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YouTube | November 2022 SunNeverSetsOnMusic

YouTube | November 2022 SunNeverSetsOnMusic

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Favourites|November2022

Jake Blount - The New Faith

The New Faith

by Jake Blount

Released 23 September 2022

Smithsonian Folkways Recordings

*****

The New Faith, a follow-up to the musician, scholar and activist Jake Blount’s 2020’s breakthrough debut, Spider Tales, is an impressive and timely recording – effortlessly and evocatively, re-interpreting traditional songs with a keen ear for more contemporary voices and sounds. At its heart is a consideration of the impact of climate change, spirituality and race. In many ways, The New Faith is a concept album set in a post-climate catastrophic world, focusing on an island in Maine and the experiences of an imagined religious ceremony by Black refugees.

The New Faith is released as part of Smithsonian Folkways’ African American Legacy series – co-conceived with and supported by the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture. It’s a sublime collaboration. Originally founded in 1948 by Moses Ashes and acquired by the Smithsonian in 1987, the non-profit record label of the Smithsonian Institution’s mission is to “document music, spoken word, instruction and sounds from around the world”. The label’s concentration, and support, of traditional artists, alongside a commitment to cultural diversity and education, ensure a freedom that sets them apart from many other labels. In this respect, as Blount notes, The New Faith:

“… envisions Black American religious music in a future devastated by warfare and anthropogenic climate change. The record is based on field recordings of Black religious services from the early-to-mid 20th century, but it is composed entirely of new arrangements and subtle rewrites of traditional Black folk songs. To make an informed prediction, I referenced a more diverse cross-section of the African Diaspora’s music than I ever have before. This album incorporates sounds from Belize, Georgia, Jamaica, Texas, Mississippi, New York and beyond.”

Produced by Blount and collaborator Brian Slattery, The New Faith was recorded mainly in Blount’s home in Providence, RI. with Blount taking the lead on vocals, fiddle, banjo, bass, percussion and strings and Slattery on percussion, guitar and strings. Blount also enlisted an impressive guest list with a wide range of artists from the worlds of rap and country, including the aforementioned Demeanor, country stars D’orjay: The Singing Shaman and Rissi Palmer, roots artist Samuel James, Kaïa Kater on vocals, harpist Lizzie No, bassist Mali Obomsawin, multi-instrumentalist Brandi Pace, and the banjo/uke of Lillian Werbin. It’s an intoxicating blend of influences.

Whilst the album naturally has anger, grief and trauma at its root (the history of slavery, Jim Crow, police brutality, and the impact of Covid-19 on the Black community are all subtly touched upon), it is also a hopeful, spiritual recording, with Blount’s reverence for old time songs clear:

“I have long felt a powerful draw to the old spirituals passed down in my community. I am an unlikely devotee; I only rarely attended church as a child, declared myself an atheist at the tender age of eight and developed a strong antipathy toward Christianity when I began to understand my queerness. Nonetheless, spirituals are the songs I bring to communal singing events. They are the songs I teach. In moments of homesickness, sorrow and fear, they are the songs I turn to for solace.”

The past, present, and future are intricately linked in The New Faith; Blount selects songs that have associations to the past, lined to such figures as blues stalwarts Skip James (‘They Are Waiting For Me’) and Blind Willie McTell (‘Just as Well to Get Ready, You Got to Die’), civil rights activist Fannie Lou Hamer (‘City Called Heaven’), and trailblazer Sister Rosetta Tharpe (‘Didn’t It Rain’), ensures familiarity for listeners interested in historic song but with a dynamic and thorough knowledge of modern sounds – hip-hop, for example, is regularly included in the mix.

Despite the seriousness of the subject matter and the potential hopelessness of the narrative, The New Faith is an album rich with themes of hope, resilience and salvation. With a keen sense of tradition, Blount has cleverly delivered a bold, thought-provoking and judicious album, but one which is also a thoroughly, staggeringly thrilling listen. Glorious.

Source: Folk Rsdio (UK)

Benjamin Clementine - And I Have Been

And I Have Been

by Benjamin Clementine

Released 28 October 2022

Preserve Artists

****-

Benjamin Clementine, the Edmonton-raised now Los Angeles located musician, is one who hides in plain sight. Six foot three. A slick sartorial presence with his slim tailored jackets. An extraordinary pianist who sits behind the ivories barefoot, arched in a let’s say very un-ergonomic posture as he plays. He was even in that Timothée Chalamet film Dune for a bit. But yet, there’s little publicity for this revelatory new record. Nothing to galvanise this release except its own exceptional quality. But, it has always been that way.

Clementine’s breakthrough in 2014, At Least For Now,  seemingly came from nowhere. The instantaneous hype catalysed by the free-flowing, almost juvenile purity and brilliance of Clementine’s voice. A voice so powerful it could belt out tunnels in the hardest of mountains, a voice so warm that it could heat a village, and a voice so deeply sad that it birthed its own rivers. It was the music of an anxious outcast, with many of the songs road-tested on the Parisian streets he briefly made his home. 

His 2017 follow-up I Tell A Fly while equally as prodigious, felt more complicated. The narrative structure roughly retold a narrative about the fictional Aleppoville, a place where children experience bullying. It was clearly heartfelt but difficult to relate to. The sincere, but inchoate, mythology of an introvert who suddenly had an audience who were listening. Not to go all Patrick Bateman, but it was perhaps too artsy, too intellectual for this humble listener.

Now five years later, we have And I Have Been, a gloriously confident and distinctly weird album that harbours the soul and spectacle of his debut, while decorating it with the ornate splendour of I Tell A Fly to birth an album that feels truly singular. Opener ‘Residue’ is a good-old fashioned Chanson in the manner of Jacques Brel, with strings creeping through like mice sneaking out at night. The swing and melody of Clementine’s galloping vocals swoon, all degenerating into a delightful burst of incongruent electronic interference. 

At every corner there is invention. Song titles such as ‘Weakend’ and ‘Lovelustre’ are crafted neologisms which hark back to the early awkward interviews Clementine conducted before his Mercury Prize win in 2014, including one interview in Edmonton Green Library, in which he mentioned he was creating his own dictionary with words that come to his mind. Here they seem to be employed generously, in a Finnegans Wake whirlwind of linguistic looseness. 

It sharpens the very real, but quiet, mystic thread that runs through And I Have Been that may be influenced by Clementine’s admiration for the still-waters-run-deep classical music of 20th century French composer Erik Satie. The apotheosis of this beguiling combination is ‘Copening’ where Clementine’s howls smear the track like a fine buttery spread with his words loud whispers, cooing “This wiley road / Won’t crash my hopes / This mighty road / Won’t stop my soul”.

It all compounds together to create an exceptional outlier of an album. One that is personal, entirely of its own, but open and communicative. Through the words used, through the tempo employed, and through the timbre evoked, it’s somehow simultaneously a relic and an innovation. One barefoot in the past, one in the future.

Source: Loud and Quiet

SAULT - UNTITLED (God)
SAULT - Today & Tomorrow
SAULT - AIIR
SAULT - Earth
SAULT - 11

Untitled (God Is)

Today & Tomorrow

AIIR

Earth

11

by SAULT

Released 11 November 2022

Forever Living Originals

****-

Hot on the heels of the unexpected release of "Angel" a 10-minute, three-part "single" last month (on 10/10), the ever-surprising SAULT has followed up with the release of five (yes, you read that correctly!) free new albums of new work, on 11/11. There's enough material here to sustain some groups for a decade, yet SAULT seems to have tossed them out in one sweep, possibly so that the (mostly) till anonymous artists of the finer collective can gat on with other projects.

Writing for The Guardian, critic Damien Morris wrote "Since 2019, the revered collective Sault have offered a palimpsest of African, American and British black music history, with beautifully realised takes on R&B, jazz and psychedelic funk, doo-wop, trip-hop, symphonic soul, 1980s groove and soundsystem culture. But are these five new albums just proof that producer Inflo can’t be fussed with curation?

