the city that kept her safe after escaping her abusive stepfather and enabling mother at the age of 15. On the torchy "Montreal," she sings about sleeping rough in city parks, church pews, and cemeteries, each one a safer place than her own home. The lush blues of "Fourth Day Prayer," on which she devastatingly recalls her abuse, is also a meditation on forgiveness and empathy. On "The Runner," Russell recounts the moment music captured her heart outside a Vancouver music venue. Throughout her career, she has skirted the edges of various roots forms without painting herself into any one corner. That tastefulness manifests itself here in gorgeously layered arrangements that feel timeless and built to last. "Hy Brasil," another standout, pays homage to her Scottish-Canadian grandmother, whose taste for mythical and spiritual matters seems to have seeped into Russell's own consciousness. Its circular folk melody and witchy lyrics tap into an eerie undercurrent that occasionally reveals itself throughout the album. As a singer, Russell has a knack for playing around with different timbres to suit the song, and the abundance of crafty clarinet solos she delivers are an unexpected pleasure. As difficult and cathartic as the subject matter is, it's clear that she has come out on the other end and is not only thriving as an artist, but has found peace as a human. Having such a rich and compelling story to tell on a debut album is rare, and Russell delivers her tale with the utmost grace and finesse.

Source: AllMusic

Sam Gendel, Sam Wilkes - Music For Saxofone and Bass Guitar More Songs

Music For Saxofone & Bass Guitar  More Songs

by Sam Gendel, Sam Wilkes

Released 21 July 2021

Leaving Records

****-

Generations of musicians have devoted their lives to mastering jazz, and many of them have noticed that this devotion is not always richly rewarded by the wider world. It was more than thirty years ago that Wynton Marsalis lodged his famous complaint, in the New York Times: “Too often, what is represented as jazz isn’t jazz at all.”

In the case of Gendel and Wilkes, listeners expecting head-spinning solos or other obvious signs of mastery might be surprised, perhaps unhappily, by the duo’s seeming simplicity, and by its emphasis on ambience and texture and placid groove.

“I don’t deal too much in jazz these days,” Gendel said, and some of the more exacting jazz fans would agree. You could argue, if you wanted to, that Gendel and Wilkes are not primarily a jazz duo but an electronic-production team, providing listeners with not many notes but a great deal of ambience. One of my favorite Gendel videos, from two years ago, captures a half-hour-long set he played at Union Station, in Los Angeles. He sits alone with his saxophone, armed with a bank of pedals and accompanied by occasional train announcements, and by a steady stream of people walking past.

Gendel and Wilkes know that there is something perverse about the way they work, and about “More Songs,” which is lovingly compiled from the archives. It’s as if they were a pair of dead rappers, as opposed to a pair of jazz musicians who are very much alive.

In conversation, it seems clear that Wilkes would be happy to record more, to play some proper concerts, and to generally treat this partnership as a working duo, especially because of the consensus that he and Gendel play so well together.

But he knows, too, that the casual sensibility of these recordings is what makes them so entrancing. Probably one of the things that people—especially non-jazz people—like about Gendel and Wilkes is that the music they make together sounds slightly unfinished, and rather unobtrusive. If you weren’t paying attention, you could walk right past it.

Source: New Yorker

Cosha - Mt. Pleasant

Mt. Pleasant

by Cosha

Released 9 July 2021

Ashtown Lane

****-

On the opener of Mt Pleasant, her debut album as Cosha, the Irish pop singer Cassia O’Reilly sings about our spinning planet with contentment and resignation. “Leave it, let it turn,” she coos over the cushioned synths and come-to-bed beats of Berlin Air .

This fulfilment has been hard won. Previously releasing a frenetic blend of rave-inflected R&B and elasticated pop under the name Bonzai, she scored herself a major label record deal that soured, leaving her artistic vision compromised. Striking out alone, she changed her name and started from scratch. The result is Mt Pleasant, a luscious, confident and carefree record that could only have been crafted by someone in control of their artistic intentions.

Mt Pleasant cover art
Cosha: Mt Pleasant album cover
The brash beats and harsh electronics of Bonzai have been supplanted for something more sensual: sexual self-belief is the bedrock of the soothing No Kink in the Wire and charged eroticism is savoured and immortalised over woozy guitars on the Shygirl-assisted Lapdance from Asia. It’s still playful – Do You Wanna Dance joyfully traces the heated possibilities of a casual hook-up, while the over-sexed Hot Tub bubbles suggestively, honks of a trombone punctuating its horniness until a climax of freestyle saxophones.


Some precision is lost on Bad Luck, a repetitive shuffling song that lacks distinct melodies, and Tighter owes too much to Blood Orange and Erykah Badu. But the Auto-Tune-drenched Run the Track is sublime, the anxiety-inducing uncertainties of new love reshaped into something paradisiacal by its muted tropical textures and lapping rhythms. By taking artistic control, Cosha has clearly found peace.

Source: The Guardian

Alice Skye - I Feel Better But I Don't Feel Good

I Feel Better But I Don't Feel Good

by Alice Skye

Released 23 July 2021

Bad Apples Music

****-

Singer-songwriter Alice Skye – a Wergaia/Wemba-Wemba woman from Melbourne – returns with her sophomore album, a departure from her stripped down folk debut, and an exploration into indie rock. The rush of warmth from the strum of guitars on raw opener Stay in Bed feels like an injection of euphoria, despite the melancholy lyrics. “I want to shed my skin/Leave an empty shell behind,” she laments on Grand Ideas. Throughout the record, the sombre mise-en-scene contrasts starkly with jangling riffs: a captivating, salty-sweet juxtaposition.

Skye’s voice is nimble, and whether it is a gentle whisper (as on Hot Car) or a spirited declaration (as on Everything Is Great), she emotes exuberantly and with hypnotic simplicity. The title track is a piercing moment of introspection that peaks with harmonised, silken vocals leading to a triumphant yet heartbreaking end. Album highlight and closer Wurega Djalin sees her sing parts in the Wergaia language, something for which she solemnly yearns: “I wonder if I could speak my language/I could find the words/tell you how I’m feeling.” What Skye achieves with this record is dazzlingly therapeutic, and an exquisite lesson in leaving one’s most tender spot laid bare

Source: Sydney Morning Herald

Ajak Kwai - Let Me Grow My Wings

Let Me Grow My Wings

by Ajak Kwai

Released 4 June 2021

Ajak Kwai and 100 Pianos for Australia

****-

'Let Me Grow My Wings' is the fifth album by Australian singer-songwriter, broadcaster, educator and community promoter Ajak Kwai. Performed in English, Arabic and Ajak’s native language, Dinka, the songs fuse musical traditions to form a unique style described as modern South Sudanese rock. It's a compelling set of rhythmic rock and blues gems alongside emotive ballads, all underscoring Ajak Kwai's powerful vocal performances.

The themes of 'Let Me Grow My Wings' reflect, and extend upon, Ajak’s work as a passionate activist for refugees in Australia. Ajak says in a statement: "My experiences in Australia inform my songs and my music. Music is a universal language – maybe one day we will forget our differences and hold the hands of one another...This album is a collection of those hopes and dreams for an integrated future where we are one and can share and be accepted for what my community has to offer."


For the chance to win a download copy of this week's Album Of The Week, Triple R subscribers can enter here before Sunday 25 April 2021. We have a prize policy of 1 album per subscriber per month so we can share the love and make it fair for all!

Source: 3rrr

Angelique Kidjo - Mother Nature

Mother Nature

by Angelique Kidjo

Released 9 July 2021

Decca Records France

****-

With a booming population that is overwhelmingly young, it’s only a matter of time before west Africa produces a global pop star as universally renowned as Beyoncé or Prince. When that happens, she or he will owe a big debt to Benin’s Angélique Kidjo who, now aged 60, has been a trailblazer for the continent over the course of 14 albums.

Kidjo has always been about inclusivity, whether in her pan-African songs, or with numerous collaborators, who include Philip Glass and Indonesia’s Anggun, or in her past two albums – her reworking of Talking Heads’ Remain in Light in 2018 and 2019’s Celia, a tribute to the late salsa diva Celia Cruz. On Mother Nature she returns home, collaborating with an array of young voices on an exuberant album couched in contemporary R&B and hip-hop, but laced with traditional flavours.

Its focus is both local and universal. Dignity, alongside Nigeria’s Yemi Alade, demands an end to police brutality – surely the first time “reciprocal” has been a chorus shout-out – while the title track addresses the climate crisis. Free & Equal, featuring Sampa the Great, returns to the principles of the 1776 US Declaration of Independence. Empowerment, unity and joy combine to catchy effect, with the exceptional Kidjo now leader of a new generation.

