top of page
June 2021 Highlights

June 2021 Highlights

Watch Now

Favourites|June2021

Haiatus Koyote - Mood Valiant

Mood Valiant

by Haiatus Kaiyote

Released 14 May 2021

Brainfeeder

*****

Eschewing Melbourne's pandemic lockdowns and having overcome breast cancer (the disease that took her mother a a young woman), Haiatus Koyote's lead singer Nai Palm (Naiomi Saalfield) took it apon herself to contact Brazillian Legend Arthur Verocai, whose 1972 eponymous debut album had been doing the rounds of the cognoscenti in Melb. and had impressed the band.He agreed to work with them and with no clear plan in mind, other than to work with him, she convinced the band to fly to Rio to record. The result is further musical progression forthe band, adding unique colour and depth to their music.

Whereas previous albums were so brimful of ideas that at times it was as if each band member had started in a different place in each song. For the first time, Mood Valiant presents a set that is still complex but begins to find comfort in letting a little cohesion break out! 

The album opens with a 35 scond orchestral prelude and overdubs, suitable for an Avalanches album and a short track "Sip Into Something Soft" with Nai Plam's woozy vocal soon dominating. "Chivilry Is Not Dead" follows, a tongue in cheek send up of sexy songs everywhere with over-the-top erotic descriptions applied to plants and insects: "If I were a hummingbird/Your wings would beat like thunder/Orbit in a flight display/As if to gently say/Kiss the flowers ultraviolet/We could get lost or we could find it alive with'.

Many of the best moments are provided courtesy of Verocai, who to the surprise of the band had invided some cracking Brazilian string and brass musicians to the studio. According to Mai Palm, the Brass Section had a big party as theyrecorded and the strings brought the studio to tears. Listening to the recordings, its's easiy to understand.

Nai Palm delivers the vocals with sultry grace, arcing attitude and good humor.

The Brazilian influences are strong in the body of the album with Arthur Verocai's intrumental contributions in evidence through "And We Go Gentle", "Get Sun" and the instrumental interlude "Hush Rattle".

Nai Plam's passion and range are displayed spectacularly during "All The Words We Don't Say" and "Rose Water", cutting through the complex rhytms od drums and guitars.

Propelled by funky guitar and kick drum, Red Room is sultry, soulful and evocative highlight. "I got a red room/It is the red hour when the sun sets in my bedroom/It feels like I'm inside a flower/Feels like I'm inside my eyelids/And I don't wnna be anywhere but here").

"Sparkle Tape Break Up" is denser and less melodic that most other tracks on the album, and falls flat in this conxt. It is possible a more suitable song for live performance.

"Stone of Lavender", the penultimate track, once again marries Nai Palm's emotional vocals and Verocai's masterful orchestration asnshe sings "Take me far away from myself
Rest, don't rest like everyone else/I don't wanna be small, I wanna be full of life/We can weave all things together and be alright, ooh/Please believe me, please believe me when I say/I know that I know we could get over, only if we wanna"

The album closes with the playful "Blood and Marrow" which is unfortunatly spoiled by a high pitched "Yip!" that repeats intermittently during the song.

All in all, Mood Valiant is a bit of a flawed masterpiece by a renowned live band that remarkably may only be beginning to find it's place as a recording artist. 

SAULT - NINE

NINE

by SAULT

Released 25 June 2021

Forever Living Originals

*****

The semi-anonymous collective SAULT took the world by storm over the past two years with a string of albums that were perfectly attuned to tihe times, musically and politically. 

(For those who were away, SAULT released "Five" and "Seven" in 2019 and Untitled (Black Is)" and "Untitled (Rise)" in 2020)

The early albums were remarkable for their fresh soulful sound, production and creativity."Untitled (Black Is)" released on Juneteenth, perfectly capured the rage of the Black Lives Matter movement especially following the spate of police brutality, including the public murder of George Floyd, in America."Nine"s predecessor,

"Untitled (Rise)" maintained the rage, but was more dance-oriented and celabratory of black pride.

"Nine"'s lyrical content is often lighthearted and filled with child-like chanting, and more overtly British, with "London Gangs" setting the tone as track two, "Mike's Story and the humorous "You From London" taking a swipe at Americans' view of Brits. 

Buiut there's a raw, lmost threatening edge to songs like "Fear" (three and a half minute chanted repettition of "The realest pain/
Pain is/ the pain is real"and "Bitter Streets" - a sweetly-sung, but dark warning tha will resonatw with minorities worldwide (Bitter streets/These roads ain't for the weak/Bitter streets/Don't fall asleep") and "Alcohol"Oh-oh, alcohol (Alcohol)/ Look what I've done (Alcohol)/ Oh-oh, alcohol (Alcohol)/ Look what I've done (Alcohol)/ Battle of the pain when I take/ One step forwrd, two steps back/ Oh-oh, alcohol/ This time, you won/ Oh-oh, alcohol/ Only supposed to be once"​."Nine"'s finale "Light In Your Hands" is perhaps SAULT's most surprising song of the entire repertoire - certainly their most inspirational and optimistic.

The song begins with Cleo Sol's soaring vocal, singing "Without love it's hard for you to give it a try/ So many promises that turn into lies/ Don't wanna start again and give someone a chance/ Can't you see the light's in your hands?/ Without love it's hard for you to give it a try/ So many promises that turn into lies/Don't wanna start again and give someone a chance/Can't you see the light's in your hands?" which gives way to a male voiced monologue relating a you man's personal ordeal: "When you think about it, I never really had a childhood/ I was constantly on the edge, constantly on edge/ Throughout my whole childhood / But, we just, we grew accustomed to it/ To the point now we're adults and we got thick skin/ You shouldn't have to have skin as sick as ours, you shouldn't/ We shouldn't have had to grow up with that".

As SAULT's fifth five-star in just two years"Nine" is nothing short of astonishing, placing the group among the greats of popular music, perhaps unrivalled since Stevie Wonder's classic run of albums for Motown from "Music of My Mind" (March 1972) and "Talking Book" (October 1972) through "Innervisions" (1973) to "Fulfillingness First Finale" (1974), "Talking Book" (1975) and "Songs In The Key Of Life"(1976).

‘Nine’ will only be available to stream and purchase for 99 days, until Saturday, 2 October 2021.

DJ Format - Devil's Workshop

Devil's Workshop

by DJ Format

Released 30 April 2021

Project Blue Book

*****

"Devil's Workshop' came to my attention when I heard "Brainstorm" a song that places a transatlantic-accented male (think Cary Grant) introduction ahead of a rock-god's vocal dirge "I'm so tired and worn out/ I feel like quitting the game and gettin' out ...".  It sounds like a Doors song from another dimension, an arresting introduction to a thoroughly enjoyable set that finds a comfortable balance between nostalgic indulgence and contemporary innovation. Unlike DJ Format's previous work, which has been frequently in conjunction with long time collaborator Abdominal, typically as an MC spitting rap monologues over driving beats, he has created an entire universe of mood and sound here that seems as if it was recorded on analogue tape in a seedy Detroit basement in 1967., but of course is the product of the best of modern studio techniques

At heart, this is a soulful jazzy album, in which spoken word is treated as another instrument amid rich orchestral arrangements. There's no particular narrative or message to deliver, but ther's a definate groove that permeates the entire project.

The closest comparisons that spring to mind are in the mix of humor and creative rock parody of the early 70's by the likes of Frank Zappa and Flo and Eddy.

Throughout, the music is intense and psychedelic but generally remains mellow as tracks flow seamlessly one to the next. It's all a bit over the top in the old-school manner of prog-rock which results in it seeming somehow familiar, an amalgamation of the music of a past era brought up to date with the sensibilities of a creative, contemporary DJ and the techniques of the modern studio.

Australian Art Orchestra, Reuben Lewis, Tariro Mavondo, Peter Knight - Closed Beginnings

Closed Beginnings

by Australian Art Orchestra, Reuben Lewis, Tariro Mavondo, Peter Knight

Released 25 June 2021

Australian Art Orchestra

****-

As the Guthrie, Dylan, Wainwright, Lennon, Shankar/Jones, Marsalis, Marley, Copeland, Tweedy, Kelly, Finn and other families have demonstrated, the apple doesn't fall far from the family tree when it comes to music. So it is perhaps no surprise that Femi and Made Kuti carry the torch of Afrobeat passed down by their departed father Femi.