Aiir is a sequel to recent modern classical composition Air and is similarly pleasant if sometimes syrupy. Earth boasts Stronger, as good as their 2020 classic Wildfires, and brings polyrhythms and choral contributions. Its astonishing diadem, The Lord’s With Me, burns with the languorous intensity of 1970s experimentalists the Undisputed Truth.

Today & Tomorrow beckons folk and post-punk to join some impressively hard funk. It’s wayward but fascinating, peaking around The Jungle and The Plan. Untitled (God) is a 21-song sequel to the Mercury-nominated Untitled (Rise) and 2020 masterpiece Untitled (Black Is). It’s overlong, with a lot of quacking about the Lord, but with one stunning rap (Free), as well as the excellent, piano-led Never Feel Fear. Exhaustingly, 11 is best for consistent songwriting, but, honestly, anyone can find their own five-star classic among these 56 songs. By the close, it’s clear that these albums are an act of supreme generosity, not indulgent superfluity".

Source: The Guardian

Weyes Blood - And In The Darkness, Hearts Aglow

And In the Darkness, Hearts Aglow

by Weyes Blood

Released 18 November 2022

Sub Pop Records

****-

With her 2019 album, Titanic Rising, vocalist, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist Natalie Mering took her long-developing project Weyes Blood to a new level. A fascination with '70s soft rock tonalities that showed up on earlier albums crystallized into something far more opulent on Titanic Rising, with hook-abundant tunes somewhere between Nilsson and Joni underscored by the synth abstraction and experimentalism that had remained constants in the Weyes Blood catalog. Fifth album And in the Darkness, Hearts Aglow emerges as the second installment of a trilogy that began with Titanic Rising, and it continues that album's gorgeous arrangements, intricate songwriting, and themes contemplating both one's place in the universe as well as the trajectory of the universe itself.

Read more... AllMusic

Ane Brun - Naermere

Nærmere

by An Brun

Released 11 November 2022

Balloon Ranger Recordings

****-

The first words uttered on Ane Brun’s new album, After the Great Storm, are a simple count-in: “En, to, tre, fire” she says in her native Norwegian, voice masked with a dash of fuzz. It’s a deceptively old-fashioned and simple entrance into what may be the most dramatic gesture of Brun’s near-20-year career. After the Great Storm, you see, is only one of the albums Brun saw fit to release in the godforsaken year of 2020. It has a sister, the equally-dramatically-named How Beauty Holds the Hand of Sorrow, and while all but one of the collective 18 tracks were completed before the quarantine began, the decision to put out so much material in a year where people perhaps have more time to engage with it is a savvy and very welcome move.

The two albums — released about a month apart, After at the end of October, and How Beauty at the end of November — represent two very different sides of the songwriter. Known in the past mostly for her tender, delicate, and deeply emotive folk-oriented songs, Brun decided to push herself into slightly new territory this time around. The result of that mostly winds up on After the Great Storm, a heavily 90s-indebted album full of sparkling synths, swirling strings, groovy basslines, and thick percussion. Brun has cited acts like Massive Attack as a major point of influence, and while their inspiration is evident, so too are wisps of Portishead and Tricky, as well as 90s hip hop.

Read more... Beats Per Minute

Yebba - Dawn

Dawn

by Yebba

Released 10 September 2021

RCA

****-

It has taken SunNeverSetsOnMusic a year to catch up, but Yebba's Dawn was an excellent September 2021 release that we overlooked at the time, among a flood of excellent releases.

Yebba — a.k.a. Abbey Smith — is a prodigiously talented 26-year-old singer who’s been buzzing for so long it’s hard to believe “Dawn” is her debut album. She’s already won a Grammy (for a 2019 collaboration with PJ Morton) and over the past five years has duetted with Sam Smith, Ed Sheeran, A Tribe Called Quest, Chance the Rapper and even has a featured song on Drake’s “Certified Lover Boy” (“Yebba’s Heartbreak”). Most significantly, she was featured on three songs on Mark Ronson’s stellar “Late Night Feelings” album; the Grammy-winning Amy Winehouse/Lady Gaga collaborator also produced many of the songs on “Dawn.”

A major challenge when working with an artist as gifted as Yebba is not fucking it up — there are many more ways to do something badly than well —  and to their immense credit, she and Ronson have managed to create songs and arrangements that showcase her as one of the most powerful and versatile singers to come along in many years: Her range and array of styles are so wide that several songs almost sound like they were performed by a series of different singers.

 

Read more... Variety

Torn : Tonc Remixed (EP)

Torn : Tonic Remixed (EP)

by Allysha Joy

Released 14 October 2021

First Word Records

****-

First Word is very proud to bring you an EP of remixes of tracks from Allysha Joy's highly-acclaimed 'Torn : Tonic' album; mixes courtesy of an all-female line-up - Shy One, Risa T, Emmavie & Rebecca Vasmant.

For those that don't know, Allysha Joy is an integral member of the vibrant Melbourne soul & jazz scene, well known for both her solo work and as lead vocalist for 30/70. A uniquely-talented soul, her husky voice, and formidable Fender Rhodes prowess have garnered attentive audiences around the world.

Since the release of Allysha Joy's self-produced sophomore album 'Torn : Tonic' on First Word in late Spring, it's been a hugely eventful few months for Allysha - touring extensively across Europe & the UK, including powerhouse performances at We Out Here & Montreux Jazz festival, and headlining shows in London at The Jazz Cafe and at Oslo, Hackney.

The album received universal praise from a wide range of selectors and tastemakers, including Jamz Supernova (1Xtra), Jamie Cullum (BBC Radio 2), Huey Morgan (BBC 6 Music), China Moses, Laurent Garnier, Erica McKoy, Bradley Zero, Kev Beadle and numerous DJs across stations like Jazz FM, Worldwide FM, NTS, KCRW and KEXP. This in addition to press features in Dazed, OkayPlayer, The Vinyl Factory, Clash and Treblezine, to name just a few.
As we head into Autumn, we're proud to bring you four brand new mixes of tracks from the album. This EP consists of several formidable female artists, hand-picked by Allysha as an extension of the Torn : Tonic message, to empower and share the stories of women and non binary peoples through song.

Shy One kicks off the set, fresh from her recent Eglo Records EP, and kicks 'Still Dreaming' (also featuring Rara Zulu on vocals) up to 130BPM, for a jackin' heads down affair, complete with an unapologetic kick, crispy hats, chopped rhodes, rolling bass and subtle acid tweaks.

Risa T from the CoOp Presents crew is up next with her rub of the Ego Ella May collab 'Calling You'. This one staying truer to the original track, switching the rhythm to a 4/4 bounce and picking up the tempo — slightly deeper, dubbier affair for the dancers.

UK Soulstress Emmavie takes on the album track 'Fatima' which also features the vocals of Belle Bangard. The most downtempo of the set, though the double-time hats and growling b-line keep the energy high, with sliced guitar cuts and additional backing vox from Emmavie herself. It's a seriously smooth concoction.

Finally, Glasgow's Rebecca Vasmant provides her flip of the album's lead single 'Let It!', adding some warm sub-bass and delicate harps. This unique mix brings space to the original sax and harmonics, while the drums run alongside this expansive skippy pulse. 
 

Source: Bandcamp

Ezra Collective - Where I'm Meant To Be

Where I'm Meant To Be

by Ezra Collective

Released 4 November 2021

Partisan Records

****-

Widely hailed as one of the groups pioneering the new-wave of UK jazz, Ezra Collective are the perfect insignia for the love of all things music. Earning their stripes via Tomorrow's Warriors originally as a youth band, they have since sprawled into the go-to architects during a new phase for London's next musical journey. Interloping their adoration for UK Grime from the "blueprints" of Boy Better Know, the "Everything London" collective weave and splash a multitude of jazz sub-genres, grime and funky afro-beat digs into a cocktail of blitzing tricks and dizzying instrumentation. All paired with slick confidence, mind. 