Source: The Guardian

Laura Mvula - Pink Noise

Pink Noise

by Laura Mvula

Released 4 July 2021

Atlantic Records

****-

Raised in choirs then refined in the conservatoire, the recording artist Laura Mvula is the last singer you’d expect to rock huge shoulder pads, commanding you to “listen!” as a minimal 80s bassline unspools. But her recent rebirth as a diva with a keytar is one of the more convincing reinventions of recent times.

Dua Lipa is not the only British solo female working 80s dance-pop correctly.

On Pink Noise – named after the frequencies slightly less harsh than white noise – Mvula channels both Janet Jackson and Grace Jones with verve. “Give in to the feeling!” she sings on the title track.

There’s a lot of letting go happening here. Suffering from anxiety, dropped by her record label in 2017 after two Mercury-nominated LPs, Mvula was overdue some fun. This album is it – in thrall to Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, the bass here is all spank, the keyboards all acrylic, with room for Mvula’s Jamaican heritage and chorister’s soprano. Got Me is audacious, not least because of its shameless recycling of Michael Jackson, but also because of its frank come-hithers. With all this shiny surface comes depth, too – the hard-won emotional content of these songs is all Mvula’s own.

Source: The Guardian

Small Island Big Song

Small Island Big Song

by Small Island Big Song

Released 4 June 2021

Small Island Big Song

****-

A little idea that's grown into a large project, Small Island Big Song is the brainchild of Australian sound producer and filmmaker Tim Cole and his Taiwanese partner BaoBao Chen. For Cole, who's previously worked with culturally diverse musicians from Australia, Papua New Guinea, Vanuatu and elsewhere, it's been a labour of love – assisted by a Churchill Fellowship. The original concept evolved into a three-year journey to 16 Pacific and Indian Ocean island nations, acoustically recording indigenous musicians in natural settings, and layering their collaborative contributions together in a cultural mash-up. Based on the Austronesian migration theory that many present-day Oceanic cultures originated in Taiwan, the project reaffirms musical links between cultures as far afield as Hawaii, Madagascar, Aotearoa (New Zealand), Borneo, Solomon Islands, Tahiti, Guam and Rapa Nui (Easter Island). With over 100 musicians taking part, the resulting 18-track album fuses their individual performances into a smorgasbord of overlapping styles, accentuating both the similarities and regional differences of traditional instruments, voices, language and rhythm. It's also a heartfelt plea for environmental awareness and preservation.

‘Gasikara’ introduces PNG percussionist Airileke and Torres Straits rapper Mau Power to Madagascar's Samoela Andriamalalaharijaona (of Tarika Sammy) and his compatriot Sandro, who raps that ‘the turtles are crying’ from damage being done to coral reefs. The Hawaiians weigh in strongly, with Kuana Torres Kahele's falsetto vocals celebrating the Mauna Kea forests on ‘Mele O Ke Kipuka’, and a remarkable female ancestral chant from Kekuhi Kealiikanakaoleohaililani. Elsewhere there's Polynesian/Melanesian log-drumming, indigenous Taiwanese harmonies, Rajery's beautiful Malagasy valiha (zither) and Gus Teja's delicate Balinese flute. Maori voices imitate forest birdsong, Alena Murang contributes some gentle Sarawak sapé (lute) and Charles Maimarosia offers breath-heavy Solomon panpipes. With gorgeous accompanying videos available on the project's website, a full DVD on the near horizon and a touring ensemble gearing up for festivals worldwide, Small Island Big Song is really only just beginning. Simply brilliant.

Source: Songlines (UK)

Indaba Is - Indaba Is

Indabe Is

by Various Artists

Released 29 January 2021

Brownswood

****-

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Like we said, there never was just one sound.

Source: Bandcamp

Wolf Alice - Blue Weekend

Blue Weekend

by Wolf Alice

Released 4 June 2021

Dirty Hit

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As they worked on their third album, Wolf Alice would engage in an exercise. “We liked to play our demos over the top of muted movie trailers or particular scenes from films,” lead singer and guitarist Ellie Rowsell tells Apple Music. “It was to gather a sense of whether we’d captured the right vibe in the music. We threw around the word ‘cinematic’ a lot when trying to describe the sound we wanted to achieve, so it was a fun litmus test for us. And it’s kinda funny, too. Especially if you’re doing it over the top of Skins.”
Halfway through Blue Weekend’s opening track, “The Beach,” Wolf Alice have checked off cinematic, and by its (suitably titled) closer, “The Beach II,” they’ve explored several film scores’ worth of emotion, moods, and sonic invention. It’s a triumphant guitar record, at once fan-pleasing and experimental, defiantly loud and beautifully quiet and the sound of a band hitting its stride. “We’ve distilled the purest form of Wolf Alice,” drummer Joel Amey says.
Blue Weekend succeeds a Mercury Prize-winning second album (2017’s restless, bombastic Visions of a Life), and its genesis came at a decisive time for the North Londoners. “It was an amazing experience to get back in touch with actually writing and creating music as a band,” bassist Theo Ellis says. “We toured Visions of a Life for a very long time playing a similar selection of songs, and we did start to become robot versions of ourselves. When we first got back together at the first stage of writing Blue Weekend, we went to an Airbnb in Somerset and had a no-judgment creative session and showed each other all our weirdest ideas and it was really, really fun. That was the main thing I’d forgotten: how fun making music with the rest of the band is, and that it’s not just about playing a gig every evening.”

The weird ideas evolved during sessions with producer Markus Dravs (Arcade Fire, Coldplay, Björk) in a locked-down Brussels across 2020. “He’s a producer that sees the full picture, and for him, it’s about what you do to make the song translate as well as possible,” guitarist Joff Oddie says. “Our approach is to throw loads of stuff at the recordings, put loads of layers on and play with loads of sound, but I think we met in the middle really nicely.” There’s a Bowie-esque majesty to tracks such as “Delicious Things” and “The Last Man on Earth”; “Smile” and “Play the Greatest Hits” were built for adoring festival crowds, while Rowsell’s songwriting has never revealed more vulnerability than on “Feeling Myself” and the especially gorgeous “No Hard Feelings” (“a song that had many different incarnations before it found its place on the record,” says Oddie. “That’s a testament to the song. I love Ellie’s vocal delivery. It’s really tender; it’s a beautiful piece of songwriting that is succinct, to the point, and moves me”).
On an album so confident in its eclecticism, then, is there an overarching theme? “Each song represents its own story,” says Rowsell. “But with hindsight there are some running themes. It’s a lot about relationships with partners, friends, and with oneself, so there are themes of love and anxiety. Each song, though, can be enjoyed in isolation. Just as I find solace in writing and making music, I’d be absolutely chuffed if anyone had a similar experience listening to this. I like that this album has different songs for different moods. They can rage to ‘Play the Greatest Hits’, or they can feel powerful to ‘Feeling Myself,’ or ‘they can have a good cathartic cry to ‘No Hard Feelings.’ That would be lovely.” 

Source: Bandcamp

Tyler The Creator - Call Me If You Get Lost

Call Me If You Get Lost

by Tyler, The Creator

Released 25 June 2021

Columbia

****-

Not two seconds into his sixth LP, CALL ME IF YOU GET LOST, Tyler, the Creator boldly stakes his claim with rap: ""Y'all ready?" booms the voice of DJ Drama, before the iconic "GANGSTA GRIZZILZ" tag jolts the album to life. Hosted by the legendary master-of-ceremonies, Tyler's latest LP imprints all the lessons of the last 8 years onto the raw rap talent of the Wolf era, combining visceral verses with expansive layers of production. Working with the likes of Westside Gunn and Freddie Gibbs has revitalised the outright fun of T's verses -- "AARGH, YOU LOOK MALNOURISHED" - as well as bringing the vivid storytelling of the former contrarian into subjects of vast personal import. It proves a sharp left turn after the progressive pop of 2019's IGOR -- but one that is realised with an unrelenting passion.
Tyler's work has always been a patchwork of ever-increasing palettes, and CMIYGL is his most complex to date. Recurring tricks are masterfully melded into new templates: "RUNITUP!" continues the build-and-burst of "See You Again," "RISE!" folds IGOR's layered vocal textures into new visions, and "LEMONHEAD" channels Cherry Bomb for what sounds like an unironic take on Pink Guy's "Club Banger 3000." Yet it's equally clear that Tyler is continuing to expand with the sounds of his collaborators -- an intergalactic warble colours Uzi’s “JUGGERNAUT” tour-de-force, while yacht-rap lessons from The Alchemist make for a spectacle on “HOT WIND BLOWS” and “SIR BAUDELAIRE.” These new strides find a potent home among Tyler’s powerful-yet-familiar production toolkit; “I been switchin' gears since Tracee Ellis Ross was UPN” he raps on digital-only closer “SAFARI,” its soundscape playing out like a collage of each of his technicolour eras.