As the Guardian's review notes: "The Kuti dynasty is one that perpetuates an artful blend of Ghanaian highlife melody with undulating funk rhythm, celebratory soul vamps and a fierce socio-political message, ever since Fela’s breakout in the 1970s.
It is a legacy that has wound its way into everything from hip-hop samples on Mos Def and Missy Elliot records to the current London jazz resurgence exemplified by Nubya Garcia and Moses Boyd. Fela’s own children have been some of his most rigorous acolytes: on this double album, aptly titled Legacy+, Fela’s eldest son Femi partners with his own son Made to create both an anthology of the music’s essence and a gesture to its future.
Femi’s opening half, titled Stop the Hate, convincingly channels Fela’s role as a masterful bandleader. It pairs the jittering, high register guitar line of the classic Zombie with a driving rhythm on Na Bigmanism Spoil Government, and Pà Pá Pà, Stop the Hate and Set Your Minds and Souls Free centre Femi’s yearning falsetto on luscious, fanfare horn arrangements that recall the celebration of a Duke Ellington section.

Taken on its own, Stop the Hate is a pleasing if somewhat unremarkable continuation of the Afrobeat canon, yet it serves to lay the foundations for Made’s second half, For(e)ward. Where Femi’s voice is endearingly wavering, the younger Kuti is far more forceful, using his baritone to speak-sing over the pared down rhythms of tracks Blood, Different Streets and Free Your Mind.

It’s Made who distils the political import of Afrobeat – rallying against racism, corruption and division – over off-kilter arrangements that take in the rhythmic power of hip-hop and subdue the maximalism

Closed Beginnings is the debut collaborative release of Tariro Mavondo, Reuben Lewis and Peter Knight; three prolific artists at the forefront of Australian contemporary art music, bound together by a deep-rooted connectedness in response to the zeitgeist.

Painstakingly developed over a three-year period, Closed Beginnings is an immersive and evocative work in four movements that lands like a gut punch. An inspired sonic journey that utilises the power of the spoken word to take the listener deep into themes of revolution, isolation, unshackling from stagnant modes and paying heed to the exigencies of the moment.

Born in Zimbabwe and raised in Narrm/Melbourne, Tariro channels the outdatedness of dogma during a time when the schisms of society are becoming clearer and more prevalent. Her words are silhouetted and sympathetically resonated further by the evocative sound-worlds created by Reuben, Peter and string trio. The result invites the listener to share in a slow blossoming of ideas and connectedness across three deeply rooted musical relationships, tapping into the subconscious, propelled by the uniqueness of the human voice.

“My interest is to find the uniqueness of expression," says Tariro, "to find the nuance, whilst bringing in the underbelly of deep emotions and shining a spotlight into our deepest psyches.”

This is exemplified in the feature track of the album, ‘We Too, Roar’, which arose in direct response to the COVID-19 pandemic and severe lockdowns experienced in Melbourne through 2020. "Tariro reflects viscerally upon those moments," says Reuben, "giving voice to the counterintuitive sensation of experiencing isolation and fear, whilst at the same time feeling cradled and supported within our own homes. It's a poetic articulation of the juxtaposing abyss and claustrophobia offered by the unknown.”

“Closed Beginnings will take the listener deep into the belly of the beast.” Says AAO Artistic Director, Peter Knight. “It is our intention that the sound worlds we create will hold a safe space for the audience to be drawn close to the material that Tariro is articulating and offering within her poetry.” 
credits
released June 25, 2021

Poetry by Tariro Mavondo
Music by Reuben Lewis and Peter Knight
String arrangements composed by Reuben Lewis

Featuring
Tariro Mavondo – spoken word
Reuben Lewis – trumpet/pedals/percussion/synthesisers/electronics
Peter Knight – trumpet/electronics/revox B77 tape machine

Also Featured on ‘We Too, Roar’ & 'Sweet Sticky Revolution'
Lizzy Welsh – violin
Erkki Veltheim – viola
Zoë Barry - cello
 

of his grandfather Fela’s music in service of its message. Here we witness a modern manifestation of the Kutis’ music, one that recognises its heritage and tackles old problems with a renewed vigour".

Source: Bandcamp

Yasmin Williams - Urban Driftwood

Urban Driftwood

by Yasmin Williams

Released 29 January 2021

Spinster

*****

Urban Driftwood is and exceptionally well executed album of folk string playing by Yasmin Williams from Woodbridge, northern Virginia who specoialises in acoustic fingerstyle/ lap tapping guitarist who describes her work as combining modern, percussive fingerstyle techniques with a laid back compositional style.

 Williams, now 24, began playing electric guitar in 8th grade, after she beat the video game Guitar Hero 2 on expert level. Initially inspired by Jimi Hendrix and other shredders she was familiar with through the game, she quickly moved on to acoustic guitar, finding that it allowed her to combine fingerstyle techniques with the lap-tapping she had developed through Guitar Hero, as well as perform as a solo artist. By 10th grade, she had released an EP of songs of her own composition.

Deriving no lineage from “American primitive” and rejecting the problematic connotations of the term, Williams’ influences include the smooth jazz and R&B she listened to growing up, Hendrix and Nirvana, go-go and hip-hop. Her love for the band Earth, Wind and Fire prompted her to incorporate the kalimba into her songwriting, and more recently, she’s drawn inspiration from other Black women guitarists such as Elizabeth Cotten, Sister Rosetta Tharpe, and Aligia Mae Hinton.

On Urban Driftwood, Williams references the music of West African griots through the inclusion of kora (which she recently learned) and by featuring the hand drumming of 150th generation djeli of the Kouyate family, Amadou Kouyate, on the title track.

Yasmin Williams is virtuosic in her mastery of the guitar and in the techniques of her own invention, but her playing never sacrifices lyricism, melody, and rhythm for pure demonstration of skill. As she said in an interview on New Sounds’ Soundcheck podcast, “The songwriting process drives the techniques. I don’t use techniques that aren’t needed.” Storytelling through sound is important to her too.

As detailed in the liner notes, the songs on Urban Driftwood were completed during the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdown, in the midst of a national uprising of Black Lives Matter protests in response to the killing of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor. The sequencing on the record intends to illustrate the unfolding of these events, beginning with album opener “Sunshowers,” with its rich texture of hammer-ons on pull-offs expressing innocence and collective excitement for a new year and decade, swiftly moving to the more contemplative speculation of “I Wonder” and the self-reflective “Juvenescence,” with its Bridget St. John-reminiscent opening and descending and ascending arpeggios throughout. On “Adrift,” the first track on Side B, Yasmin’s guitar engages in a call-and-response fugue with cello, played by Taryn Wood, emulating the political unrest, chaos, and floundering of the country as it reckoned with the persistence of white supremacy and vast inequality.

The narrative plot of Urban Driftwood culminates in the repetitive, meditative sounds of guitar, kora, kalimba, and hand drums on the penultimate title track, creating a sonic landscape that communicates the feeling of movement and evokes images of the natural beauty that persists within urban spaces. As she wrote the song, Williams was reflecting on her personal role in the context of the current societal moment, considering her position as Black female guitarist within a white male dominated field. Yasmin says, “There are not many Black guitarists within this genre and particularly with all of the political and social discord that was/is happening in the United States in 2020, I felt it was extremely important to include a song on the album that was inspired by my heritage and paid homage to who I am, the household I grew up in, the music I listened to as a child. ‘Urban Driftwood’ is more like the music I grew up listening to than any other song I’ve released so far.” The record concludes with the emotional, “After the Storm,” questioning the path ahead while embracing a sense of peace through its interwoven guitar parts. The track is a fitting denouement for this album, that while it illustrates current struggle, can’t help but open-heartedly offer a timeless solace.