Staking a claim as rightful protagonists to the country's burgeoning jazz resurgence, the collective's new album, Where I'm Meant To Be follows on from the trailed footsteps of 2019's You Can't Steal My Joy. When all hives of musical activity were abruptly stopped due to the pandemic, the collective really had to pause and think about their next course of action, resulting them into a real creative transition. Championed with refined character and a new sense of time on their hands, the new era for the group see them venturing down the path with raised stakes, as call-and-response improvisation ebb and flow between a 14-track ensemble of fluidity, funky hybridisation, all building up to true artistic creativity.

Featuring special guests including Sampa The Great, Kojey Radical, Emile Sande and Nao; the 14 tracks that form the collective's upcoming record are intended to be the ultimate celebration of life. A beckoning of new horizons post-pandemic is certainly on the cards, as Emile Sande swoons on booming Siesta, "Yes you've got one life to give / So give it all you can give / Don't let the pressure crush you / Don't ever let them rush you." While poet Sampa The Great enchants the help and love of music in Life Goes On, "From the street to the city to the ghetto / Shout it from the roof when they hear the instrumental."

The first taste of Ezra Collective's new venture, Life Goes On is a thumping tune led by trumpeter Ife Ogunjobi, tenor saxophonist James Mollison. It manages to twist and shake into the rush of Victory Dance, a truly addictive anthem emanating a span of multi-genre sounds. From the two-step funky works, the body-shifting scales of samba, landing on the lush undertones of dub reggae and finally to the kindred of jazz bops - it is an aggressive smash-up set to "go off" live. A true narrative led by heard and devotion for the love of music, it is a tantalising 5-minute energiser, as the magic of improvisation allows all members to have their moment in the spotlight. Trailblazing No Confusion is up next, a superior narrative into understanding exactly who you are and why you do what you do, I don't want no confusion / Been me still me been proven, led by "renaissance man" from East London, Kojey Radical. 

While Welcome to my World has a runtime of 7 minutes, it feels no way congested. All about beckoning the new people through, it is the perfect introduction to Ezra Collective's new explosive era, as they chart through unknown terrain. Another worthy highlight has to be Ego Killah. Armon-Jones's salsa piano stabbings and Koleoso's funky bass-line are textbook-Ezra. Meanwhile, bandleader and drummer Femi Koleoso leads the quintet with a funky afro-beat as the cross stick whips through the horns playing a wildly enchanting strain throughout the seemingly haunting tune. An instrumental that can also be worth a slot on the swampy back-end of Melancholy Beach - a funny-you-should-say moment as Femi also plays the drums for the Gorillaz - Ego Killah is all about that humility that happens to you when you're meant to be there, but you're not quite there yet. 

Our UK Jazz scene has never been as strong as it has over the past few years, and it's safe to say that Ezra Collective are the leaders of the pack. Where I'm Meant To Be is a journey - not just a destination. A journey that you may very well get lost in. Feeling brand new, Ezra Collective are back and bigger than before. 

Source: When The Horn Blows

Tom Skinner - Voices of Bishara

Voices of Bishara (EP)

by Tom Skinner

Released 4 November 2021

Brownswood Recordings

****-

Voices Of Bishara is one of the top three jazz albums of 2022 so far and it would take the second comings of John Coltrane, Charles Mingus, Horace Silver and Lee Morgan to threaten to dislodge it. Before going into the particulars, the backstory....

An epically cross-genre drummer, Skinner has lit up avantist British jazz and related musics for around twenty years. He emerged among the cohort of musicians loosely grouped around the self-help collective F-IRE (Fellowship for Integrated Rhythmic Expression) which energised the London jazz scene in the early 2000s. Notable early sightings included Skinner's involvement in the now Brooklyn-based tenor saxophonist Ingrid Laubrock's calling card, Some Times (Candid, 2001), and her breakthrough album, Forensic (F-IRE, 2004).

Since then, Skinner's several c.v. landmarks include, in 2011, co-founding Sons of Kemet with Shabaka Hutchings and, in 2021, co-founding the Smile with Radiohead's Thom Yorke and Jonny Greenwood. A less widely celebrated but equally groundbreaking project was the left of centre London/Nairobi dance band Owiny Sigoma Band during the 2010s.

The Voices Of Bishara band spans the F-IRE generation and the standard bearers of London's post-2016 alternative jazz scene. Bassist Tom Herbert is Skinner's near contemporary and in the 2000s was a member of the influential Polar Bear and Acoustic Ladyland, both intricately intertwined with Laubrock's lineups. From the school of 2016 come tenor saxophonists Shabaka Hutchings and Nubya Garcia and cellist Kareem Dayes. As jazz supergroups go, this is the coyote's cojones.

Voices Of Bishara grew out of a Played Twice session the quintet performed at London's Brilliant Corners. The regular event had a winning format: a classic album was played in full through the bar's audiophile sound system, after which an elite ensemble improvised their response. The night in question focused on drummer Tony Williams' Life Time (Blue Note, 1965) and the results were so good that Skinner decided to write the material which became Voices Of Bishara.

The album was recorded live in the studio and then Skinner got busy with the editing scissors. He applied them with gusto, rather in the manner of disco auteurs such as Theo Parrish, who in the late 1990s began creating tracks in a process which was as radical as William Burroughs' literary cut-up technique, though without the element of random chance. "It was really empowering to fuck it up a bit," says Skinner. "To mess around with the music and see what happened."

What happened is just over thirty minutes of exalted jazz. It is by turns tumultuous, when Hutchings and Garcia unleash their broken-note strewn tenors, and meditative, when Hutchings switches to bass clarinet, Garcia to flute, and Dayes' sonorous cello steps forward. Skinner and Herbert have been playing together for over twenty years, and they lift, propel and anchor things in immaculate close-formation.

The album title was inspired by the American cellist Abdul Wadud's solo album By Myself, which he released on his own Bisharra label in 1978 and which Skinner listened to repeatedly during 2020. Although Skinner's title uses the more conventional spelling of the Arabic word, they both translate as "good news." Sadly, Wadud passed in 2022. One hopes and guesses he would have been tickled pink by Skinner's salute, for the news on Voices Of Bishara is as good as it gets. Check the YouTube clip below for a taste.

Trainspotter Note 1: This is the first time that boss tenors Shabaka Hutchings and Nubya Garcia have been heard playing together on record.

Trainspotter Note 2: Cellists are still uncommon in jazz. Another album which includes one is Ingrid Laubrock's aforementioned Forensic. Unbroken the circle is.
 

Source: All About Jazz

Vitja Pauwels - Drift By / Sink In

Drift By / Sink In

by Vitja Pauwels

Released 4 November 2022

W.E.R.F. records

****-

As the frontman of Bombataz, Brussels based guitarist Vitja Pauwels plays with Naima Joris, Cram Ration, Lara Rosseel, Woolvs, Warm Bad, Mobilhome, An Pierlé and Bony King of Nowhere. In between, he is carving out a solo career for himself.

After the previously released Day at Half Speed (2019), a live recorded concert that later came out as a release, Vitja Pauwels will release his first full album on November 4, 2022.

Drift by / Sink in sounds like a sound bath in which Vitja's guitars are the main focus. However, in terms of approach, style and instrumentation, each song is very different. On the album you can hear not only his familiar guitar, but also pedal steel guitar, all kinds of resonator and 12-string guitars, an arsenal of effects, samplers, synths, drum computers and all kinds of electronics. He also sings on three of the eight songs.

Vitja draws inspiration from different types of music ranging from Americana to Latin American, singer songwriting to cinematic Lynch. Stillness in music attracts him. Artists close to his heart are Daniel Lanois, Marc Ribot, Mark Hollis, Thom Yorke, James Blake, Connan Mockasin, ...

For recording, Vitja worked together with Koen Gisen at studio La Patrie in Ghent. In Gisen's studio everything takes place in one room and that ensures a natural acoustic blend. They carefully placed all sound sources in the room so that Vitja's multi-layered music was expressed in relief. Although it is Vitja's first studio album, it was not the first time the two worked together. The Daniel Johnston tribute record by Naima Joris, her upcoming own album (which will also be released on November 4th) as well as Warm Bad were all recorded by Koen with Vitja. The two became good friends and find each other in taste and an unbridled fascination for sound.