As with every Tyler record, there’s a plethora of breadcrumbs to follow. The album’s central thread proffers a compelling forbidden-desire narrative, while the scratchy vocals akin to a much-referenced Wolf Haley are enough to make anyone drag their donut-print back out the wardrobe. In the minutiae, CMIYGL is equally abundant: "SWEET" is the full version of the interlude at the end of 2017's "I Ain't Got Time," while the Gravediggaz sample on "LUMBERJACK" is a sly wink to a tweet from the Bastard era. That’s saying nothing of the cryptic “Tyler Baudelaire”; fans of Charles Baudelaire may find the poet’s resonance in “WILSHIRE” and the album’s stretching, international escapism, though concrete answers remain shrouded.

In a 2011 conversation with Nas, Tyler played every part the fan: "Nazareth Savage," the rapper exclaims, recalling his favourite sample from the Brooklyn legend, "that s*** is, like, legit as f***." Ten years on, Tyler finds himself recreating the beat for his own dizzying "MANIFESTO." It proves not only an acknowledgement of his icon, but an apt parallel for CMIYGL's daring return to rap: not only does Tyler possess every ounce of the talent to square up with rap's greats, he now has confidence enough to do so.

Source: AllMusic

Ghetts - Conflict Of Interest

Conflict of Interest

by Ghetts

Released 4 June 2021

Ghetts Limited

****-

You don’t often find real strings and horns on a grime album. But these instruments mesh exceptionally well with the cut-and-thrust of UK hip-hop – more specifically, with the moving storytelling of 36-year-old Ghetts.

Justin Clarke’s years in the shadows of his better-rewarded peers have ended with this terrific major-label debut, as he moves his story – and the genre – forwards.

Conflict of Interest, his third studio release, has both cinematic scope and tear-jerking moments. Against innovative backdrops (often by producer TenBillion Dreams), Ghetts spits about familiar tropes: the superlative Skengman tells of tit-for-tat violence with innovation; No Mercy features icy, left-field production and new talent Pa Salieu. Other guests range from the game’s biggest beasts – Stormzy, Dave, Skepta, Giggs – to South African siren Moonchild Sanelly.

But when you least expect it, Good Hearts takes a detour into UK funky, and the rest of the album finds room for candour and feeling. Ghetts misses a teenage girlfriend whose life goes astray (Sonya), tries to understand a vexed relationship (Dead to Me). Multiple voices chip into the storytelling, via answerphone messages, DJ shouts and ad libs, all circling round this veteran’s dextrously told tales of ADHD, stealing cars and weaving around obstacles.

Source: The Guardian

Berwyn - Demotape

Demotape

by Berwyn

Released  25 September 2020

Nonesuch Records

****-

Talent doesn’t come rawer than the Trinidad-born, Romford-raised rapper, singer-songwriter and producer Berwyn du Bois. His debut mixtape ‘DEMOTAPE/VEGA’ was recorded in the space of two weeks on a diet of toast, weed and insomnia, resulting in a poignant collection of songs about life on the margins that left listeners spell-bound and inspired English teachers to analyse his lyrics in schools.

In the past year, BERWYN has at least had more time to flesh out his latest offering, ‘TAPE 2/FOMALHAUT’. Like his debut, ‘Fomalhaut’ delves deep into the artist’s tumultuous journey into music; inner-city life, homelessness and longing for his relatives in Trinidad permeate the mixtape’s eleven tracks. The sombre hip-hop beats and muted siren of ‘I’d Rather Die Than Be Deported’ capture Berwyn’s past struggle with the Home Office (“I didn’t exist in the eyes of the law”), which prevented him from applying to uni. Bittersweet lullaby ‘100,000,000’ is a snapshot of the aftermath – BERWYN struggling to make a tenner, seeking shelter in the back of his car: “100 million miles and I miss home…all I wanna do is go to sleep”.

 

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A concept record about loneliness, BERWYN says ‘Fomalhaut’ represents “a single star that appears in a part of the sky that’s largely empty of bright stars…called the Lonely One or the Solitary One”. Throughout, BERWYN is still troubled by past trials and tribulations, a lone figure lacking support. The mixtape opens with a disheartening message (“why do we love the wrong ones / trust the wrong ones / and fuck the wrong ones?”), as he dwells on ruined relationships. On tracks like the Ed Sheeran-influenced ‘Answers’, it feels like BERWYN is still finding his feet as an MC, but the enraged acceleration of ‘Full Moon Freestyle’ (“I don’t eat / I don’t sleep / I’m addicted to weed”), fully exposes the mental toll of isolation.

There’s a beautiful twilight quality to the Trinidadian’s music; at its purest on ‘To Be Loved’, BERWYN’s soulful piano ballads have the ability to stop you in your tracks, while ‘Rubber Bands’ is on a par with other dancehall heartbreak classics like Drake’s ‘Passionfruit’. Counter-balancing the overwhelming pain of ‘Fomalhaut’, ‘Vinyl’ is like a warm sonic hug and the mixtape’s most optimistic moment. “I was sleeping on a mattress talking big dreams / now the world is in my palms”, BERWYN says, emerging from the darkness and shining very bright.

Source:

Leon Bridges - Gold Diggers Sound

Gold-Diggers Sound

by Leon Bridges

Released 22 July 2021

Columbia

*****

To borrow from a story told by songwriter Jason Isbell about his first meeting with legendary interpreter Bettye LaVette, Isbell shared LaVette’s disdain at being referred to as a “soul” singer. LaVette’s retort was that the music she sang was called “rhythm and blues,” but that everything she did was soulful.

Into this velvety stew we call “soulfulness,” you can safely stir in one Mr. Leon Bridges. From his threads, to his stage presence, to the way he arranges a song, and yes, to the way he sings it, Bridges exudes an interplanetary level of coolness and restrained sensuality that colors all that he does, without regard to genre boundaries.

Bridges’ debut album, 2015’s Coming Home, was a blast of retro Sam Cooke-styled set pieces, and his 2018 follow-up, Good Thing, was a more genre-hopping affair.

His third album, Gold-Diggers Sound, sets its own more singularly minded style. The album fits squarely within rhythm and blues boundaries, but with a late night level of bleary insouciance that belies the effort that likely went into sounding so effortless. The album’s title refers to the hidden L.A. studio/speakeasy that Bridges and crew decamped to for these recordings. The formula of dim lights casting a warm haze over half-drunk whisky highballs hits peak level on woozy tracks like “Motorbike” and “Details.”

The tripped-out chunky rhythms of “Motorbike” give way to a series of “zero-G” flourishes that take the song to a higher plane. A perfect three-minute slice of a song, with its signature line nailing its ethos: “we don’t stop, but the time do.” The sinuous line that runs through “Details” ups the unfair advantage of a song custom made for an opening salvo on a heart stealing mix-tape. “Who gonna please you like I do, and love every detail of you,” Bridges leads before sealing the deal with a ticking off of his lady’s finer points.

The six-minute-plus “Don’t Worry” showcases Bridges’ buttery vocals intertwining with guest vocalist’s Atia “Ink” Boggs’ grittier tone. While the prayerfully toned “Sweeter” addresses racial inequality through direct images, but delivered with a velvet glove of muted synths overlaid with a sax solo meant to soothe. The expertly titled closer, “Blue Mesas,” is a string-laden ballad of finding yourself lonely at the top. Way out past the outskirts of Bridges’ West Texas home.

On first listen, Gold-Diggers Sound may pass you by like Bridges’ lane changing motorbike and could even be mistaken for being on the slighter side. But it’s the “quiet storm” power of keeping things hovering just above neutral that gives the album its after hours glow and silky appeal. Make no mistake about it that Bridges understands the impact of bringing things down a notch and letting them simmer. Gold-Diggers Sound’s finest moments are the soft as a whisper ones. The sound of slipping into something a little more comfortable.

Source: UnderTheRadarMagazine

Durand Jones & the Indications - Private Space

Private Space

by Durand Jones & the Indications
Released 30 July 2021

Dead Oceans

****-

Durand Jones & the Indications start their third album with a heartening ballad that just as appropriately could have been the finale. "Love Will Work It Out," a composite of Earth, Wind & Fire and classic Philly soul with a Joel Ross vibraphone solo to boot, reflects upon "folks overtaken by disease" and "modern day lynchings." The song hits like a culmination but conversely incorporates what can be heard as the main theme of Private Space: "Joy will set us free." It's almost jarring how fast the album puts it to practice by snapping into dancefloor action with the brilliant "Witchoo," an uptempo call-and-response disco-funk jam whisked by a fleet bassline from new member Mike Montgomery. That's the first of nine pleasurable and loved-up songs that take the band's sound deep into the '70s with more lush ballads and elegant-yet-tough disco grooves sprouted from deep '60s-soul soil. The contrast, interplay, and exchange of duties between the church-bred frontman Jones and falsetto foil Aaron Frazer (also the drummer, fresh off the solo flight Introducing...) are fully exposed here as the band's greatest assets. The Indications also put strings, plus sweet background vocals from the women of 79.5, to optimal use. It all coalesces with songwriting that has an imaginative edge over the Indications' more studious previous albums. Although Private Space sounds during silkier moments like it could drift into covers of specific songs by Blue Magic and Sylvia, or any number of gems either arranged by Gene Page or powered by Philadelphia International house band MFSB, it's certainly distinct for 2021. None of the Indications' contemporaries have put together a set as distinctly purpose-built and delightful as this one.