Source: Bandcamp

Monique diMattina - Tides

Tides

by Monique diMattina

Released 7 May 2021

Monique diMattina

****-

Monique diMattina is an Australian musician whoo, as pianist/composer has released three solo piano albums and as singer/songwriter has released three albums in jazz/pop/folk styles.

She has been the recipient of many prizes including Fulbright, Queens Trust & Australia Council awards. Monique teaches at the Victorian College of the Arts (Melbourne Conservatorium) & at Monash University jazz departments and is a Yamaha artist.

Speaking to Australianjazz.net, Monique spoke of composing Tides during the period of confinement due to the pandemic: “I wanted it to be accessible for others to play from home – that was in my mind when I composed,” Monique says. “Lots of people picked up their instruments that had been sitting in their homes for years and musical instrument sales went through the roof apparently. I was thinking about that and connecting with audiences in a different ways, seen that there were no gigs. All songs have to do with Tides and emotions rolling in and out and finding our balance and equilibrium in the face of all the waves that keep crashing on our shores".

Wlll Stratton - The Challenging Wilderness

The Changing Wilderness

by Will Stratton

Released 7 May 2021

Bella Union

****-

Will Stratton's seventh full album is a delight. Statton is a New York based  singer songwriter in the mould of Nick Drake and Sufjan Stevens (who guested on oboe on Stratton's 2007 debut, and remains a close associate). His guitar playing is sublime, influences including John ahey and Leo Kottke are apparent.

Reviewing the album for AllMusic, critic Marcy Donelson says: "Following 2017's Rosewood Almanac by four years, Will Stratton's seventh album, The Changing Wilderness, is unique thus far in his catalog for its intentionally outward-looking viewpoint. Still reliably pensive and intimate, it also continues to highlight the onetime composition major's roving harmonic progressions and ever-increasing adeptness at fingerstyle guitar. With arrangements detailed by occasional keys, woodwinds, electric guitar, and rhythm section, the album was engineered and mixed by Stratton in his home studio and features contributions from musicians including but not limited to drummer Matt Johnson (Jeff Buckley, Rufus Wainwright) and singers Cassandra Jenkins and Maia Friedman. Some of his more intricate guitar work here can be heard on songs like the off-balance "Fate's Ghost," the dreamy, meter-shifting "Tokens," and album standout "The Rain," a guitar-centric track that forecasts consequences. Elsewhere, the more personal "When I've Been Born (I'll Love You)" still puts love in the context of withering surroundings. Alternately philosophical, critical, and appreciative as the album progresses, The Changing Wilderness is smart and affecting throughout, with a timeless quality despite its topical inspirations".

Enji - Ursgal

Ursgal

by Enji

Released 25 June 2021

Squama

*****

On her second album Ursgal Mongolian singer Enji creates a unique blend of Jazz and Folk with the traditions of Mongolian song. Currently based in Munich, her lyrics tell personal stories about unbearable distances, the oddness of being on earth and the simple truths in life.
She’s accompanied by Paul Brändle on guitar and Munguntovch Tsolmonbayar on double bass.
Born in Ulaanbaatar, Enji grew up in a yurt to a working-class family. Having always been drawn to music, dance and literature, she initially wanted to become a music teacher with little ambitions to compose or be on stage. A program by the local Goethe Institute sparked her passion for Jazz and eventually led her to become a performing artist. Inspired by the music of Carmen McRae, Ella Fitzgerald and Nancy Wilson, Enji started writing songs of her own, cherishing this newfound means of expression. Ursgal is the first record featuring her original compositions.

Further details of Enji's path to prominence may be discovered in a Bandcamp Daily article.

Source: Bandcamp

Julian Lage - Squint

Squint

by Julian Lage

Released 11 June 2021

Blue Note

****-

Hailed as one of the most prodigious guitarists of his generation, Julian Lage has spent more than a decade searching through the myriad strains of American musical history via impeccable technique and a spirit of infinite possibility. Including his debut "Sounding Point" (2009) Lage has produced 11 albums as solo artist or band leader and and has appeared on numerous others as sideman - most frequently for Gary Burton and John Zorn but also with Terri Lyne Carrington, Yoko Ono, Nels Cline and Charles Lloyd.

This gorgeous 11-song set  of sensitevly-played electric guitar, drums and bass features 9 original songs, showcasing both Lage’s remarkable songcraft and adventurous sense of improvisation which takes flight in the company of his trusted trio, with bassist Jorge Roeder and drummer Dave King (The Bad Plus).

The album includes nine Lage originals, one jazz standard (Mandel/Mercer's slow-waltz, “Emily”) and one classic country song (Billy Hill’s “Call of the Canyon”) .

The album is an exercise in jazz-blues minimalism and although created during the pandemic induced restrictions over a two year period, including a year of social and political upheaval, it retains a positive and upbeat feel throughout. 

Opener "Etude" is a laid back, melodic blend of classical and blues guitar. As the title (meaning "a short musical composition, typically for one instrument, designed as an exercise to improve the technique or demonstrate the skill of the player") suggests, this is just an appetiser - a foretaste of what's to come.

"Boo's Bues" follows, a swinging blues exercise distinguished by its use of chromatics then the energetic "Squint" breaks out more enegeticly, showcasing the trio's dexterity in guitar, bass and drums which extends to "Santa Rosa", annode to Lage's California hometown, dedicated to and influenced by Wilco leader Jeff Tweedy.

Lage then slows the pace, handling his version of"Emily" with masterful sensitivity and this is subsequently matched by his treatment of his own compositions "Day and Age" and "Quiet Like A Fuse". 

"Going into this album," Lage recalls, "my first tactic was just to make positive, beautiful music - a beam of light from three cats who love each other. After the recording didn't happen, I started reflecting on the music's intent. It was clearer than ever that art and music are platforms to influence and heal and facilitate conversations. It became really important to me to capture a certain sense of emotional complexity to the music, a little fuzziness. This record sits comfortably in the unknown."

Deep into the set, "Short Form" is feels more abstract and complex, losing the blues rythms that drive most other tracks, but its placement only serves to engage. "Twilight Surfer" as the title might suggest, is more energetic and playful, its mood appropriately balanced on the edge of control.

This skillfully crafted masterclass concludes with the languid "Call Of The Canyon", a contrast to the preceding song's tensions and a companion piece to opener "Etude".

The Seven Ups - The Old World

The Old World

by The Seven Ups

Released 25 June 2021

The Seven Ups

****-

Blending influences from 1970s underground
Funk with Jazz, Psych and Fuzz Rock The Seven Ups are the original 7 piece party band out of the northern suburbs of Melbourne . Describing their music as Heavy Funk, expect unrestrained solos by
unkempt horns over an unpretentious rhythm section that's “as tight as they need to be, and as loose as you want them to be” ( DJ Miss Goldie, PBS fm)

It is surely not a coincidence that the Seven Ups music is so cinemasopic, it could easily be repurposed as a soundtrack for Quentin Tarrantino. Indeed, the band's name coincides with the 1973 American mystery action film produced and directed by Philip D'Antoni (and also Bullit & The French Connection) and starring Roy Schneider

The album has been described as an abstruse journey into the darker fringes of instrumental music, drifting from funk to spiritual jazz and through to psychedelic fuzz rock. 

From  the band's promotional material we gather that the album's material was inspired by the catastrophic year that was 2020. The band's recording sessions were rescheduled three times due to extended Melbourne lock downs, before finally being recorded in November 2020.

The album’s title "The Old World" is said to refer to life before the onset of the pandemic which they say "has shattered 21st century humanity’s sense of stability and invincibility. Arcing back to the simplicities and blissful ignorance that existed before the grim onset of empty supermarket shelves, deserted streets and a world locked down". 

Femi and Made Kuti - Legacy+

Lagacy +

by Femi amd Made Kuti

Released 5 February 2021

Partisan Records

****-

As the Guthrie, Dylan, Wainwright, Lennon, Shankar/Jones, Marsalis, Marley, Copeland, Tweedy, Kelly, Finn and other families have demonstrated, the apple doesn't fall far from the family tree when it comes to music. So it is perhaps no surprise that Femi and Made Kuti carry the torch of Afrobeat passed down by their departed father Femi.