Source: Music Mania

Fantastic Negrito - White Jesus Black Problems

White Jesus Black Problems

by Fantastic Negrito

Released 3 June 2022

Storefront Records

****-

White Jesus Black Problems is Xavier Amin Dphrepaulezz’s fifth album as Fantastic Negrito, and surely his finest

It’s quite a story. Back in 1759, in Virginia, Elizabeth Gallimore, an indentured white Scottish servant, fell in love with a black slave whose name has been lost in the mists of time. All these years later, their great-great-great-great-great-great-great-grandson, Xavier Amin Dphrepaulezz, aka Fantastic Negrito, has discovered he is 27 per cent white and has written an album based on their tale. 

There’s darkness to spare. There’s casually dispensed pain; legal proceedings (fuelled by Joe Meek-style keyboards, the gritty Nibbadip goes into the court case for “unlawfully cohabiting with a negro slave” in funky fashion), and overt racism on the interlude You Don’t Belong Here. But there’s redemption too, when the couple’s children are freed.
The previous three Fantastic Negrito albums (2020's Have You Lost Your Mind Yet?, 2018's Please Don't Be Dead and 2017's The Last Days of Oakland) won Best Contemporary Blues Grammy. This one won’t, since, without spurning what made him so vital in the first place, Dphrepaulezz is painting from a richer, more varied palette where his gravel-encrusted vocals – part Corey Glover, part Johnny Cash – glide over the Frank Zappa-esque swirl of In My Head or the percussive throb that propels Register Of Free Negroes. 

As a story it’s inspiring, and only a fool would fail to notice a rum selection of contemporary parallels. Encompassing American and African blues, gospel, rock (Man With No Name is a conscious, surprisingly successful attempt to merge James Brown with Black Sabbath), stentorian keyboards, country (You Better Have A Gun) and soul, White Jesus Black Problems is a wide-ranging sprawl of sound.
On a purely musical level, it’s all over the place in the best possible sense, from the opening clatter of Venomous Dogma, which twists and turns like Prince covering Muse, to the closing Virginia Soil with its ‘freedom will come’ mantra. 

They Go Low, the possible standout, begins with cascading piano, before banks of massed vocals kick in on the way to an irresistibly catchy chorus, while the unfortunately titled (to those who remember Frank Spencer), but super-tight Oh Betty is built around an distinctly Doorsian keyboards squall. 

So, yes, with Red Hot Chili Peppers-style guitars popping up as frequently as finger-clicking harmonies, White Jesus Black Problems is indeed a mess. So what? Even without the back story, it works as a testament to one man’s musical vision. And on this showing, Dphrepaulezz is on the cusp of establishing himself as a major player. He may sound like almost everything, but there’s nothing quite like him.

Source: Louder Sound

George Riley - Running In Waves

Running In Waves

by George Riley

Released 9 September 2022

PLZ Make It Ruins

****-

A year after George Riley’s debut album/mixtape, interest rates, a tape, established her experimental and free-formed brand of R&B, the West London-native has returned with Running In Waves, an ode to independence and self-trust that is contemplative and expressive. On her sophomore album, she delivers an innovative and full-bodied soundscape reminiscent of everything from cool jazz to jungle to Janet Jackson, gliding between introspective musings and proclamations of empowerment.

At only 23 minutes long, Running In Waves is both atmospheric and airtight. While undercurrents of synths and electronic beats snake through most of the tracks, the album fuses inventive rhythms with lush instrumentation, juxtaposing percussive hip-hop with strings and sleek bass lines. Unexpected sonic elements keep things dynamic, whether it’s the buzzing electric guitar on “Time” or the cascading piano in “Running In Waves,” providing listeners with an eclectic and futuristic take on 2000s-esque R&B. It feels at once intuitive and carefully arranged, a testament to U.K.-based artist Vegyn’s producing chops and Riley’s instinctive vocals.

And it’s true that throughout the album’s eight tracks, Riley’s voice acts like an instrument of its own, alternately soulful and celestial, biting and blasé. It’s the golden thread that guides us as she navigates fake friends and uncertainty to arrive at a place where external validation becomes meaningless in the face of home-grown confidence. Distinct in the soft assertiveness of “Jealousy” (“I’m not denying my wants this time/Even though that’s not what people want of me”), or the self-reliance of “Acceptance” (“No matter how long I take/I gotta trust my intuition”), the album is colored with a sense of steadfast honesty, one that comes from the inside-out, that can only emerge from fully embracing yourself and all of your wildest dreams.

And while this sentiment—already well-documented and frequently explored in the music of fellow 20-somethings—could easily have fallen flat, dynamic production choices and unassuming lyrical vulnerability make the record memorable and forward-facing. It’s clear that Riley is looking back without turning back, reflecting on how she got to where she is while boldly charging ahead on a road she’s paving herself.

Source: Under The Radar Mag

Various Artists - For The Birds: The Birdsong Project, Vol 1.

For The Birds: The Birdsong Project, Vol 1.

by Various Artists

Released 20 May 2022

The Birdsong Project

****-

When the pandemic first hit, Randall Poster, a New York City resident, noticed not only the hush of the city, but became hyper-aware of the birds in his neighborhood.

His colleague and executive producer, Rebecca Reagan had an idea to invite artists and musicians to create music built around birdsongs and to celebrate the beauty in birdsong while also raising awareness of the various crisis facing bird life.

Randall Poster, a music supervisor for filmmakers, including Wes Anderson and Martin Scorsese, began to reach out to the various artists in his musical world to see if there was interest in creating songs and audio based around birds. Their project, For the Birds: The Birdsong Project is a collection of 242 new original songs and poems about birds by artists from all walks of life, including Laurie Anderson, John Cale, Alice Coltrane, Cassandra Jenkins, Yo-Yo Ma, Nick Zinner, Beck, The Flaming Lips, Terry Riley and of course Andrew Bird and Jeff Tweedy.

The Birdsong Project is a community dedicated to the protection of bird life, and to the celebration of the joy and mysteries of birdsong. We believe that birds – no matter feather or flock – are precious and inspiring and fundamental to our world. That a world without birds would be a world without freedom and flight and song. We believe birds matter. Are endangered. And need our help.

Source: The Birdsong Project

Mista Savona, Havana Meets Kingston - Havana Meets Kingston Vol. 2

Havana Meets Kingston Vol. 2

by Jake "Mista" Savona, Havana Meets Kingston

Released 3 June 2022

Australian Broadcasting Corporation

****-

An epic set of 15 tracks, Havana Meets Kingston Part 2 unites the deep roots grooves of reggae, dancehall and rocksteady with the scorching soul of Cuban son, timba and salsa.

While connected by common African roots and colonial histories, the music of Cuba and Jamaica have traveled largely in separate directions. Their influence on the music of the world has been immeasurable, but their influence on each other has been less evident – until now.

It took an Australian to bring these two musically rich cultures together. Melbourne producer and musician Jake Savona had already fallen in love with the music of Jamaica, having released a string of successful reggae and dub albums under his stage name Mista Savona since 2007. He first traveled to Cuba in 2014 and on his last day in Havana, he was struck with a vision: he could imagine the sounds of Cuban rumba mixed with Jamaican nyabinghi, the spiritual & folkloric styles unique to each island.

A year later, supported by a grant from the Australian Council, Savona returned to Cuba, joined by a quartet of Jamaican legends including Sly & Robbie (drummer Sly Dunbar and bassist Robbie Shakespeare), guitarist Winston “Bopee” Bowen (known for his work with Dennis Brown) and Studio One percussionist Bongo Herman. They spent the next ten days at the legendary EGREM studios recording with many of Cuba’s top musicians and vocalists. “It felt like a project that wanted to be born, and I was the one lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time,” recalls Savona.

More sessions followed, other guests were invited, and after years of painstaking effort, the first volume of Mista Savona Presents Havana Meets Kingston was released in 2017 to worldwide acclaim. By 2018 a live version of the project had performed three world tours, culminating in an incendiary show for the BBC Proms at The Royal Albert Hall in the summer of 2018.