Source: AllMusic

Jerome Thomas - That Secret Sauce (EP)

That Secret Sauce

by Jerome Thomas

Released 9 July 2021

Rhythm Section International

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With his debut release for Rhythm Section International, Hackney-raised Jerome Thomas is declaring the dawning of a new age for British soul music.

Jerome’s school was a home filled with non-stop music; whether that was bootleg CDs of Rare Groove from East London’s Sunday markets to late 90s R&B on The Box or family favourites; Marvin Gaye, Curtis Mayfield, Al Green, Chico DeBarge, Jill Scott. He learnt his prodigious vocal craft of ad-libs and harmonies by listening to Brandy’s ‘98 LP ‘Never Say Never’ on repeat.

Working with a live 6 piece band of assorted ages and musical backgrounds from rock to classical jazz, Jerome’s sound is a 180 degree turn from the direction of travel of UK RnB which has trended towards producers tracks made inside the computer. Jerome composes the pieces, then allows space for interaction with his long term musical collaborators. The ‘organic decisions’ open up the scope of his music as they jam and record. The result is a sound that could been made in the 70s, the 90s or the 00s. He’s the new blood of the sophisticated British sound that traces back to artists like Mica Paris, Soul II Soul and Omar.

For Jerome, music has literally been a life saving vessel for self expression. Like 1% of the population, he has a stutter, which disrupts the fluent flow of his speech. The stutter disappears when he sings, freeing his voice as it’s transformed into an instrument. As an introverted, intuitive Pisces, the songwriting process lets him explore and express his internal cosmos; “a lot of my songs are like diary entries addressed to people I haven’t been able to talk to or speaking about desires I am too embarrassed to talk about”. Jerome describes his sound using the acronym FOE, standing for “Freedom of Expression” and “Fusion Of Everything”. His music is a space for him to dissolve boundaries and binaries.

“As soul beings we are all a mixture of masculine and feminine; a mixture of our Mum and our Dad”. His fine falsetto explores a register that can read as masculine or feminine. The romantic story that runs across the two vinyl sides of “That Secret Sauce” is told without specifying a gender point of view. As Jerome says “we all experience the same thing with romantic situations, so I didn’t want to pin it to one side”. Like many of the great soul records, a close listen to “That Secret Sauce” reveals it’s romantic narrative; from first meeting to sexual infatuation to the dissolution of the affair, the breaking up and the moving forward - keeping your energy clear. It’s a tale as old as time, retold. 

Source: Bandcamp

The Black Keys - Delta Kream.

Delta Kream

by The Black Keys

Released  14 May 2021

Nonesuch Records

****-

Over a 20-year trajectory from playing in bars with no audience to filling arenas, the Black Keys have never lost the blues. The Ohio duo of singer-guitarist Dan Auerbach and drummer Patrick Carney’s 10th album illustrates the point with a set of songs by the north Mississippi artists that continue to inspire them, such as Lafayette County’s late RL Burnside and Hudsonville’s also deceased Junior Kimbrough, a labelmate when the early Black Keys recorded for Fat Possum.
Backed by those bluesmen’s own sidemen – Burnside’s slide guitarist Kenny Brown and Kimbrough’s bassist Eric Deaton – the pair have returned to the simpler joys of their early records. With Auerbach sparing the postmodern production that has been intrinsic to later Black Keys albums, in just 10 hours the four men recorded more than two post-tour afternoons, mostly in first takes. We hear studio chatter such as “Ready?” and “Yes sir” and the songs’ raw, simmering feel is epitomised by their low-slung, groovier, sleazy take on Crawling Kingsnake, as previously popularised by John Lee Hooker and the Doors.

Kimbrough’s Stay All Night magically drips with midnight oil yearning and Walk With Me hammers a groove to mantra-like repetition. The now hugely successful pair can’t perhaps sing Burnside’s Poor Boy a Long Way from Home with any great factual accuracy nowadays, but they sound thoroughly in their comfort zone and utterly in their element.

Source: The Guardian

Cedric Burnside - I Be Trying

I Be Trying

by Cedric Burnside

Released 21 June 2021

Single Lock

****-

Today’s deep blues players, especially those who emerge from a family heritage in the genre, are stuck with a tricky balancing act; how to keep up the heart of the gruff, often prickly and edgy music they were brought up on, while appealing to a contemporary audience. Cedric Burnside navigates that especially well on the plucky I Be Trying, his first release in three years.

Burnside, the grandchild of famed North Mississippi blues legend R.L. Burnside, learned his craft at the feet of some of the most iconic musicians of the rural South. He has been recording albums for over a decade, mostly sticking close to the hard-hitting, hardscrabble, mosquito infested Hill Country blues his grandfather and friends like Junior Kimbrough worked in. That hasn’t made him a star, yet it has dismissed accusations of selling out. Burnside pushes and expands those boundaries just enough to perhaps make this often ominous, swampy, riff based backwoods attack more palatable to a larger audience.

The thirteen tunes remain stripped down with Cedric on guitar and drums, and just another drummer on the majority of the tracks. No bass (well, only on one track), no keyboards, nothing fancy; just the stark unvarnished intensity of two instruments and Burnside’s emotional unfiltered vocals. The opening unaccompanied acoustic guitar and vocal of “The World Can Be So Cold” lays down a line in the sand. Producer Boo Mitchell (Robert Cray, Valerie June, many others generally in the roots field) keeps the sparse instrumentation sounding so full, it seems there are more players than just the two responsible for most of this music.

But it’s in the song writing that Burnside has noticeably grown. He adheres to the back country blueprint of latching onto a guitar riff and repeating it for the length of the tune. Yet, he’s also refining that scruffy approach with songs incorporating more melodic sections and chord changes. On “Love Is the Key” he dances around the chugging beat typical of this music, including a sing-along chorus in the titular words and plays a lovely, low boil solo. The closing “Love You Forever” even finds Burnside shifting into an occasional Prince-like falsetto and adding a moaning cello to bring a fuller sound in addition to the guitar/drums guts.

Longtime friend Luther Dickinson from the North Mississippi Allstars, adds nervous, even twisted slide to “Keep on Pushing,” letting Burnside handle both guitar and his own overdubbed drums. He gets somewhat soulful on the cautionary “Gotta Look Out” singing, Some people/they yo friends/But they want to use you/So be careful who you talk to as the beat leans towards pulsating funk.

Burnside rounds out the frisky, frothy collection with covers from his granddad and Kimbrough. While this is far from anything that may land on commercial radio, there are just enough compositional moments on Burnside’s finest set to push it a little closer to widespread acceptance while maintaining the tough, raw foundation of the uncompromising music that came before.

And… you can dance to it.

Source: American Songwriter

Randal Goosby - Roots

Roots

by Randall Goosby

Released 25 June 2021

Dead Oceans

****-

Roots is the debut solo disc from the young American violinist Randall Goosby. It takes a brief but affirmative glance at black US classical music, turning up a few slender but worthwhile gems.

What it’s not is a programme dedicated to composers of colour. Instead, it’s partly a celebration of the fact that when there began to be an American sound in classical music, that sound came from black music. Four numbers from Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess, in Heifetz’s showy yet lyrical arrangements, are an obvious but apt inclusion. Dvořák’s Sonatina in G, written during the Czech composer’s time in New York, has spiritual and Native American music running through it.

Randall Goosby: Roots album cover.
Randall Goosby: Roots album cover. Photograph: Decca Records
But Goosby otherwise spotlights music by black composers, starting with Shelter Island, a piquant and bluesy duet for violin and double bass by Xavier Dubois Foley, who gives an arrestingly virtuosic performance on bass. Blue/s Forms, three short, sinuous solos by Coleridge-Taylor Perkinson written in 1979, are dispatched by Goosby with no fuss but plenty of style. Florence Price, whose music finally seems to be emerging from its neglect, gets another boost with Goosby and Zhu Wang’s tender performance of her Adoration and lively, expansive ones of her Fantasies Nos 1 and 2, claimed as premiere recordings. Wang is slightly backgrounded by the sound balance, but his understated expressiveness and Goosby’s firm sound give these pieces their due weight.