As the Guardian's review notes: "The Kuti dynasty is one that perpetuates an artful blend of Ghanaian highlife melody with undulating funk rhythm, celebratory soul vamps and a fierce socio-political message, ever since Fela’s breakout in the 1970s.
It is a legacy that has wound its way into everything from hip-hop samples on Mos Def and Missy Elliot records to the current London jazz resurgence exemplified by Nubya Garcia and Moses Boyd. Fela’s own children have been some of his most rigorous acolytes: on this double album, aptly titled Legacy+, Fela’s eldest son Femi partners with his own son Made to create both an anthology of the music’s essence and a gesture to its future.
Femi’s opening half, titled Stop the Hate, convincingly channels Fela’s role as a masterful bandleader. It pairs the jittering, high register guitar line of the classic Zombie with a driving rhythm on Na Bigmanism Spoil Government, and Pà Pá Pà, Stop the Hate and Set Your Minds and Souls Free centre Femi’s yearning falsetto on luscious, fanfare horn arrangements that recall the celebration of a Duke Ellington section.

Taken on its own, Stop the Hate is a pleasing if somewhat unremarkable continuation of the Afrobeat canon, yet it serves to lay the foundations for Made’s second half, For(e)ward. Where Femi’s voice is endearingly wavering, the younger Kuti is far more forceful, using his baritone to speak-sing over the pared down rhythms of tracks Blood, Different Streets and Free Your Mind.

It’s Made who distils the political import of Afrobeat – rallying against racism, corruption and division – over off-kilter arrangements that take in the rhythmic power of hip-hop and subdue the maximalism of his grandfather Fela’s music in service of its message. Here we witness a modern manifestation of the Kutis’ music, one that recognises its heritage and tackles old problems with a renewed vigour".

Source: The Guardian

Omar Sosa - An East African Journey

Omar Sosa

by An African Journey

Released 5 March 2021

OTA Records

****-

In 2009, Cuban pianist Omar Sosa collaborated with eight East African musicians, making field recordings in seven countries during a tour of the continent with his Afreecanos Trio. More than a decade later, he went into a Paris studio with a drummer and multi-instrumentalist and added more texture and continuity to those tapes. An East African Journey has no business sounding so multifaceted yet coherent, so pacific and yet impassioned, so in tune with the delicate profundity of good-faith collaboration.

This is Sosa’s métier. He’s won a slew of Grammys, grants, and global awards turning his ongoing exploration of Afro-Cuban music’s roots into his own organic expression. For An East African Journey, his contributions—on piano, kalimba, and percussion, as well as overall pilot of the project—follow a course of discovery and affirmation.

Five of the 13 songs were originally recorded on the island of Madagascar. Three feature Rajery on vocals and valiha, a bamboo tube zither that he plays in a unique fashion due to the absence of fingers on his right hand. Two are with Monja Mahafay, who plays a suitcase-shaped, 24-string box zither on the driving “Eretseretse” (translated as “Inspiration”) and lokanga (three-string violin) on the hypnotic “Sabo,” a song meant to invoke nature spirits. Mahafay, who deserved wider renown, just passed away this February at age 51.

There’s a kindred connection between “Thuon Mok Loga” and “Kwa Nyogokuru Revisited.” The former is a gospel song praising recovery from illness, composed by Kenyan vocalist Olith Ratego, who doubles on an eight-string lyre. The latter recalls a family gathering around a fire in the mountains of Burundi; vocalist Steven Sogo plays a long musical bow with an attached gourd for resonance, known as an umuduri. Both songs are danceable delights.

Other countries represented include Ethiopia, Sudan, Zambia, and Mauritius, each with an indigenous song to sing and play. To listen to them and the rest of the material on An East African Journey is to risk having your cynicism exposed as naiveté. Not a bad prescription during a global pandemic.

Source: JazzTimes

John Hiatt with The Jerry Douglas Band - Leftover Feelings

Leftover Feelings

by John Hiatt with The Jerry Douglas Band

Released 21 May 2021

New West Records

*****

A long-standing favourite of SunNeverSetsOnMusic, John Hiatt has released a steady stream of albums, on average at the rate of one every couple of years, since his debut "Hanging Around The Observatory" in 1974.

"Leftover Feelings" on which he shares billing with The Jerry Douglas Band, is his first collaboration as such, but he's always assembled cracking backup musicians, so not much has changed as a result of the pairing.

Indeed, Hiatt has penned some great lyrics and is in great voice and togher with Douglas, has conjured some gems that will keep up good company for a couple of years more. Hiatt hails from Indianappolis, Indiana, but has made his home in Nashville, 300 miles further to the south.  He and shares a southern country/blues musical vobulary with the likes of John Prine, Jerry Jeff Walker, Rodney Crowell, Justin Townes Earl and B.B. King.

His most famous songs include "Have A Little Faith In Me", "Memphis In The Meantime" and "All The Lilacs In Ohio" which is covered again here.

"Leftover Feelings" is a classic set covering a wide range of subjects and moods, and a few surprises along the way. The shimmering 50's rocker "Long Black Electric Cadillac' sounds like a typical road movie until the lyrics reveal that its an ode to an electric car "heading out west just to see you baby only have to stop twice along the way… once to get my groceries and one time to charge up my engine”.

"Mississippi Phone Booth" is the tale of a desperado calling home having blown up his 84 Camaro "somewhere close to Jackson", far away from home.

The album's most heartfelt, poignant song is "Light Of The Burning Sun", the sad account of Hiatt's own brother's suicide at age twenty-one. It is delivered in a style comparable to Bruce Springsteen's "Nabraska" and is clearly a song that Hiatt has carried with him for many decades, whether in a notebook draft or in mind. 

But the humorous, rocking "Little Goodnight" follows, about a baby girl that can't sleep, reminding us that life goes on, regardless.

In "Buddy Boy" Hiatt gives sage advice "Come home and sleep in your own bed / Before she gets tired of waitin' for ya / And someone's sleepin' there instead" and in tells the Chuck Berry-styled tale of the "Keen Rambler" who "never did care for the buggy / Never could ride no horse / Never got goin' no motorcar / He liked the natural force"

Closing out this excellent set "Sweet Dream" is a song about treasuring things before they disappear, as they surely will. It sounds like another one of those John Hiatt songs that will, for years to come, be picked up and covered by rising and established artists alike.

Recorded in RCA's Studio 25B (home to over 250 Elvis Presley recording alone) "Leftover Feeloings" is another Joihn Hiat career high.

Crowded House - Dreamers Are Waiting

Crowded House

by Dreamers Are Waiting

Released 4 June 2021

Lester Records

***--

Formed in Melbourne and Los Angeles around 1995 by Split Enz members Neil Finn (vocalist, guitarist, primary songwriter) and Mark Hester (drums) and Nick Seymour (bass) (brother of Hunters & Collectors' lead singer Mark), Crowded House released their eponymous debut album in 1986, followed by a string of critically and commercially acclaimed albums and singles, especially in Australia and New Zealand, until disbanding in 1996.

Tragically, Hester took his own life, aged 45, in 2005, but the band reformed in 2006 with drummer Matt Sherrod and released two further albums (in 2007 and 2010), each of which reached number one on Australia's album chart.

The current line-up includes Finn's sons Elroy and Liam and the American keyboard player Mitchell Froom.
The band's charateristic, harmony-laden, strings & brass-supported, Beatlesque, soft-rock formula is evident from the very opening of "Dreamers Are Waiting" and the band remains faithfull to their familiar formula for the entire 42 minutes.

The songs are as always perfectly crafted, arguably even better produced than ever, and the album is likely to garner the band a further round of Gold and Platinum Albums and awards, as mums, dads and granparents take their offspring to the national and international tours that are plannned, when the pandemic allows.

It's very much a family affair, with Liam and Elroy each contributing or sharing writing credits, Neil's wife Sharon sharing vocals and many songs appearing to be written about the joys and and hardships of th Finns' long and successful marriage.