Shortly thereafter Savona was back in the Caribbean to work on new recordings with a range of famous and rising stars in the Cuban and Jamaican music scenes. Much of this new record was also recorded at the famous EGREM Studio (Estudios Areito 101) in Havana, where the equipment and atmosphere has remained unchanged since the 1950s. This is the very same studio in which the famous Buena Vista Social Club album was recorded in 1996, and the Havana Meets Kingston albums share that unique sonic character and warm, woody room sound that EGREM is famous for. According to Savona “The Cubans told me an angel lives in the studio and that she blesses the music recorded there - and I believe it! Other studios we recorded at include Nelson’s Studio in Vedado, and Bob Marley’s Tuff Gong studio in Kingston, Jamaica.”

Havana Meets Kingston Part 2 includes guest appearances from Jamaican singers Clinton Fearon (The Gladiators), Randy Valentine, Prince Alla, Stevie Culture, The Jewels and Micah Shemaiah. Featured Cuban guests include Cimafunk, Barbarito Torres, Changuito, Brenda Navarrete, Solis, Beatriz Marquez, Dayán Carrera Fernández and many more. This second album simmers with energy that comes from the magic created by musicians discovering exciting new sounds and collaborators. 

Source: Bandcamp

Various Artists - Ghost Riders

Ghost Riders

by Various Artists

Released 14 October 2022

Efficient Space

****-

A North American road trip of coming of age garage soul mapped by Ivan Liechti, Ghost Riders is Efficient Space’s latest narrative compilation, hovering in a liminal emotional ravine between moonlight melancholy, teenage heartache and unchecked, unrealised ambition. Across 17 open hearted ballads recorded 1965-1974, the 2LP collects and connects dots between British Invasion fanatics, child prodigies, the loners and the luckless, in a kind of trans-continental survey of those swept up in rock’n’roll mania and buoyed by local newspaper ads promising fame and gold records.

From the tangerine dreams of 8th grade all-girl combo The Mod 4 to the tri-state jukebox aspiring echoes of The Tempters, The Yardleys' poetic Farfisa vamp and lilting folk pop, and The Landlords’ weepy break up b-side blues, these are mostly one shots by dreamers whose experience was brief before being checked back to the reality of suburban normality and realistic career options. Hailing from the regional backwaters of Illinois, Arkansas, Nevada, Massachusetts, Ohio, Idaho, Texas and beyond, the licensed artists were scouted by way of local fire departments, spiritualist fellowships and animal welfare centres, often barely a stones throw from where their contributions were originally laid.

A barely teenage Dennis Harte's ‘Summer’s Over’ perhaps best taps the collection’s essence. A gut-wrenching lament of the passing of the season as if it was the last on earth. Flanked by players from The Left Banke, Harte, a now-piano tuner to the stars, is from the minor segment that found longevity in showbiz. Likewise with Michigan icon Lyn Nowicki who cast her ghostly voice over Beatles cover song chameleons The Common People and Jerry McGee, The Ventures member and conduit of Dr. John’s ‘Twilight Zone’.

Ghost Riders simmers with the scent of youthful summers, the pang of schoolyard romance, and the excitement (and disenchantment) of teenage naïveté, delivered via a deceptively simple and frequently wonky garage band set up. The vision of record collector and graphic designer Ivan Liechti, these eternal psych-folk howlers are further crystallised by Colin Young’s fastidious audio restoration, the original artwork of Elise Gagnebin-de Bons and an aptly penned foreword from Sonic Boom. 

Source: Bandcamp

Henrik Schwarz, Bugge Wesseltoft - DUOII

DUOII

by Henrik Schwarz, Bugge Wesseltoft

Released 14 October 2022

Jazzland Recordings

****-

Wesseltoft Schwarz return with a new selection of tracks, DUOII, demonstrating that while neither acclaimed jazz composer and keyboardist Bugge Wesseltoft nor electronics maestro and producer Henrik Schwarz could be described as predictable, as a duo they are absolutely mercurial. Their natural affinity, and symbiotic musical relationship, seems to provide both with equal amounts of inquisitive, experimental and creative energy, and all without sacrificing their accessibility.

This second collaboration album (or third, if you also include the equally superb "Trialogue" where the duo was joined by bassist Dan Berglund - of EST, Tonbruket and RYMDEN fame) travels the sonic landscapes of their imaginations, in all directions. Like its predecessor, the album retains that organic quality that allowed the music to breathe and expand, blurring the distinction between electronic and acoustic, and between live and sampled performance. However, that is where the similarities end, as this time their stylistic mutations have followed different paths, and they have augmented their sound with guest musicians and vocalists, conjuring different vibes, sounds, methods and moods - all while remaining distinctly Wesseltoft Schwarz.

The sparseness of opener "Woodened Stone" with its insistent melodic percussive figure and interweaving pads, overlaid with serene interjections of piano, lays an open and welcoming path to the rest of the album. "Future Strings" takes us on a new direction that initially seems like some alternate reality where Romantic orchestras incorporated synthesisers, while "My First Life" (featuring vocals from Kid Be Kid) presents us with the contrast of a fresh take on urban soul, complete with lush strings. The track pairing of "Duolism" ("One Two" and "Two Two") brings Solistenensemble Kaleidoscop, a string quartet (Paul Valikoski - violin, Grégoire Simon - violin, Ildiko Ludwig - Viola, and Boram Lie - Cello), into the mix, and the expanded sound first flirts with the baroque while retaining a distinctly pop sensibility, then moves into a resonant and rhythmic dynamic that is somehow minimalist while simultaneously swelling at the seams. "Eye for an Eye" continues with the quasi-minimalist feeling, while the strings give way to a synthesiser/piano combo expanded by the voices of Jenniffer Kae, Jemma Endersby and Catharina Schorling, creating a piece of much larger scale than the constituent parts would suggest is possible. "Basstorious", featuring trumpeter Sebastian Studnitzky, brings together more traditional jazz elements, TB-303 style basslines, and the percussive stone/woodblocks heard at the album's beginning, and shifts effortlessly between upbeat urban dance and hazey late-night moods without dropping a semiquaver or its melodic hooks. The album's closer, "Now I'm Better" gradually comes into focus, with low sine bass tones, a steady beat that emerges and recedes, vibraphone soloing interweaving with piano over an evolving soundscape - all before erupting into a full-on stomp, moving with an irresistible and optimistic determination.

This long-awaited sequel to their 2014 classic DUO indicates Wesseltoft Schwarz's disregard for rules or received wisdom remains healthier than ever, and that their work - both live and in the studio - will never be lacking in innovation or surprise.

Source: Bandcamp

Catrin Finch, Seckou Keitz - Echo

Echo

by Catrin Finch, Seckou Keitz

Released 27 May 2022

bendigedig

*****

As with Welsh-Senegalese harp and kora duo Catrin Finch & Seckou Keita‘s previous albums, (2013's Claychau Dibon and  2018's Soar), a strong positive message runs through Echo, the third part of their trilogy.

The Osprey and its reintroduction to Wales and migration to West Africa (symbolising the relationship between the two musicians) was the star of Soar, whereas the underlying theme running through Echo takes this sense of connection and relationship and evolves it into one seamless creative whole. The idea of the echo also brings into focus the importance of love, relationships, death and memory; these are large existential themes that, considering the circumstances of the last two years, have been nearer the surface than normal and in the thoughts of many.

With that in mind, the album starts appropriately with a beaming piece entitled Gobaith, meaning ‘hope’ in Welsh. Unsurprisingly, the music is beautiful in its intricacy and structure. Starting with a bright harp refrain, the kora comes in with splashes of colour over a whisper of Claire Whitson’s rich double bass notes before the gentle introduction of strings. Appearing on four tracks, the addition of strings is a first for the duo, marking a distinctive shift in the shape of their sound; it creates an effective difference in texture on the tracks with strings involved and emphasises the space on the tracks where they are absent. That said, the balance of sound is expert throughout, and the string septet never threatens to overpower the essence of the sound that is the harp and kora. This balance comes across wonderfully on Chaminuka, a song in tribute to late mbira (thumb piano, see the album Mind Maintenance) player Chartwell Dutiro. The restraint on display from the two musicians is a joy to listen to and fully illustrates the simplicity and intuition that can be heard in the finest duo setups. A repetitive minimalist kora line neatly emulates the mbira before more notes arrive to carefully enhance the arrangement. The shift in sound in the second half, when strings swoop and Seckou sings a lament for his friend, could have been jarring, but the production from the two players plus Tom Colvin ensures the transition is smooth.