Goosby’s mentors include Sanford Allen, the dedicatee of Perkinson’s pieces and the first black violinist in the New York Philharmonic, and Itzhak Perlman. You can hear the influence of the latter in the suavity and lushness of his playing, never more so than in the slow middle movement of William Grant Still’s 1943 Suite: Goosby finds a special tone here, soft but vibrant, and the melody soars.

Source: The Guardian

Bobbie Gillespie and Gennie Beth - Utopian Ashes

Utopian Ashes

by Bobby Gillespie and Jehnny Beth

Released  2 July 2021

Sony

****-

Initially, Bobby Gillespie and Jehnny Beth may seem like an odd pairing for an album of swampy southern soul. On one hand, you have Gillespie, frontman of Primal Scream, and an elder statesman of indie rock, retro psych rock, and alternative dance music. On the other, you have Beth, known best for her abrasive post-punk with Savages and for her own esoteric solo experiments. Yet, what unites the pair is their tendency towards restless innovation. In that respect, though their new album Utopian Ashes may carve new territory for them, it should come as no surprise that the results are brilliant in their own right.

Gillespie and Beth both bring along their respective collaborators; Andrew Innes, Martin Duffy, and Darrin Mooney join from Primal Scream, along with Beth’s frequent collaborator and partner Johnny Hostile. Even with them in tow, however, Gillespie and Beth are the true stars of the show. Gillespie takes the lead vocals through much of the album, his raspy cracked howls implying untold stories of grief and conflict. But, the real surprise is Beth, who trades in her fearsome punk persona for a previously unseen level of tender melodicism. Though she does find the occasion to deploy her ice-cold spoken word talents on “Living a Lie,” the largest influences on the record are evergreen country pairings like Gram Parsons and Emmylou Harris or George Jones and Tammy Wynette.

Together, Gillespie and Beth conjure a heady mix of southern soul, country, and blues, telling the story of a marriage in disarray. Both slide into character as one half of the crumbling relationship, spinning tales of family, infidelity, drugs, and loss. There are no easy answers, no fairytale endings, and plenty of guilt to go around in these vignettes.

The dramatic string-backed opener introduces the characters’ wounded hearts with some cutting opening lines —“Time slips away/Day after day/And I don’t even love you.” From there the story unfolds. “English Town” sees Gillespie longing for more from life, traversing a decaying English town over a Scott Walker blues waltz.

As the album wears on we descend deeper into our dual protagonists’ relationship, tracing the pair’s attempts to prop up the crumbling walls. “Remember We Were Lovers” sets aside the bitterness, instead tributing better days with a sweeping southern soul sound. “We’re stupid and ungrateful,” the pair confess. “We’ll never ever learn/We abuse this gift we’re given/Again and again and again and again…” The horns burst and crash in response, mirroring the lovers’ anguish in a fantastic soul-stirring climax. Meanwhile, your “Heart Will Always Be Broken” draws a measure of hope and resilience, only to be met with bitterness and pure sorrow with “You Don’t Know What Love Is.”

Ultimately, the record wears towards its inexorable end, the foregone conclusion from the beginning of the first song. With “You Can Trust Me Now” the pair insist on mutual trust as Gillespie promises to leave behind his vices. Meanwhile, the ghostly country balladry only sees the fractures between them grow.

Finally, the walls crumble down on “Living a Lie,” as all of the drugs, the fighting, and the infidelity come to a head. The pair finally recognize the inevitable—“We’re living a lie/Been living alone/Together alone/The things we do to each other/Are breaking our hearts.” Finally, the closer, “Sunk In Reverie,” offers a denouement to the record’s filmic drama. Set against swaying strings and a solitary mid-tempo acoustic guitar, Gillespie finds himself at a party, surrounded by “blood-sucking vampires” and deep in the fog of memory. He fondly recalls the lovers’ first meeting and ends the album surveying their love’s titular utopian ashes.

Though Gillespie and Beth both break from their established styles on Utopian Ashes, they strike on something truly special in the process—a bountiful collaborative relationship and a resulting record of powerful drama and sweeping instrumental beauty. The pairing is as gripping as it is vulnerable, bringing these characters to life in a way that feels real and authentic. Even if this is ultimately the only collaboration these two will share, their survey of familial pain and heartbreak is powerfully affecting and thoroughly human.

Source: UnderTheradarMagazine

Blank Gloss - Melt

Melt

by Blank Gloss

Released 18 June 2021

Kompakt

****-

The music magazine Uncut recently featured a cover-mounted CD and an accompanying article celebrating “Ambient Americana”, subtitled “a road trip across psychic state lines”, while the Guardian surveyed the “ambient country” scene in 2020. Also known as “post-country”, “cosmic pastoral” or “bootgaze”, it’s a micro-genre that has been percolating for decades. Think of Ry Cooder’s soundtrack to Paris, Texas; BJ Cole’s collaborations with Guy Jackson or Øyvind Skarbø, Brian Eno’s work with Daniel Lanois, the avant garde primitivism of John Fahey, or even The KLF’s Chill Out album. In recent years it has been taken in new directions by the likes of Chuck Johnson, Mike Cooper, Marielle Jakobsons and the Nashville duo Hammock.

The latest development in the genre comes from Blank Gloss, a duo from Sacramento, California, comprising Patrick Hills and Morgan Fox. The pair have a history in thrashy punk and experimental bands but, since signing to the Cologne-based electronic label Kompakt, they’ve moved in a more ruminative, improvisational direction. Their debut album Melt is a futuristic journey through the US desert, one that dismantles the defining sonic tropes of American roots music (woozy pedal steel flourishes, slurring fiddles, brushed drums, the twang of a reverb-drenched electric guitar) and reassembles them as disembodied sounds, put through an ambient filter. Where so much electronica conjures up concrete brutalism, spacious warehouses and neon-lit motorways, Melt suggests wide open spaces, huge skies, endless horizons and dust-dry roads.

Melt cover art
Blank Gloss: Melt album cover
These improvisations often remove any rhythmic anchor – when they do introduce a pulse it is often irregular, like the twisted new age beats of Walking Toward the End, or the slithering double bass and piano patterns on Strewn All Over, which start at a gentle 6/8 canter and then keep subtracting beats, leaving us with a gloriously disorientating time signature. Opening track Those Who Plant weaves a wistful EBowed guitar around synth drones and Harold Budd-style piano voicings; Rags is like a Dick Dale tour de force played at a snail’s pace, with a reverb-drenched surf guitar playing ultra slow motion arpeggios that resonate sympathetically with muted piano riffs. Best of all is the heartachingly beautiful Of a Vessel, which sounds like a piece of ECM jazz that has been warped in the Mojave sun.

Source: The Guardian

Cola Boyy - Prosthetic Boombox

Prosthetic Boombox

by Cola Boyy

Released 18 June 2021

Record makers LC-15765

****-

Cola Boyy, aka Oxnard, California, resident and “disabled disco innovator” Matthew Urango, is sexy. He is sexy because he has chosen to be sexy, and because throughout the 10 tracks that make up his debut album Prosthetic Boombox, there is an irrefutably gorgeous spark of personality that often heightens to a flame at certain points. Growing up disabled (spina bifida and scoliosis) from a multi-ethnic background in a community drastically impacted by the effects of late-stage capitalism, Cola Boyy draws on these experiences to craft an electrifying, catchy and colorful debut. Previous singles like “All Power To The People” prove that this belief in the necessity of community isn’t new territory, but the result of a lifelong commitment to these ideals. Much of the album’s personality is framed through the radical light of disco, a genre founded on the principles of liberation through dance and free expression. With his background in community organization, his effortless control of rhythm, funk and melody, and his vibrant aesthetic sensibilities, Urango proves himself a worthy disco practitioner. In other words, sexy.
Album opener and lead single “Don’t Forget Your Neighborhood” marks the second collaboration between Cola Boyy and The Avalanches, a duo that sounds immediately like a match made in heaven. Few artists understand better what made the warmth of 1970s dance music such a magical sensation than The Avalanches, and it’s this shared understanding between the two that helps to usher the single to brilliant heights. When Urango sings “Will I make it if I walk there?” there’s a painful urgency that’s backlit by the saccharine instrumental. Paying homage to his hometown community, the song carries with it a powerful message about the powers that our roots possess and the virtual unstoppability of a motivated group.