However, the edge and humor that Hester contributed to the group in it's prime (as if the a spirit of of Split Enz was always still present) cannot be replaced, even with the undoubted infusion of energy that the two boys bring.

So if Crowded House is your cup of tea, you may not mind that it's served with milk and honey. But for me, I would have preferred it been brewed longer and served black, unsweetened.

Joan Armatrading - Consequences

consequences

by Joan Armatrading

Released 25 June 2021

Giftwend Limited / BMG

*****

Three years since her last release the well-received "Not Far Away", Joan Armatrading returns with another excellent album - yet another fine installment in a career that spans almost five decades, from her 1972 debut "Whatever's For Us" and the eponymous 1976 breakout album, which seemed to be in everybody's record collection at that time.

For the following decade, Armatrading's albums were top sellers: "Joan Armatrading" (1976) was followed by "Show Some Emotion" (1977), "To The Limit" (1978), "Me Myself I" (1980), "Walk Under ladders" (1981) and "The Key" (1983) - all certified Gold and mostly charting top 10 in UK. Her top selling songs including "Love and Affection", "Me Myself I" and "Drop The Pilot" are universally known.

And although her new songs are built around those familar, powerful, deep vocals and the musical approaches taken here are not very different from those taken during her golden decade, she steers a canny path around the hazards that so often derail "heritage" artists: she avoids any semblence of nostalgia on one hand, and resists the temptation to hop upon current popular bandwagons.

Having never conformed to musical trends and always having written from the point of view of an outsider, this set demonstrates the timelessness of Armatradings music, as enjoyable and creative as ever.

KD Lang - makeover

makeover

by k.d. lang

Released 28 May 2021

Nonesuch Records

***--

makeover, in celebration of Pride Month, comprises classic dance remixes of some of lang’s best-loved songs. The album brings these remixes, made between 1992 and 2000, together for the first time, and includes “Sexuality,” “Miss Chatelaine,” “Theme from the Valley of the Dolls,” “Summerfling,” and the #1 dance chart hits “Lifted By Love” and “If I Were You.” 

makeover’s cover art features a previously unseen 1995 portrait of lang by David LaChapelle.

“I had the idea of putting together a dance remix compilation, as I mused about how we built community in those days before the internet, mobile devices, and dating apps. Those dance clubs were a key to a world, which was still called ‘underground’ in the ’90s.

I also surprised myself by finding that there was a cryptic, sort of secret zone in my career, that hadn’t been explored, overlooked even by me. Two of these tracks had even hit #1 on the dance charts!” says lang.

This album is something of a curiosity today, but the songs stand up and the record serves a purpose by providing an alternate opportunity to savour lang's mellifluous vocals once again.

Lucy Dacus - Home Video

Home Video

by Lucy Dacus

Released 25 June 2021

Matador Records

*****

Lucy Dacus' sophomore March 2018 record "Historian" was received with universal acclaim and featured as one of SunNeverSetsOnMusic's favourites. She came to further prominence in October the same year for her contribution to boygenius, a trio she formed with Phoebe Bridgers and Julien Baker.

Dacus returns this month with her third full length, another set of remarkable new songs that focus entirely on the relationships of youth, singing in a controlled, sometimes sweet monotone against a grainy, folk-rock or synth backing band.Many songs deal with the passion of youthfuil relationships.

The album opens with "Hot & Heavy": "Being back here makes me hot in the face
Hot blood in my pulsing veins
Heavy memories weighing on my brain
Hot and heavy in the basement of your parents' place" and concludes with "Triple Dog Stare" in which the young lovers seem to have taken off - "They put our faces on the milk jugs / Missing children 'til they gave up / Your mama was right, and through the grief / Can't fight the feeling of relief / Nothing worse could happen now"

Between these bookends, "First Time" deals with first love ("you can't feel it for the first time a second time"); "Christine" with religion and marriage; "VBS" with the dark undercurrents (and Vacation BIble School); "Cartwheel" with physical and emotional change; "Going Going Gone"; "Partner In Crime" with an underage relationship; "Brando" with the joys of skipping school for the afternoon movies but never really knowing your partner; "Please Stay" a plea not to break up and

"Thumbs", the centrepiece of the album, tells the story of accompanying her nineteen year old friend to bar to meet up with her estranged father, who she hasn't seen since fifth grade, the song's chilling chorus conveying the broken relationship between father and daughter:

"I would kill him / If you let me / I would kill him / Quick and easy / Your nails are digging / Into my knee / I don't know / How you keep smiling".

Other songs are similary revealatory, capturing recollections of adolescence in all its intensity, the milestones and minutae of youth and young adult life.

Home Video is a timeless, rewarding and articulate album that captures the intensity and agony of adolescent rites of passage. 

Glass Beams - Mirage (EP)

Mirage (EP)

by Glass Beams

Released 25 June 2021

Research Records

*****

 

Recorded at the beginning of 2020, Mirage is the first release from the Melbourne artists Glass Beams, comprising four compositions that blend a profusion of sounds and influences.

Glass Beams (whose true identity appears not to have yet been revealed) says:"I was looking for new energy & inspiration to write a bunch of new music. I recalled a childhood memory of my parents and I watching a DVD they had bought: ‘Concert For George’ (a tribute concert for George Harrison from the Beatles). George’s long time collaborator and friend Ravi Shanka put an Indian Orchestra together for that concert, and even though I hadn’t even started playing music at the time that I watched this, the sounds really stuck with me.

My father was born in India and moved here when he was 17, and after recalling this memory I decided to look up musicians from my father’s hometown and surrounding areas. I found a wealth of Indian classical, disco and pop music that formed the building blocks for this record. As soon as I had that vision of what I wanted to write and why I wanted to write it, the songs just flowed out really."

The album's opener and title "Mirage" arrives with a coiling vocal mantra that conspires with a sliding bassline and transcendent synthwork, reminiscent of early 70’s prog jams, yet inverted and futuristic.

"Taurus" is a brisk arrangement, steeped with spaghetti-western elements and space-jazz to pave the way for the agile "Kong".

Rife with psych-fusion guitar phrases and instrumentation, "Kong" unfolds like a forecast lysergic voyage.

The finale "Rattlesnake" nudges the serpent with intergalactic scales and spellbinding riffs.

We may not know much about the enigmatic Glass Beams but "Mirage" is one epic inauguration, leaving the listener with more questions than answers.

Source: Bandcamp

Joao Donato, Adrian Younge, A;li Shaheed Muhammed - JID007

JID007 Joao Donato

by Joao Donato, Adrian Younge, Ali Shaheed Muhammed

Released 25 June 2021

Jazz Is Dead

****-

Adrian Younge and Ali Shaheed Muhammed's superbeby curated Jazz Is Dead series continues with it;s seventh installment feauring the work of legendary  Brazilian Bossa Nova pianist and arranger Joao Donato.

The album website notes that "João Donato might be best known in record-head circles for his brilliant jazz-funk album Quem é Quem, but he’s an absolute living legend and an icon of Brazilian music. He’s also recorded and released albums on American labels and has had his songs performed and/or played with folks like Ron Carter, Ray Barretto, Astrid Gilberto, Airto Moreira, Cal Tjader, Tito Puente, Eddie Palmieri, Mongo Santamaria, Stanley Clark, Herbie Mann, Jack McDuff, the Village Callers and others".

Asked how he would describe his own work, he says, “It’s my style of music, the way I think about [music]. I don’t even think about it, it’s just the way I do things. I don’t know if it even has a name.” Donato has finally received long overdue accolades for his contributions to date.

An archetypal “musician’s musician,” Donato’s stepped out of the shadows more in the past couple dates, recording at an unprecedented rate and collaborating with a variety of musicians, from Brazil and beyond, old and young.