Elsewhere, Dual Rising ups the drama significantly, with Seckou’s kora playing a twitchier line in the background while Catrin’s harp performs dynamically across the whole range of strings. A performance with virtuoso Colombian joropo harpist Edmar Castañeda, known for his high tempo string playing, was the inspiration behind this song. The influence is evident, with a jazz-inspired piece continually jumping around and Catrin showing her prowess as a technically skilled and diamond-fingered picker. The string section is absent here, which is wise, considering the complexity and high energy of the two main instruments. As Catrin says, ‘I play every note under the sun and people love it!’ There is a suggestion of free improvisation here or at least a feeling of freedom and pure energy in the music that would transfer wonderfully to a live setting. Played at a far easier pace and also without the string accompaniments is Tabadabang, a lyrical song based around family and the innocence of adventure and travelling in children. The kindliness and gentle mischief that forms the context of the music is portrayed neatly in a sound that is at once intricate and playfully pitched, all but totally lacking the sharp edges of Dual Rising. Instead, the music remains softly euphoric for the most part, evoking this innocence of childhood and the subtle introduction of life’s adventures.

My favourite piece on the album is the penultimate track Jeleh Calon, meaning ‘smile’ in Mandinka and ‘heart’ in Welsh, respectively. Much like the earlier song Chaminuka, the mood of this one shifts partway in with the introduction of strings, but the change is skilfully done. Catrin’s plucked lower strings (imitating the heartbeat) introduce the song before Seckou’s kora comes in with a beautiful melody that washes light over the music and effectively provides the smile. For me, Jeleh Calon best demonstrates the musical relationship between the two players and their closeness and evolution into this one whole. The strings are a feather-light enhancement and again allow the two instruments to weave majestically around each other. Another more meandering song in some ways with a hint of improvisation in its structure, the music drifts and progresses like a life, before it is brought to a close by the ever-present ‘heartbeat’ of Catrin’s harp. It is a gorgeous piece of music.

Even before we have been led out by the final song Jula Kuta, it is clear that Echo is another significant leap forward for these two spellbinding musicians, and it’s an appropriate finale to a remarkable trilogy. In a way, Jula Kuta is a musical demonstration of how far both musicians have come, it being a piece Seckou has been sitting on for some time, with the intention of it showcasing the range of a double-necked kora he created in 2007. Centred around the ludicrously rich sound and the huge challenge of playing a chromatic scale from D-flat to A on both harp and kora, the song is actually quite a modest piece, displaying quiet virtuosity. It’s probably the most spacious and deliberately paced track on here, also occupying the most time, at well over eight minutes. Both musicians have fun at points by producing delightfully sharp arpeggios, but for the most part, Catrin and Seckou are careful to allow the music to breathe. It works perfectly with songs like Dual Rising, which more dramatically demonstrates the range and ability of both players. Here, subtlety is as key a skill as speed, and the music achieves a sense of quiet satisfaction as the two instruments fade out. It brings to a close another masterpiece; a beautiful album from two artists operating at the height of their powers

Source: Folk Radio UK

Esbjorn Svensson - HOMME.S.

HOMME.S.

by Esbjorn Svensson

Released 18 NOvember  2022

ACT Music

****-

There are only a few figures in music whose work influences and shapes a genre as a whole. This is undoubtedly true of the Swede Esbjörn Svensson. With his trio e.s.t., the pianist and composer wowed audiences beyond age and genre affiliations. And his influence on jazz as a whole reverberates to this day and already within the second and third generation of musicians worldwide.

HOME.S. is Esbjörn Svensson's only solo album and the sheer existence of such a recording and its completely unexpected discovery over a decade after its creation are nothing less than a sensation:

Since the early 1990s, Svensson focused almost his entire creative energy and recording activities on his work with e.s.t.. Thus, these new recordings are not only the first, but practically the only ones that show Svensson in a setting other than that of the trio: Intimate, concentrated and completely one with himself.

The recordings for HOME.S. were made only a few weeks before Esbjörn Svensson's sudden death on June 14, 2008. Svensson recorded the music in his Swedish home.

For almost ten years afterwards, the album rested untouched in his wife Eva's personal archive. In this interview, she tells the story behind the discovery of the album and the music:

HOME.S. consists of nine piano songs, consisting of a combination of written-out fragments and Svensson's unique, melodic style of improvisation. Heartfelt, soulful and deeply personal.

In an interview on the publisher's website, Svensson's wife he tells the story behind the discovery of the album and the music:.

Source: ACT Music

Balka Sound - Balka Sound

Balka Sound

by Balka Sound

Released 11 November 2022

Strut Records

****-

Strut present the first ever compilation of Balka Sound, bringing together their influential 1980s recordings, Hailing from Congo-Brazzaville and led by revered vocalist and ngonfi player, Nkibi “Lusialala” Albert, Balka Sound created their own unique musical world, re-imagining traditional Congolese Balka rhythms with electric guitars, electric bass and drums, alongside the traditional 5-string ngonfi.

Nkibi Albert had risen to fame in 1972 with his solo hit ‘Ah Lusialala’ and Balka Sound was created to bring the sound of Balka, a folk style from the Beembe people, to modern life and an international audience. With its roots in slavery and colonialism rumba was dominating the music scene in Congo while the philosophy of Balka Sound was to find its inspiration directly in local country life, to associate the modern and the traditional and to revive folk traditions that were dying. Founder member Henri Nsika Nkaya explains, “it was intended to be an update, a unification and an internationalisation of Congolese cultures.”

In 1979, during a festival organised by the Centre Culturel Français, the band won a recording deal to release their first album: Le 1er son du Balka, Lusialala et ses amis, recorded in just one take. Their success led to a second LP, Tu Kine Balka, recorded in Kinshasa in 1982. A third album in 1984, Afro Musik Creation, featured a more modern studio production sound. Their songs drew from traditional folk tales and parables, life lessons and the damage caused by rural exodus to the cities. By 1985, Balka Sound were working full-time with residencies at Chez Tantine Clara in Brazzaville, a well-known tourist venue, and the Frantel Cosmos Hotel.

In 1991, political tensions were rising in the country; civil disobedience and threats of a military coup were followed by a civil war from 1993 to 1994. The band eventually regrouped and were invited to perform in 1996 at the Palais des Congrès for the Fête National. Unfortunately, on the first day of new fighting in 1997, Balka Sound’s studio was looted and the band were forced to finally disperse.

This first compilation of the band’s music is curated and annotated by Makila Nsika Nkaya in conjunction with Balka Sound and has been fully remastered by The Carvery. 

Source: Bandcamp

Majid Bekkas - Joudour

Joudour

by Mijad Bekas

Released 4 November 2022

IGLOO Records

*****

In 2002, the release of the album "African Gnaoua Blues" inaugurated a collaboration between the Moroccan musician Majid Bekkas and IGLOO Records. 20 years later, this anniversary album plunges its roots ("Joudour") into Africa, to the sources of blues, jazz and funk, without forgetting to look at the present times... A musical journey to the gates of the desert!

Creator of the "African Gnaoua Blues" style, Majid Bekkas is still the foremost ambassador of this form of music, which comes from the spiritual music of the Gnaoua trance, mixed with jazz and blues from African sources.

Originally from Zagora at the gates of the Sahara where desert music, Aqallal or Roukba rhythms lulled his childhood, Bekkas has preciously treasured a spirit of authenticity while preserving and safeguarding Gnaoui music, whose secrets and intrinsic universality he has penetrated.

A return to his roots in the company of musicians and friends used to this musical and human adventure: Manuel Hermia on saxophone and flute; Childo Tomas, a bass player from Mozambique; Karim Ziad, an Algerian drummer and great specialist of Maghrebian rhythms and Gnaoua music; Michael Hornek, an Austrian pianist; and Khalid Kouhen, a Moroccan master of Indian, African and Brazilian percussion.