The album is partly characterized by its vast array of high-profile collaborators. MGMT’s Andrew VanWyngarden appears on “Kid Born In Space,” a cosmic-sounding ode to the songwriter’s resilience amidst social confrontation, choosing personal joy as he sings “When I was a boy I was criticized / Now I flipped it and I’m happy inside.” Myd, the French house producer Urango previously worked with on 2018’s excellent single “Muchas,” arrives on the jovial and campy “Roses,” lending his dense but effective production prowess to Urango’s vocal melodies.
“Mailbox,” a dynamite funk track that features producer John Carroll Kirby and vocalist JGRREY, finds Cola Boyy lamenting having to focus on his daily responsibilities, instead pleading to “let [him] daydream.” When Prosthetic Boombox loses itself in moments of ecstatic fun, it can feel a bit like drifting off into another world. “Mink,” full of swirling synths, squelchy rhythms and gang vocals, is an exercise in that kind of world-building, building and cascading upon multiple sonic terrains. On the catchy “For The Last Time,” the immaculate-sounding production is particularly gripping, especially amidst the bright synths and stabbing piano chords.

At times, Prosthetic Boombox can admittedly sound a bit like cheesy commercial radio funk, but ultimately it adds to the overall charm of the album. For even the corniest electric piano solo or the occasionally overproduced funk instrumental break seems intentional and done through a campy lens. When it’s groovy, you have no choice but to dance. When it’s sexy, it’ll make you swoon, and when it chooses to be inspiring, the heart behind the album will force its way into your own.

Source: Paste

John Grant - Boy From Michigan

Boy From Michigan

by Johm Grant

Released 25 June 2021

Bella Union

****-

God bless “Rhetorical Figure.” Arriving a little over halfway through John Grant’s new album Boy From Michigan, the song is unique, intelligent, bouncy, and deeply silly. It’s a familiar mode for Grant, whose past tracks include similar jaunts like “He’s Got His Mother’s Hips” and “Snug Slacks.” But “Rhetorical Figure” is unique and important in its context. The vast majority of the mammoth Boy From Michigan—a 75-minute album, by the way—is made up of slow ballads, even dirges at times. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it makes it difficult to listen to in one sitting.

Boy From Michigan opens with its title track, a moody, nostalgic psychedelic ballad that introduces the album’s theme: all over the rest of the tracklist, Grant calls back to the people and places in his memory that have proved meaningful. “County Fair” literally recounts the wonder and emotion of times at the county fair with friends or family. “Mike and Julie” calls out to friends of Grant’s when teenagers, to express regret for mistakes made. Closer “Billy” is a simple piano ballad that mourns the pressures of masculinity that can push men apart.

 

At the same time, Boy From Michigan also contains some of Grant’s most dour songs of his career. “The Rusty Bull” and “Your Portfolio” have vivid and entertaining imagery, but are pitch-black in tone. Double so for “The Only Baby,” the bitterest fuck-you to America that I’ve heard in a long while. Those three tracks alone comprise almost 24 of the album’s 75 minutes, tempting one occasionally to the skip button. But these are smallish gripes. I freely laud John Grant for doing easily, on this album, his best songwriting yet. It just may not be an album for beginners, or for those not patient enough to enjoy its subtle rewards. 

Source: UnderTheRadarMagazine

Septet - John Carroll Kirby

Septet

by John Carroll Kirby

Released 25 June 2021

Stones Throw Records

****-

John Carroll Kirby's earlier releases under his full name, starting in 2017 and extending to his pair of Stones Throw albums in 2020, are mostly solitary recordings evincing his flair for keyboard compositions that soothe and stimulate with little assistance. For his third Stones Throw offering Septet, he works in a setting that is actually more familiar to him, at least going by his vast session work from the aughts onward. While everything here was written and produced by Kirby, Septet was indeed cut by a group of seven, featuring Deantoni Parks (drums), David Leach (percussion), John Paul Maramba (bass), Nick Mancini (mallets), and Tracy Wannomae and Logan Hone (both on woodwinds). Some pieces advance the globetrotting instrumental avant-pop mode Kirby has explored on Travel and My Garden. Remarkably, the most effective moments in this vein occur when the leader assumes a background position, lending synthesizer shading and warped effects as mallets and flute link and skip at the fore of "P64 by My Side." For the most part, this is a jazz date -- an inviting and beatific one that frequently evokes classic '70s jazz-funk. "Swallow Tail" is as delightfully lazing and lapping as Harvey Mason's "Modaji." Kirby's synthesizer curlicues never detract from the easy groove. Maramba buoyantly kick-starts "Sensing Not Seeing" like it could be an update of Deodato's "Skyscrapers," but it settles into something more akin to Mwandishi-era Herbie Hancock, evoking lower flight over a forest, held aloft by Mancini's ceaseless riffing. Kirby scarcely draws attention to himself, but when he does -- most prominently on "Weep" and "The Quest of Chico Hamilton" -- he induces facial expressions that are part grin, part grimace, all pleasure. At the proper end that precedes three bonus dub versions, "Nucleo (Boy from the Prebiotic Birth)" rides in on a low-slung polyrhythmic gallop with some of the players not so much taking solos as occasionally bubbling up from the mix. So idyllic is its effect that nobody could have been faulted for disregarding the vocal cue to stop.

Source: AllMusic

Jeff Coffin, Helen Gillet - Let It Shine

Let It Shine

by JJeff Cottin, Helen Gillet

Released 25 June 2021

Stones Throw Records

****-

The new cello/reeds duet recording by JEFF COFFIN (bass flute, alto flute, D whistle, tenor sax, soprano sax, bass clarinet, clarinet, percussion, didgibone, voice) and HELEN GILLET (cello, cello looping, cello slaps, percussion, voice, lyrics) is both head-bopping in its meditative moments and thoughtful even when it hits a groove.

Coffin, best known for his work with Dave Matthews Band, and Gillet, a true fighting, creative player on the cello, channel their inner Charles Lloyd and Charles Mingus on this record.

This is an intimate recording with both players listening to each other and figuring out where each can complement the other. Coffin and Gillet make judicious use of overdubbing and looping to give some songs fullness where needed. Other songs reveal and revel in their space and starkness. “The Sun Never Says” and “Second Wings” have that quality. “Second Wings” especially has that sonority and timbre that is Gillet’s signature. A listener would not mistake it for anyone else. There are also pretty songs such as “Sometimes Springtime” where Coffin’s bass clarinet and Gillet’s cello combine in the same tonal range to make for a unique and beautiful sound. The bluesiness of “Unzen” has some of that quality too, where the overall effect of their playing—so close to each other—gives the notes added depth and density. But it’s not all meditative. “Lampsi” and “Lazy Drag Jig” have flowing grooves both funky and swaying. Both are supplemented by effects, but here, as in most of the album, the effects benefit the music without calling undue attention to them. In that way they are organic and contribute to overall music.

Source: OffBeat

Alice Coltrane - Kirtan Turiya Sings

Kirtan Turiya Sings (1981)

by Alice Coltrane

Re-released 16 July 2021

Jowcol

****-

After releasing the wondrous Transfiguration in 1978, documenting a live concert with drummer Roy Haynes and bassist Reggie Workman, Alice Coltrane retreated from public life to serve as swamini in an ashram she founded in Agoura Hills, California. Though she resurfaced briefly at John Coltrane tribute concerts during the 1990s and released a final album, Translinear Light, in 2004, it was widely thought she had abandoned music for over two decades. However, during that time, she was playing alone and with others for Sunday "kirtans" (services), and she occasionally recorded devotional chants for her followers. In 2017, Luaka Bop released The Ecstatic Music of Alice Coltrane Turiyasangitananda; its music was compiled from four privately pressed (and professionally recorded) cassettes. The first of these was 1982's Turiya Sings, and marked the first recording of her singing voice, accompanied by organ, strings, synths, and in places, minimal sound effects. Commercially unavailable, it has been streaming on YouTube for years. Kirtan: Turiya Sings, issued by Impulse!, presents that album in a startling new context. This rare mix -- unheard even by Ravi Coltrane until he was producing Translinear Light -- presents Alice's prayerful rendition of nine traditional Hindu chants called "bhajans," offered with only her Wurlitzer organ in support.
From the opening moments of "Jagadishwar," Coltrane's dignified worship songs seemingly transcend time. They abundantly reflect an earlier period in her own life when she was still in Detroit playing organ in church for gospel choirs and congregations during the early 1950s. That said, they also wed the millennia-old Hindu prayers to the 20th century African American Church and the blues Rev. Thomas A. Dorsey used in reframing gospel music. A striking example here is "Krishna Krishna"; it drones along a skeletal chord progression as Coltrane's instrumental pulse underscores her subdued, vulnerable, almost unbearably tender chant and suggests a country blues. "Rama Katha" adds depth to that impression while being presented in a slightly more dramatic fashion with a taut delivery. Coltrane's jazz training can't resist slipping in unusual chord voicings amid the Wurlitzer's droning growl -- check out "Hara Siva," where she pairs fleeting elliptical ghost traces of chords under an open-throated, deep blue groan that simultaneously reflects yearning and transcendence. Closer "Prandhana" offers seemingly syncopated organ play as chords melt together, transforming them into new utterances. The Wurlitzer hums, rife with airy pedal action as her voice wavers around the resultant overtones. Kirtan: Turiya Sings is more subdued than the original (perhaps they should have been packaged together), but because of the power in Coltrane's singing, it is also deeper emotionally. Rather than a recording designed to project music for a congregation to respond to collectively, it resonates with the personal primacy of private devotional prayer. In sum, it doesn't displace or replace the original, but adds immeasurably to its meaning and dimension.