Still going strong over eighty years old, the late praise and recognition is in good company for a musician whom Claus Ogerman offered to arrange an album, whom Antonio Carlos Jobim called a genius, and whom no less than João Gilberto claims invented the bossa nova beat. 

all songs are written by Joao Donato, Loren Oden, Adrian Younge, Ali Shaheed Muhammad with Joao Donato featuring on Fender Rhodes piano, Adrian Younge & Ali Shaheed Muhamma contributing Hammond B3, Electric bass guitar, Monophonic synthesizer, Electric guitar, Flutes, Alto and Sopranino saxophones and percussion, Loren Oden on Vocals and Greg Paul on Drums

Source: Bandcamp

Miles Davis - Merci Miles! Live at Vienne

Merci Miles! Live At Vienne

by Miles Davis

Released 25 June 2021

Rhino

****-

Recorded on 1 July 1991 at Jazz à Vienne, a Jazz Festival held annually in Vienne, Isère, near Lyon, France "Merci Miles!" is one of the last public performance by the Great Man before his death on September 29 the same year. 

By 1991, the world’s most celebrated trumpeter could look back on five decades of musical evolution – his own, and that of the world around him. Miles Davis had found ways of marrying jazz with classical ideas, then later R&B, rock and funk, producing hybrid offspring that shaped the course of popular music and had come to define his legend. 

Miles Davis’s lifelong love for France is well-documented, and in July 1991, he became a Knight of their Legion of Honour. Davis received the award from French culture minister Jack Lang, who described him as: "The Picasso of jazz."

His lineup included saxophonist Kenny Garrett, keyboardist Deron Johnson, drummer Ricky Wellman, bassist Richard Patterson, and "lead bassist" Foley (Joseph McCreary, Jr.). The latter was so designated because the former Mint Condition bassist tuned his custom-made instrument an octave higher, allowing him to emulate a lead guitarist.

While Davis' final recordings for Warner Bros. have been subject to debate, this previously unissued performance places his final musical thinking in proper context. Performed less than 90 days before his death, the concert showcases a seasoned band playing an expertly hybridized meld of jazz, funk, and R&B.
The set opener is an extended version of Marcus Miller's "Hannibal." Its lithe, funky bass and keyboard vamp are adorned with Davis' sultry phrasing. The band takes time establishing the hypnotic groove. When Garrett's soprano enters at three minutes, it ascends. The dynamic intensifies as Davis engages in dialogue with him and then his bassists. He drops the mute and his playing and soloing become very physical. As instrumental textures shift, the harmony changes shape as well. The groove ratchets and intensifies as Garrett seemingly blows right through his horn.

"Human Nature'' slides in with its signature breezy, Afro-Caribbean ambience. Just under four minutes in, Davis solos with intricate, fleet lines riding the rhythm before turning it inside out. He weaves that spell for another four minutes when Garrett enters and darkens the vamp. Eastern modal and Spanish influences are pronounced amid the funky backdrop. At 13 minutes, the band erupts in swaggering, cacophonous funkiness as Garrett rides the now-explosive groove into the stratosphere.

While Davis never performed a bad version of "Time After Time" (he truly loved the song), this one is among his best. His deeply emotive, tenderly wrought intro carries in its minimal expression all the harmonic invention he reveals later in the tune. His musicians wind around him with lush lyricism and polyrhythmic savvy.

"Penetration" is the first of two partial Prince compositions from the short period when the two considered recording together. Framed in classic Purple One funk, it's driven by pumping intertwined basses and jagged keyboard lines. Davis extrapolates the minimal melody as Garrett freely indulges his trademark Afrofuturist R&B stylistics before the pair deliver fine individual solos.

The second is "Jailbait." A standard blues jam, Davis swings the amp atop Patterson's swaggering bassline. Johnson delivers an electrifying organ solo before Garrett tips in with barwalking R&B honks to wind it out.

While none of this music is revelatory, it is intuitive and energetic.

Even in failing health, Davis leads this band with imagination, good humor, and focus. Though this date occurred less than three months before his death, his playing throughout is surprisingly muscular. Unlike many of his other official posthumous documents, Merci Miles!

Live at Vienne actually adds to Davis' musical legacy and warrants repeated listening.

Source: Thom Jurek, AllMusic

Bluey - The Album

Bluey: The Album

by Josh Bush & Bluey Cast

Released 21 January 2021

Demon Records

****-

Bluey: The Album is the soundtrack album for the first series of the Australian animated television series Bluey, which first aired ABC Kids on 1 October 2018. The show follows Bluey, an anthropomorphic six-year-old Blue Heeler puppy who is characterised by her abundance of energy, imagination and curiosity of the world.

Most of the soundtrack's music was composed and performed by Joff Bush, the composer for the television program, alongside a team of musicians.

The soundtrack debuted at number one on the ARIA Albums Chart in February 2021 (hilariously beating the Sydney hip-hop artist The Kid Laroi’s "F*ck Love" to top spot).

It was recognised as the first children's album to reach the top of the charts in Australia.

The soundtrack features arrangements of songs from the first series of the program, including the scores of episodes "Keepy Uppy", "Grannies", "The Pool" and "The Creek". It contains original compositions as well as arrangements of classical pieces such as "John Ryan's Polka" and "Pachelbel's Canon". The first half of the album features upbeat songs, while the later tracks featured are the softer compositions. Vocals by Helena Czajka and Jazz D'Arcy are featured on "I Know a Place (The Creek Song)".

It's great fun (in small doses).

Squidgenini - Squid (EP)

Squid (EP)

by Squidgenini

Released 4 June 2021

Beats Of No Nation

****-

From Meanjin / Brisbane, Australian producer and vocalist Squidgenini has dropped her 5-song debut EP Squid, eliciting a worldwide reception, including play on influential London DJ Jamz Supernova's 1Xtra radio show.

Through Bandcamp, the artist says she is "issuing a clear message to spirit; to the universe. A resounding declaration of sovereignty and surrender". and that "The coded narrative hidden within the lyrics acts as a prayer - highlighting the delicate balance between communication and observation".

I'm not sure about any of that, but the music and production is striking: intimate, seductive and groovy from the first single "All Made Up" throughout the EP.

Source: Bandcamp

Beatnik Collective - Collections

Collections (EP)

byBeatnik Collective

Released 7 May  2021

Cosin Will Records

****-

Beatnik Collective is a collaborative instrumental group heralding from  Naarm / Melbourne. After forming in 2018, the Collective has grown and changed to become one of the staples of Melbourne's instrumental dance scene.

Combining influences of House, Disco, Jazz and Funk the band describes their sound as "one for the AM".

Beatnik Collective comprises:

Dan Rock - Electric Bass
Crispin Newmarch - Drums
Winton Findlay - Percussion/ Synthesizer
Charlie Bowmaker - Rhodes/ Synthesizer
Fellow Melbourne musician Moses Carr contributes Synthesizer on 'Sugar' and 'Benson', while Sam Gendel plays saxophone on 'Peer Pressure'

Source: Bandcamp

Athens Of The North - For The Love Of You

For The Love Of You

by Athens Of The North (Various Artists)

Released 10 April 2020

Athens Of The North

****-

From innovative Edinburgh label Athens of the North, comes "For The Love Of You" a compilation album of smooth jazz love songs, a 12 track compilation of lovers rock covers curated by Sam Don and overseen by Euan Fryer of AOTN.

Featuring amazing covers of tracks by artists such as Leon Ware, Mtume, Archie Bell, The Gap Band, Lowrell, Prince, Starvue, Bobby Caldwell & The Isley Brothers, there is not a filler in site, essentials all the way.

The project has taken almost 2 years with the help of many musicians, singers and producers from the scene. A special shout out goes to Peter 'Honeyvoice' Hunnigale for going the extra mile and doing many introductions

Source: Bandcamp

Foshe | Bentley - Parlour Cucina

Parlour Cucina

by Foshe | Bentley

Released 4 June 2021

Picadilly Records

****-

Foshe and Bentley are two separate entities who regularly collaborate in their home city of Sydney.

Foshe create fully improvised polyrhythmic-afro-Latin-synth-ambient-jazz-house. The trio have been gigging heavily from 2018, engaging in energetic weekly residencies, and supporting artists from Lonnie Liston Smith to the 30/70 collective, Horatio Luna and ZFEX, GODTET and more.