Guests include:

  • Bouhssine Foulane, an Amazigh musician, virtuoso of the ribab (Berber single-string violin);

  • Adil Chorfi, Moroccan player of the Nei de Kawala and violin;

  • Mustapha Antari, virtuoso of oriental percussion;

  • Biboul Darwiche, Cameroonian percussionist specialised in Bantu rhythms;

  • Marylène Ingremeau (choir) who has a passionate interest in the many ways of using the voice throughout the world.

The album was produced remotely due to the health crisis. Each composition recorded in Salé (Morocco) was sent to each of the musicians for their contribution. A method that left room for freedom and reveals Majid's multi-instrumentalist talents. In addition to the guembri, the guitar and the oud, we discover Majid on the n'goni, bouzouki, kalimba and the balafon, revisiting the rhythms and musical colours of Morocco, desert music and Africa. He is constantly impregnated with the forces and contradictions of the times to offer us this magnificent musical journey.

Source: WOMEX

Ferkat Al Ard - Oghneya (Habibi Funk 019)

Oghneya (Habibi Funk 019)

by Ferkat Al Ard

Released 24 June 2022

Habibi Funk Records / Groove Attack

****-

An absolutely legendary album from Lebanon by Issam Hajali’s group Ferkat Al Ard, “Oghneya” stands out as one of the great musical gems of the Arab world. A groundbreaking release from 1978 that represents the meeting point of Arab, jazz, folk and Brazilian styles with the talent of Ziad Rahbani, who did the albums arrangements.

Filled with a variety of sounds and genres, from Baroque Pop to Psych-Folk to flashes of Bossa Nova, Tropicalia and MPB, “Oghneya” is like if Arthur Verocai took a trip to Beirut in the 70’s to record an album.

Sadly there are two tracks from the original release of “Oghneya” that did not make it onto the reissue. “Ghfyara Ghaza” was replaced by the song “Juma’a 6 Hziran.” while “Huloul” was taken off without a replacement. This happened as a precondition from the band for this reissue to happen. We would have loved to include all tracks, but the decision ranged between having either a reissue like the one we put out or no reissue at all. Thus, an easy choice for us.

Source: Bandcamp

Gordon Koang - Community

Community

by Gordon Koang

Released 11 November 2022

Music In Exile

****-

First, we had Unity. Now, South Sudan’s undisputed ‘King of Music’, the Juba-via-Melbourne eccentric outsider Gordon Koang, returns with his second full-length of original material since emigrating to Australia, the masterly titled follow-up, Community.

Eight tracks recorded in Melbourne with a cast of the city’s finest musical minds, including Zak Olsen, Jesse Williams, David “Daff” Gravolin and Jack Kong, the record draws upon Gordon’s pitch-perfect pop sensibility and compulsion for composing irresistibly catchy melodies. Add to this brew the extensive creditienals of his collaborators, who are known for their work with Trafik Island, ORB, Leah Senior and more, and you have yourself a perfect blend of East African pop and vintage psychedelia that is surely one of the most interesting records of the year, outstripping it’s Australian counterparts both in songwriting, production value and downright good energy.

After seeking asylum in Australia in 2012, Gordon Koang, along with his cousin, collaborator and bandmate Paul Biel, has gone on to become something of a darling in the Melbourne music community, delighting audiences year round with high energy shows and an irresistible enthusiasm. The pair have settled in the city’s outer suburb of Frankston, where Koang sits in isolation at home while Biel goes out to work each day; he was born blind, and has never seen neither his homeland in the Upper Nile Valley of South Sudan nor his new home on the streets of Melbourne.

This has done little to stop Koang channeling his creativity energy into music; he writes incessantly, and Community marks the twelfth full-length album of his career and his second since arriving in Australia (the previous ten currently lost to the streets of Juba in CD and cassette form - sure to be unearthed one day by Western tastemakers!)

His years of waiting for permanent residency in Australia, and prior to that of Civil War and unrest at home, have done little to dull the bright point of Koang’s positivity. He is without a doubt the man with the biggest smile in the room. A few short minutes with Koang will leave the listener walking away in a daze, his trademark phrases and bouncing laughter echoing for weeks. Community does for listeners what Koang can’t do himself - it reaches out to thousands around the world, providing him with a platform to personally greet and smile at each individual, to share a few words of encouragement and a quick observation about the warmth of the sun, or pleasure in simply being in company. If there is a silver lining to be found, chances are Gordon has already written an album about it.

The record is warm, fuzzy, catchy, lighthearted, and it packs a punch. It rocks hard with the best of them, Olsen’s beautiful production value drawing out the best in Koang’s eccentric and spiralling melodies, the band grinding themselves into an endless groove before bursting into some new impossible melody.

Somewhere between William Onyeabor and King Gizzard, this is surely the soundtrack to round out what has been an incredible year of music post-pandemic.

Music in Exile is a not-for-profit record label and artist services company based in Melbourne, Australia, championing stories of culturally and linguistically diverse musicians and striving for a music industry that fairly represents all in our society.

Source: Bandcamp

The Maghreban - Connection

Connection

by The Maghreban

Released 22 July 2022

Zoot Records

****-

The album is called “Connection”. I've been working on it since before my last one came out. I could try and come up with some grand narrative to give it meaning and string it all together somehow, but really it’s just some deeper tracks I made that sat together well. There are Middle Eastern, Jazz and Techno influences in some of the songs. I was trying to make stuff that was a little more emotive.

Here's a small narrative. It’s called Connection because I was seeking and becoming more comfortable with connection whilst making it, rather than keeping myself to myself like I have done in the past. But the flipside of that was a deeper awareness of grief and sorrow. This is why some of the tracks have some sadness.

It was nice to collaborate with people that I really respect.

Abdullah Miniawy has melancholy in his voice, and it complimented the track I gave him.

Idris Rahman's saxophone helped me flesh out the eastern jazz element. I told him I like Tubby Hayes.

Nah Eeto is an incredible rapper who brought a lot of energy to the front of the album and inspired me to experiment with my production in new ways.

I always wanted to do some vocal house, and Omar helped me with that. The vocal melody came to me in a dream. I still worry that it’s from someone else’s tune and that I haven’t figured out who yet.

Let’s see.

I worked with Matt Littler again for the artwork. I told him “less grotesque, more serious” compared to the last LP.

Maybe that’s also what I was going for with the music. I hope you enjoy it. 

Source: Bandcamp

DOMi & JD BECK - NOT TiGHT

NOT TiGHT

by DOMi & JD BECK

Released 29 July 2022

APESHIT / Blue Note

****-

DOMi & JD Beck’s debut album might have the most stacked line-up of the year. ‘NOT TiGHT’ – their formatting, not ours – boasts a breathtaking array of current stars (Thundercat, Mac DeMarco), hip-hop royalty (Snoop Dogg, Busta Rhymes) and one genuine jazz titan (Herbie Hancock). Only the cast of Calvin Harris’ upcoming poptastic ‘Funk Wav Bounces Vol 2’ record can feasibly hold a candle to this collaborative ensemble.

This isn’t exactly an underdog story where the big names have come tumbling in for a trendy co-sign, though. It’s instead a shrewd move by their label boss Anderson .Paak, who signed the pair to APESHIT, his newly-minted imprint on the legendary jazz label Blue Note, and has already collaborated with them on ‘Skate’, which featured on .Paak and Bruno Mars’ wildly successful 2021 debut, Silk Sonic.

Speaking to NME earlier this year, DOMi and Beck detailed the relationship: “[.Paak] sat us down with a whiteboard and was like, ‘What do you want your album to feel like, what do you want to accomplish, and who do you want on it?’. He just made everything happen.”

It may seem dangerous to hand your contacts book to a pair of rising artists whose playful streak sits front and centre, but ‘NOT TiGHT’ succeeds as a result of the pair’s sense of restraint and balance.