Source: AllMusic

Arushi Jain - Under The Lilac Sky

Under The Lilac Sky

by Arushi Jain

Released  9 July 2021

Leaving Records

****-

Under the Lilac Sky is the debut LP by Arushi Jain, an India-born, US-residing composer, modular synthesist, vocalist, technologist, and engineer. At six songs spanning 48 minutes of ambient synth ragas intended to be heard during the sunset hours, Under the Lilac Sky invites the listener to transport themselves through intentional listening. Jain states, “You know that moment when the sun is bidding farewell to the sky, and the colors turn into beautiful hues of purple and pink and everything in between? That is the moment that this album will shine the most. The deeper you listen, the more shades you’ll see.”

Jain’s work focuses on reinterpreting traditional Indian classical music through the lens of electronic instrumentation. She re-contextualizes ancient sounds in a modern framework, carrying the torch of electronic luminaries such as Suzanne Ciani and Terry Riley while pursuing personal explorations of her musical heritage and upbringing. Under the Lilac Sky is a cinematic statement of intent, an album that reverently nods to Jain’s musical history while presenting a bold sonic point of view. Jain states, “This album is the coming together of two distinct cultures of Hindustani classical and modular synthesizers representing the two parts of me that evolved into one whole in between my time in India and California”

Voice is emphasized as an essential element of the album, not just for the lyrics or the melodies but also as a source of texture. It is most recognizable when Jain sings aalaaps or sargam of the different ragas the songs are composed in, however her voice is deeply embedded in other, sometimes quieter layers of the record. Jain, who spent her childhood studying indian classical as a vocalist says, “At any given point, there is at least one layer in the record that carries my voice. The human voice is powerful and unique to every individual. My voice is unique to me, so I decided it should be present at all times even if it’s unrecognizable.”

Another core theme of Under the Lilac Sky is the time of day, and the role it plays in influencing how one interacts with the music. “Intrinsic to Indian classical music is the concept of Time and Seasonality. For each raga, there is a specific time of the day when it is meant to be heard for it to shine in it’s authenticity. It harkens to the question of when the environment around you is most in tune with your own sound and breath, and how it supports you in realizing your vision of the moment. This album is meant to be an ode to those timely rituals, and is best heard while you take a moment to do what you love.”

Jain’s exploratory musical ethos finds a like-minded home within Leaving Records’ “All Genre” philosophy. Jain is acutely aware of her role as a composer and modular synthesist reinterpreting a historical art form. “For Indian classical music, this is atypical. The music I compose is inspired by a centuries old tradition, yet aestheticized in a novel way, using the tools and technical innovations of analog synth movements. My art is crafted using machines that I’ve slowly fallen in love with and made my own.” 

She notes -"This is a really sensitive time for my people, and since my music is a celebration of Indian culture I want to use this opportunity to create some empathy for our loss. I urge the international music community to use this release to educate, spread awareness, and explicitly encourage donations to the following organizations from their peers. linktr.ee/arushi_india_relief.

Source: Bandcamp

Anandi Bhattacharya - Joys Abound

Joys Abound

by Anandi Bhattacharya

Released 27 July 2021

World Music Network (UK)

****-

Joys abound introduces the golden voice of Anandi Bhattacharya on a contemporary exploration of her musical roots. With sublime accompaniment by her father Debashish and other leading instrumentalists, Anandi’s outward-looking approach imbues Joys Abound with real musical wisdom which belies her years.

In the words of Anandi Bhattacharya, her debut international album release Joys Abound ‘is about knowing happiness without restraints’. From the opening joyous invocation to Lord Ganesh to the celebration of colours of the various cultures of the world, the album carries a celebratory and positive message throughout, as Anandi’s remarkable voice explores her traditional roots within a modern setting.

Being the daughter of the great Hindustani slide guitarist Pandit Debashish Bhattacharya, Anandi has been surrounded by music since birth and recalls how having ‘breathed in music from every room in the house was a blessing’. Although steeped in the Indian classical tradition from an early age, Anandi was never encouraged to be a purest by her father and Guru and explains how ‘they never condemned a genre to elucidate the exquisiteness of another’. This philosophy paved the way for Anandi’s deepest regard for fusion, and consequently Joys Abound shows a truly modern approach to tradition deeply influenced by other musical genres. As Anandi puts it ‘the album is light-hearted but carries the true essence of ragas and their moods and evokes a sense of familiarity amidst uncharted waters’. Along with folk songs of Rajasthan and Bengal and a beautiful piece by Nobel laureate poet Rabindranath Tagore, the album includes original compositions by her father Debashish Bhattacharya and Carola Ortiz and features dextrous and sympathetic accompaniment by Anandi’s uncle Subhasis, one of the world’s foremost tabla players.

Along with the towering influence of her father and other legend ary Indian musicians such as Ali Akbar Khan, Ravi Shankar and Lata Mangeshkar, Anandi sites influences as diverse as Thom Yorke, Ella Fitzgerald and Joni Mitchell. This outward looking approach coupled with the years of dedication and nurturing of her voice, when she also trained under the renowned Indian female singer Vidushi Shubhra Guha, allows Anandi to explore new musical directions with grounded musical excellence. Listening to Joys Abound one gets a true sense of how her incredible tone and timbre allows her to convey the full gamut of emotions and expressions as it conjures up the flavours of a Raj asthani monsoon in ‘A Pluviophile’s Dance’ and beautifully captures childhood nostalgia in ‘Maya’s Dream’.

For the musical philosophy at the very heart of the album, Anandi is very much indebted to the incredible experience of performing with her father and uncle on the global stage and th e exposure this has given her to so many different countries and their music, summed up beautifully by Anandi herself ‘I do not believe that I was meant to imbibe my own culture alone, I think for me, finding my sound with all that I love to hear an d all that churns within me is my path forward’. This outwardlooking approach imbues Joys Abound with real musical wisdom which belies her years.

Source: Birdland Records

Vazesh - The Sacred Key

The Sacred Key

by Vazesh (Hamad Sedeghi, Jeremy Rose, Lloyd Swanton)

Re-released 25 July 2021

Earshift

*****

Vazesh perform long-form improvisations inspired by the Persian Radif, and renowned Iranian tar player Hamed Sadeghi's (Eishan Ensemble) music.

Featuring Sadeghi alongside Earshift Music founder saxophonist-bass clarinettist Jeremy Rose (Earshift Orchestra, The Vampires) and bassist Lloyd Swanton (The Necks, The catholics) this is an exciting collaboration driven by an exploration of musical discovery. In 2020 Vazesh were invited to reopen the Sydney Opera House's music program with two sold-out shows. This has been beautifully captured and presented on their debut album The Sacred Key.

“Our performances are inspired simultaneously by the vibe, audience, venue, and elements around it,” explains Hamed. “This live album captures the spontaneous composition of the group - something that is often difficult to replicate in a studio setting. The tar is a melodically rich instrument, most often used to lead ensembles and orchestras in Iranian classical music, and as I do in my group, Eishan Ensemble. However, in Vazesh, we organically take turns at providing melodic and accompaniment roles. Whatever the music calls for in a particular moment, whether it’s providing a melody, a rhythmic part or a layer of texture, the tar is able to achieve that,” says Hamed.

Lloyd adds "It’s been a gratifying challenge to meld Jeremy’s and my principles of spontaneous improvisation with Hamed’s deep immersion in the Persian Radif. There are some obvious areas of overlap, not the least being the modal jazz of the 1960s. And Hamed and Jeremy are both - despite their vastly different musical backgrounds - such open-minded musicians. So when we all tune in to the feeling of commonality as we play, and let that be our navigational star, magic always occurs."

“Engaging traditional musical cultures poses potential challenges of authenticity and ethical boundaries,” explains Rose. “In Vazesh, we attempt to reduce music to the bare fundamentals, reconstructing it from the ground up, using vestiges of melody, rhythm and pitch from our various backgrounds, as a pathway to uninhibited musical exploration. The music weaves in and out of passages, moving from meditative soundscapes to immersive minimalist inspired riffs. There pertain remnants from each individuals' musical identity - echoes of Sadeghi’s Eishan Ensemble, Swanton’s work with the Necks, and my experiences with The Vampires and in more avant garde jazz contexts. Improvisation liberates us from the shackles of tradition, allowing us to create something fresh and exciting each performance.”