Mike Bentley is a drummer who collaborates with friends around Sydney and Melbourne, creating deeply groovy, rhythmically hypnotic journeys through jazz, hip hop and house, inspired by the likes of Kamaal Williams & Vijay Iyer. Producing modern jazz-house combined with odd time signatures, Mike was a key driving force behind this set of new, live recordings. The ‘Parlour Cucina’ album is the result of a live residency at the Sydney venue of the same name. The residency was split between sets with the regular Foshe trio (Mike, Zigi, Tom) and open collaborations with other artists through Bentley.

Source: Picadilly Records

Wojtek Mazolewski Quintet - When Angels Fall

When Angels Fall

by Wojtek Mazolewski Quintet

Released 4 June 2019

Whirlwind Recordings

****-

Following the rhapsodic response to Wojtek Mazolewski’s debut Whirlwind release - the 2018 edition of "Polka", which broke through internationally, into dance clubs and rock and indie festivals – the double bassist now focuses attention on the music of his compatriot Krzysztof Komeda (1931–1969), a legend of Polish jazz and an illustrious Hollywood film composer.

"When Angels Fall" again features his inventive quintet of Oskar Török (trumpet, electronics), Marek Pospieszalski (tenor saxophone), Joanna Duda (Wurlitzer, grand piano) and Qba Janicki (drums, percussion) as they explore the prolific output of this enigmatic and tragically departed creative talent.

Mazolewski describes the recording’s foundations. “As I was preparing to make this album, I immersed myself in Komeda’s music, read his publications and memoirs, met people who had known him, and visited the places he lived, from Poznan to Los Angeles. I felt that I needed to have a real feeling for who he was and how he lived, which helped to enrich the project with a new awareness as well as deeper feelings and emotions. As a result, I have spent the past three years creating original material based on Komeda’s music for the Wojtek Mazolewski Quintet (WMQ).”

He drew great inspiration from cinematic directors including Roman Polanski (‘Rosemary’s Baby’, ‘Knife in the Water’) and Jerzy Skolimowski (‘Barrier’), for whose movies Komeda wrote and which are represented on this recording. “The combination of their talent and their tenderness with Komeda’s music still makes a big impression today,” asserts Mazolewski, “and also forces one to think more deeply. This is an album about life and its greatest gifts… about impermanence… about death and its mystery.”
Hear WMQ’s stomping interpretation of Komeda’s piano quartet tune ‘Roman II’ (from movie ‘Knife in the Water’) or their pulsating, almost ominous switch from the melancholic, choral original of ‘Bariera’, and you begin to understand this band’s oblique, sometimes angular approach. It’s a journey of constant surprises – the orchestral/vocal mood of ‘Le Départ’ (from screenplay ‘Start’) reimagined as a softly-ebbing, horn-led ballad. ‘When Angels Fall’ (from Polanski’s ‘Knife in the Water’) feels introspective, its plaintive Stańko-like trumpet melody hovering over Wurlitzer and electronics; and ‘Sleep Safe and Warm’ (from ‘Rosemary’s Baby’) paints a transcendental, dreamlike aura. But the quintet’s buoyancy is never far away, heard in bustling ‘Memory of Bach’ and radio-groove-styled ‘Ja nie chcę spać’.

Rosław Szaybo – longtime friend of Komeda and artist for the cover of his acclaimed ‘Astigmatic’ release of 1965 – has designed the cover of this album, too. “I am very honored that he did this for us,” says Mazolewski, “because it creates a direct artistic link to the maestro himself. He shared so many wonderful stories with me (including stories about Krzysztof Komeda) that you won’t read in books, but that you will hear on this album.” It’s a sound which indubitably teems with ingenuity and integrity; and as Szaybo confirms, “This music has come closer to Komeda than any from the past 30 years.”

Source: Birdland Records

Calibro 35 - Dalla Bovisa a Brooklyn (EP)

Della Bovisa a Brooklyn

by Calibro 35

Released  2012 Reissued 25 Sept. 2020

Record Kicks

****-

Described by Rolling Stone as "the most fascinating, retro-maniac and genuine thing that has happened to Italy in the past few years", Calibro 35 enjoy a reputation as one of the coolest bands around.

Recorded in New York in 2012 "Dalla Bovisa a Brooklyn" is a 6 tracks ep that contains outtakes and b-sides from Calibro 35's third studio album "Any Resamblance...".

Active since 2008 CALIBRO 35 enjoys a worldwide reputation as one of the coolest independent band around. During their ten years career, they have been sampled by Dr. Dre on his Compton album, Jay-Z Love Child & Damon Albarn,, they shared stages worldwide with the likes of Roy Ayers, Muse, Sun Ra Arkestra, Sharon Jones, Thundercat, Headhunters and as unique musicians they've collaborated with, amongst others PJ Harvey, Mike Patton, John Parish and Stewart Copeland and Nic Cester (The Jet). Described by Rolling Stone magazine's as "the most fascinating, retro-maniac and genuine thing, that happened to Italy in the last years", Calibro 35 now count on a number of aficionados worldwide which includes VIP's fans such as Dj Food (Ninja Tune), Mr Scruff and Huey Morgan (Fun Lovin' Criminals) among others.

Music by Calibro 35 has also been used by Dr. Dre on Compton, Jay Z, Child of Lov & Damon Albarn. They've played major festivals and collaborated with PJ Harvey, Mike Patton and Stewart Copeland

Source: Bandcamp

Marcia Griffith - Play Me Sweet and Nice

Play Me Sweet and Nice

by Marcia Griffiths

Released 1974 Reissued 2006

Trojan Recorduings / BMG

****-

When Marcia Griffiths' "Play Me Sweet and Nice" arrived in 1974, "Jamaica's First Lady of Song" had just left the hitmaking duo of Bob & Marcia - best known for "Young, Gifted and Black" - but was still a year away from forming the "I-Threes" with Rita Marley and Judy Mowatt.

Released in Jamaica on the Wildflower label, the album launched her solo career with what was considered an instant classic back home, but liberties were taken - different cover art, a rearranged track list, and a new, less risqué title, Sweet Bitter Love - when the U.K. label Trojan released their version later that same year.

This 2006 reissue is Trojan's attempt to right those wrongs and then some. Besides the remastered sound, which is revelatory, there are no less than 14 winning bonus tracks from the era, including the singer's fantastic version of "The First Cut Is the Deepest" plus an alternate take of the album's Neil Diamond cover, "Play Me," with producer Lloyd Charmers adding his own vocals.

The core album remains reggae at its most soulful, slinking, not skanking, through a wealth of pop and R&B-sourced material. Here, Marcia's smooth voice is laid-back in the best sense of the word, gracefully holding notes for extended periods and drawing out every last bit of sensuality these lyrics hold. Some might find that this even temperament makes for a limited listen across ten -- now 24 -- tracks, but longtime fans should appreciate this style, which Marcia grew away from as the days of the I-Threes and "Electric Boogie" came to pass. Prepare yourself for a slow, sexy journey, and this improved release reveals itself as both vital reggae and fascinating proto-lovers rock, but there's a headslap-worthy mistake that makes this reissue less than perfect. Who knows how or why, but side B of the original Play Me comes first, with the original -- and much better -- opener, "Here I Am Baby (Come and Take Me)," coming in at track six. It's an easily corrected mistake, and with so much care put into the rest of the package, this still stands as one of the most desirable gems the 21st century Trojan has unearthed

Source: David Jeffries AllMusic

Various Artists - Nick Luscombe Presents Tokyo Dreaming

Nick Luscombe Presents Tokyo Dreaming

by Various Artists

Released 29 July 2020

NipponColombia

****-

Tokyo Dreaming is a superb selection picked from the highly collectible Nippon Columbia label and its Better Days sub-label. Wewantsounds have teamed up with journalist and Japanese music expert Nick Luscombe. The selection mixes electro, synth-pop, funk, and ambient and includes many sought-after rarities and hidden gems which have never been released outside of Japan and the set has been newly remastered by Nippon Columbia.

Nippon Columbia is one of Japan's oldest music labels and is also one of its most collectible thanks to its sub-label Better Days which, in the late '70s, became a hotbed for Tokyo's new generation of pop artists eager to experiment with ambient, electro, and funk.

Armed with a string of new Japanese-made synthesizers and drum machines that would soon take the world by storm, they made cutting-edge music, which has since become highly sought-after by a new generation of Japanese music lovers.

Nick Luscombe, who has long been a leading advocate of Japanese music from this era, has handpicked a selection of some of the sharpest music released on these labels at the time.

Tokyo Dreaming starts with The End of Asia by Ryuichi Sakamoto from his 1978 ground-breaking debut Thousand Knives Of.... The track became a staple of Sakamoto and Yellow Magic Orchestra's live shows and was even re-recorded by the group for their 1980 album X Multiplies.

The track is followed by Mariah's cult Armenian folk flavoured synth pop classic Shinzo No Tobira (1983).

Chika Asamoto's Self Control (1988) and Jun Fukamachi's Treasure Hunter (1985) are perfect songs in the synth-pop canon, while Yumi Murata's rendition of Akiko Yano's Watashi No Bus and Hitomi "Penny" Tohyama's Rainy Driver both from 1981, move closer towards the slicker, funkier sound of city pop.

Tokyo Dreaming superbly showcases the breadth of '80s Japanese music and the way electro pop was a playing ground for musicians to experiment with many styles, as showcased by Akira Sakata's dub-infused Room from 1980, Kazumi Watanabe's discoid Tokyo Joe (1980) and Juicy Fruits' techno pop song Jenie Gets Angry.

The selection flows effortlessly between many shades of synth and ends with two cult classics in the form of Yasuaki Shimizu's Semi Tori No Hi and Shigeo Sekito's ambient-jazz masterpiece The Word II from his highly sought-after album Kareinaru Electone (The Word) Vol.2 (1975).

Tokyo Dreaming showcases the groundbreaking sounds of a city turned giant sonic lab which was restlessly inventing the music of the future. Album designed by famed London-based designer Optigram. Also features Yumi Seino, Kyoko Furuya, Kazue Itoh, Haruo Chikada and Vibra-Tones, and Colored Music.

Source: Rough Trade

Various Artists - The Time For Peace Is Now (Compilation)

The Time For Peace Is Now - Gospel Music About Us

by Various Artists

Released 13September 2019

Rough Trade

****-

The Time For Peace Is Now compiles fourteen songs that, while recorded over four decades ago, speak now more than ever. The tracks are a subset of 1970s-era gospel, not directly talking about Jesus or God, but instead tackling how we live with ourselves and each other. These are undeniably soulful, passionate, and urgent songs from obscure 45s, dug up from a long dormancy in attics, sheds and rated across the American south. Compiled by Gospel guru Greg Belson.

“The Gospel bands heard on The Time For Peace Is Now were comprised of musicians who played both church and secular music. The church borrowed - or rather commandeered - the guitar, bass, drums, and other instruments used to backup Motown, Stax, and other popular labels - to give power to the songs they supported. Musicians who sang at ‘the club’ on Saturday night were often leading solos or singing in the choir on Sunday mornings. Saturday night and Sunday morning music began to interweave, which was especially felt when the church choirs sang Gospel. It was Gospel’s influence that made Aretha Franklin, Sam Cooke, and many others the voice of the 1960s and 1970s. Gospel was the soul of America.

This album is reflective of the dichotomy of the sacred and the secular. The music here is in some sense the same as the music of the club.

"Keep Your Faith To The Sky" could have you singing "Keep Your Head To The Sky" by Earth, Wind and Fire.

Listening to "It’s Hard To Live In This Old World" and "That’s A Sign Of The Times" imbues the pessimistic/realistic sense of what was happening.

Like many Blues songs, the problem must first be named before it can be solved. At the end of "The Time For Peace Is Now", hope is still present.

The problem is named in the beginning and a possible solution is presented. -Pastor Keith L. Whitney

Source: Rough Trade

Sleep D x Ad Lib Collective - Flashed Glass

Flashed Glass

by Sleep D, Ad Lib Collective

Released 21 May 2021

Play On Records

****-

Flashed Glass is a new record from electronic duo Sleep D and mixed chamber ensemble Ad Lib Collective, from Melbourne's Play On Records.

Culminating from a two-year project borne out of a live collaboration in a Melbourne underground carpark, the LP seeks to marry the euphoria of the concert hall and the club, presenting a rich sonic universe for the listener to discover.
Having first been introduced at rehearsals for Play On’s 6th series in late 2018, the two groups hit it off, opting to perform a semi-improvised set together, rather than two separate sets as originally planned. They soon realised their pairing could unlock sounds they wouldn’t have otherwise found on their own, and their idea for further collaboration was born.
Because Flashed Glass didn’t use formal notation in the creation process, this resulted in charts and maps to plot out each track. This influenced the artists’ sonic interpretations of vast open spaces, dystopian landscapes and expansive journeys. What’s culminated is a record that combines spacious, repetitive, ambient electronica with the gentle, lilting woodwinds, strings and acoustic percussion of modern classical.
In March 2020, the two groups recorded at Head Gap studios in Preston, in Melbourne's inner North, layering sounds, building melodies, and striking out what didn’t work - until the COVID-19 pandemic cut things short, twice, due to two of Melbourne’s four (so far) lockdowns. This resulted in an accidental hybrid work, finishing as a mix of live professional recordings, and DIY home-recorded samples, with the latter including crushed plastic and pulverised sea shells.

Source: Bandcamp

Sam Anning - A Field As Vast As One

Across A Field As Vast As One

by Sam Anning

Released 21 May 2021

Play On Records

****-

Bassist/ composer Sam Anning brings his wonderfully poetic cast of mind to his third album as bandleader, Across a Field as Vast as One.

Recorded with long time collaborators trumpeter Mat Jodrell, saxophonists Julien Wilson andCarl Mackey, pianist Andrea Keller, and drummer Danny Fischer, the eight-track collection draws inspiration and ideas from lost friends, Balkan women singers, volcanic lakes, taxi conversations and aircraft wreckage gleaming in a field of sunflowers.

Of course, this is not being wilfully quirky, because Anning in his compositions pulls great emotion out of these disparate experiences and satori. Across a Field as Vast as Oneis an album of great beauty that avoids the trap of complexity to focus on the emotional.

Indeed he says that his track ‘Sweethearts’ “…was a sort of rebellion against the dense and complex harmonic and melodic homework of my masters studies at the Manhattan School of Music. I just wanted two simple chords and a nice melody!”

The track jumps with a lovely West African lilt and Andrea Keller’s piano solo reflects that joy in its rising attack.

‘Sweethearts’ was the title of Anning’s 2013 album with Julien Wilson and dear departed drummer Allan Browne. Browne is remembered here on the title track which takes its title from an Anning poem:

As eyes opening for the first time

On light splattering into a

Flat natural shimmer

Across a field as vast as one

Your name is to be spoken slowly

And carefully

When I awake I’ll know we shared this dream

And I’ll l know that I loved you.

The pain of this ballad of loss and longing is expressed in the pang of Matt Jodrell’s aching trumpet tone.

Anning’s compositional smarts are to the fore throughout – the ethereal arpeggios on ‘Lake’ conjuring the deep blue waters of the Mt Gambier blue volcanic lake which inspired it; the chattering talk-like melody and human-hips groove of ‘Talking Wall,’ about a graffiti wall in Libya; the bittersweet Balkan blues of album closer ‘Telos’ (with a stunning Julien Wilson bass-clarinet solo that wails, literally and figuratively).

Anning says, tellingly, when speaking of his piece here called ‘Hands Reaching’: “[It is] a piece that came out naturally with little intervention from the deprecating voices in my head.”

I think anyone who truly creates spends half their time shouting down those deprecating voices – those voices that say the work is worthless, the effort is pointless, the world isnt listening. Hallelujah! that artists like Sam Anning consistently manage to shut that chattering homunculus up, who manage to replace the void with the life-force of their beautiful and meaningful work.

‘Across a Field as Vast as One’ is one such work – brave, beautiful and above all, the best of what it is to be human.

Source: Australian Jazz (australianjazz.net)

bottom of page