Vazesh formed in 2018 and have performed around Sydney, the Blue Mountains and Wollongong. They were invited to showcase as part of the Sounds Australia delegation at Jazzahead 2021.

Saxophonist-composer Jeremy Rose leads a multi-dimensional career spanning a dozen
releases of original music with collaborative and solo projects across the world including The Earshift Orchestra Jeremy Rose Quartet and The Vampires. He has received recognition through nominations for the ARIA Awards Australian Music Prize short-listing
two Jazz Bell Awards the APRA Professional Development Award for Jazz a four-time finalist for the AMC Art Music Award for Excellence in Jazz and runner up at the National Jazz Awards saxophone competition.

Hamed Sadeghi is a renowned Persian tar player and composer. He has performed at festivals venues and concert halls around the world as solo and collaborative musical and theatrical projects. He has been nominated at the Sydney Theatre Awards for the best mainstage score and AMC Art Music Award for best Chamber Music. His band Eishan Ensemble has been touring regularly nationally and internationally since 2016.

Lloyd Swanton is co-founder of one of the great cult bands of Australia, the piano trio The Necks. They have released 20 albums since 1986 and regularly perform throughout the world. They were the first band to receive the Richard Gill Award for Distinguished Services to Australian Music at the 2019 Art Music Awards. Swanton appears on over one hundred albums including several ARIA Award winners, and has produced four ARIA Award winners by Bernie McGann. 

Source: Bandcamp

Soundwork Collective - Peradam

Peradam

by Soundwork Collective

(feat. Patti Smith)

Re-released 4 September 2020

Bella Union

****-

Peradam is the fourth release from Soundwalk Collective with Patti Smith. In 2019, this collaboration explored the works of poets Antonin Artaud on The Peyote Dance,  and Arthur Rimbaud on Mummer Love. Peradam dives into the writings of René Daumal in Mount Analogue: A Novel Of Symbolically Authentic Non-Euclidean Adventures In Mountain Climbing. Not a subject for an average album, but then again, Soundwalk Collective and Patti Smith are anything but average. They take the listener into new, unexplored audio worlds. In the novel, Daumal introduced the concept of the “peradam”, which is an object that is revealed only when someone knows they are seeking it.

Animal Collective thrives on its use of field recordings, and have produced some incredible work by incorporating sounds they have collected in their journeys. For Peradam, Stephan Crasneanscki and Simone Merli travelled to Nanda Devi,  Rishikesh, Varanasi, and Upper Mustang in and around the Himalayas, in hopes of capturing the sounds Daumal was writing about in his book. This allowed Smith to record her vocals, which are part spoken word, part singing, and part chanting, over the sounds. Everything comes together to form a rhythmic and melodic backing, and Patti Smith sounds as good as ever. She embraces the idea of the novel and the concept of the Brooklyn-based duo.

Others come in to help with the project.  Charlotte Gainsbourg contributes to “The Four Cardinal Times”, Dhan Singh Rana, a Sherpa in his 70s, sings acapella in his native language on the opening track “Nanda Devi”, Anoushka Shankar performs sitar on “Knowledge Of The Self”, and Tenzin Choegyal added vocals, Tibetan drums, singing bowls, dranyen, and damru to the title track as well as “Spiritual Death” and “The Rat”. These artists have a connection to Daumal or his journeys into the world or self. It is interesting to note that Daumal has worked with Shankar’s family.

Peradam is not an album for everybody, but it could be. Enter into this world with an open mind. One needs to sit, listen, and focus only on what one is hearing. It is an escape into a spiritual world, full of well-orchestrated sounds and words. It is, quite simply, a work of art and is one of the most important albums released this year.

Source: Spill Magazine

Mariza - Mariza Canta Amalia

Mariza Canta Amalia

by Mariza

Released  20 November 2020

Taberna da Musica

****-

In her salad days as the young pretender, Mariza was as embarrassed as she was flattered by the comparison with the incomparable Amália Rodrigues, who reigned as the iconic queen of Portuguese fado for 60 years until her death in 1999. She would sing an occasional song from Rodrigues’ classic repertoire, such as ‘Ó Gente Da Minha Terra’, one of the highlights of her 2002 debut album, Fado Em Mim, but feared that recording an entire album of Amália’s songs would seem arrogant and hubristic. Indeed, when this reviewer put the idea to Mariza many years ago, she recoiled in horror, before eventually conceding that perhaps it was something she might undertake in decades to come, once she had the experience to back it up.

Now in her mid-40s the moment has come and, needless to say, the ten covers of songs once sung by Amália on this regal tribute are utterly glorious. Backed by gorgeous orchestral arrangements by Brazil’s Jaques Morelenbaum, who makes a welcome return after producing Mariza’s 2005 album Transparente, she invests these classic fados with a rich and characterful wisdom that is somehow reverential and innovative at the same time. As for her voice, one seems to write the same thing with every successive album: it just gets better with age. The timbre is a little deeper than in her youth, although she can still hit those spectacular high Cs, and she’s added layers of nuance and emotional expression that means she can now stand as Rodrigues’ proud and deserved successor without embarrassment.

Source: Songlines (UK)

Adib and Medhi Rostami -  Melodic Circles, Urban Classical Music from Iran

Melodic Circles, Urban Classical Music from Iran

by Adib and Medhi Rostami

Released 27 July 2018

ARC

****-

Given the myriad styles and regional variations, it's surprising that Iran's music is not more widely appreciated. Cousins Mehdi and Adib Rostami call their music "urban classical", indicating it mightn't be easy to pigeonhole, with the first three tracks based on Turkic traditions of southern Iran and the remaining four on the intrinsically Persian sounds of Isfahan. While entirely authentic and traditional in its structures, this is startling music with unexpected twists. The sheer variety of sounds and textures that Mehdi creates with the tiny four-stringed setar is astonishing. On Lonely the instrument sounds almost electronic, while on Delight it convulses in joyous dissonance. The set reaches its apogee on the heady Mystic Dance, in which percussionist Adib truly shines. With potent influences of Sufi meditation music, this is an album that rewards focused, uninterrupted listening: submitting to its mood changes, from melancholic serenity to heart-stopping frenzy, and allowing it to intoxicate and overwhelm. The recording quality is rich and clear, but not sterile, with every vibration and finger movement left in the mix, adding to the intimacy of the experience. This is music that has transformative potential.

Source: Sydney Morning Herald

Jeremy Dutcher - Wolastoqiyaik Lintuwakanawa

Wolastoqiyaik Lintuwakanawa

by Jeremy Dutcher

Re-released 6 April 2018

Jeremy Dutcher

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Toronto-based Jeremy Dutcher, a member of the Tobique First Nation reserve in New Brunswick, is a vocalist and composer whose background includes studies as an operatic tenor, training as an ethnomusicologist, and an apprenticeship with Maggie Paul, a Passamaquoddy elder and song carrier. His stunning debut album, Wolastoqiyik Lintuwakonawa, is a breathtaking exploration of water-themed songs created by his people, the Wolastoqiyik—the People of the Beautiful River—which were originally recorded on 1907 wax cylinders and had languished, forgotten, and collecting dust in a museum collection. Paul recommended that Dutcher find the recordings, and he first began using them to learn the songs and practice his Wolastoq, a severely endangered language on the verge of extinction.

In the course of that process, Dutcher came to create lush compositions which are part pop, part opera, and part electronic sampling of his own elders’ recorded indigenous chants, voices, drums, and even elder Maggie Paul’s voice—all anchored in place by the composer’s soaring, velvety voice. The album has been released in the U.S. and Canada to great acclaim, garnering prestigious prizes such as Canada’s Polaris and Juno. (We present this review on the occasion of its U.K. release.)

Every detail on the album is carefully considered. The visuals of the front and back covers riff on an iconic 1916 photograph of a white female ethnographer collecting songs from Blackfoot chief Ninna-Stako. On the front cover of Wolastoqiyik Lintuwakonawa, Dutcher is seated in the position of the chief, being recorded, but the foreign ethnographer is absent. On the back, Dutcher replaces that researcher. And both images of Dutcher, very importantly, are set against the backdrop of Cree visual and performance artist Kent Monkman’s painting, titled “Teaching The Lost.” (In the painting, Monkman, as his alter ego Miss Chief Eagle Testickle, is inserted into a majestic “classic” Canadian landscape normally absent of indigenous peoples—lecturing in pink high heels.) As Dutcher puts it, every detail of the album, including its specific visuals, is important to creating space for himself and others as queer and indigenous artists.

Each song on Wolastoqiyik Lintuwakonawa is