Keyboardist DOMi and drummer Beck, who met in 2018 having both been musical prodigies while growing up in France and the US respectively, stay delicately in tune with one another throughout, remaining approachable for the jazz newbies and thoughtful enough for the diehards.

 

They utilise their guests smartly and sensibly throughout the album, encouraging each collaborator to enter their world instead of cowering or pandering to reputation. ‘Moon’, which stars Hancock’s trademark vocoder from his jazz fusion heyday, meets somewhere in the middle; DOMi and Beck’s trademark sound of propelling bass and beats and unlikely key changes nestling up nicely to Hancock’s piano playing. DeMarco’s vocals on ‘Two Shrimps’, meanwhile, are typically whimsical, though Beck’s dextrous beats ensure the song avoids pastiche despite of DeMarco’s best efforts: “Cowboy out on the front lawn / Cowboy song / Eyeballs out for the first dawn.”

As much fun as the big names prove to be – Thundercat’s turn on ‘Bowling’, .Paak on ‘Moon’ – it’s often more thrilling to hear DOMi and Beck go at it alone. Take the record’s standout moment ‘Smile’ and its ludicrously catchy guitar riff, or the woozy left-turns that ‘Not Tight’ and ‘Sniff’ take. The fact that they can outshine those types of names on record suggests that a remarkably bright future awaits.

Source: NME

Alison Shearer - View From Above

View From Above

by Alison Shearer

Released 18 February 2022

Alison Shearer

****-

Up-and-coming saxophonist/composer Alison Shearer has planted her jubilant stamp on a diverse set of thrilling New York groups. The influence of hip-hop has been a driving force within her wide-ranging arc, as evidenced by her membership in the multicultural Red Baraat and her co-founding of the rap-centric PitchBlak Brass Band.

Shearer’s debut under her own name, View from Above, occupies a more straightforward realm than those aforementioned groups but is no less of a revelation. What’s especially refreshing about it is that, while its underpinnings are of the cosmic variety, Shearer’s breezy compositions don’t fit under the “spiritual jazz” umbrella that’s all today’s rage. Rather, the set’s 10 pieces are crisp, upbeat, and distinctly accessible, an airy confluence of jazz, R&B, and gospel with honeyed melodies. Conceived following the death of Shearer’s father, celebrated photojournalist John Shearer, View from Above is far from a crestfallen statement. Instead, the saxophonist peers through a hopeful lens and provides uplifting messages, her majestic yet concise alto lines a supreme catalyst that propels each track to exquisite heights.

Taking the reins of an outstanding band that includes Kevin Bernstein (piano, Fender Rhodes, synthesizers), Marty Kenney (bass), and Horace Phillips (drums), along with several vocalists, Shearer showcases veteran-level moxie as an arranger. The record’s first three songs (“On Awakening,” “Celestial,” and “Cycles”) are sure to get the body moving, busting out with otherworldly hooks and funky riffs. “Toni’s Tune” should get the foot tapping and then some. But the danceable rhythms are dialed down for the moving album centerpiece, “Big Kids.” On this emotionally wrought gospel-leaning epic, Shearer pays homage to her late father’s role in the civil-rights movement, featuring excerpts of Malcolm X talking about police brutality.

Wielding a skill set beyond her years, Alison Shearer is a force on the rise.

Source: JazzTimes

Lee Fields - Sentimental Fool

Sentimantal Fool

by Lee Fields

Released 1 November 2022

Daptone Records

****-

Back in 1997, Rhino issued a mammoth collection of soul hits and rarities titled Beg, Scream and Shout!

Along with many ’60s highlights, they, unfortunately, missed including Lee Fields, who released his first single in 1969. Fields however remains active, promoting the qualities of that box’s descriptive title.

We’ll give the usually fine compilers at Rhino a break for omitting Fields since most of his early work was in the ’70s. Even though he took time off in the ’80s, the singer’s career has been resurrected in the last few decades. He can still beg, scream and shout with the same passion and searing attack as the biggest stars of the ’60s.

The soul man’s renaissance picked up momentum with My World (2009). He has worked steadily since, churning out authentic, unvarnished retro-influenced soul albums for a variety of mostly under-the-radar labels, as well as tirelessly touring to support them. Now in his early 70s, he is in full swing, and Sentimental Fool, surprisingly his debut for the Daptone label (he recorded some early singles for them), is among his finest recordings.

Producer Bosco Mann (aka Gabriel Roth), who as a 21-year-old fledging producer/songwriter helmed Fields’ 1996 single, returns on his first full Daptone collection. Not only does Mann pen most of these tracks, but he pulls out the production stops. A horn section, backing singers, and instrumentation that includes everything from vibraphone (credited to two players), bass harmonica, and timpani to tubular bells (really) enhance the Daptone studio crew. While this could easily get overcrowded and bloated, Mann keeps the focus on Fields’ emotional, often searing vocals.

It’s a deep well of soul, influenced more by Otis Redding than James Brown, the latter Fields’ initial inspiration. The gritty singer pushes songs like the opening love ballad “Forever” and the jazz/funk inflected “Two Jobs” (where his roars of “c’mon baby” and “keep on doin’ it” reflect the Isley Brothers’ “Work to Do” concept), into the red, where they stay.

None of the dozen tracks exceed four minutes. Producer Mann keeps them tight and concise, adding horns only to emphasize lyrics and never going overboard. On the rugged R&B of “Your Face Before My Eyes,” Fields pleads “You’re driving me crazy” punching the intensity in a tune that doesn’t even break two minutes. The sound is stripped down to a slow gospel, organ-led approach for the closing “Extraordinary Man,” which gradually bolsters the instrumentation and then reverts back to the keyboard that started it.

No Pro-Tools, no hip-hop, no synths or programmed beats, this is as organic, honest, and powerful as soul gets. Between Roth’s guidance and Lee Fields’ riveting performance, this is a contemporary/retro-tinged classic, one that any lover of the genre will find timeless and inspirational.  

Source: American Songwriter

Adrian Younge, Ali Shaheed Muhammad, Garrett Saracho - Garrett Saracho JID015

JID015 Garrett Saracho

by Garrett Saracho, Adrian Younge, Ali Shaheed Muhammad

Released 18 November 2022

Jazz Is Dead

****-

While they are best known for working alongside some of the most recognizable names in jazz, Jazz Is Dead now invites you to meet an innovator that has largely gone unheard of, until now.

In the early 1970s, Garrett Saracho was a recording artist signed to the legendary Impulse Records, who came up in Los Angeles’ fertile underground jazz community. Due to a tragic combination of label mismanagement and geopolitical intervention, his sole record, 1973’s En Medio, fell largely under the radar of even the most astute collectors and fanatics. After spending the following decades in obscurity working in the film industry and touring with his cousins in the rock band Redbone, Saracho stepped into the Linear Labs studio with Adrian Younge and Ali Shaheed Muhammad to craft an intoxicating and kinetic rush of Latin Soul, Funk, and Psychedelic Jazz.

While you may not know his name, your ears will soon know the genius of Garrett Saracho.

Album opener “Sabor Del Ritmo” (Taste of Rhythm) is immediately transportive, as flutes swirl and envelop you, placing you at the center of Saracho’s meditative piano. Restrained but upbeat, it’s a wonderful showcase of the different directions the rest of the arrangements go in.

“Altitude” sounds as if it were plucked from a coveted library music release, with haunting strings and a tense climbing piano melody that fits perfectly as a chase scene soundtrack.

Keeping in step with similar cinematic flourishes is “White Buffalo”, with a descending bass line that takes you into a villain’s subterranean lair.

On “Trucha”, the percussion speeds up and slows down, remaining unpredictable and elusive. As the horn section pours in with solos, the beat slows down one last time to give way to Saracho’s impressionistic keys.

Ballad “The Gardens”' is a gorgeous slowed-down piece of Latin Soul, reminiscent of Saracho’s early mentor Cal Tjader, with Saracho’s piano driving the emotional course. “’73” slinks in with the same vigor as Saracho’s recordings from that same year, and much like Saracho, it remains elusive, with a creeping bass line that hides behind paranoia-drenched synthesizers and anxious vibes.

The triumphant penultimate track “El Cambio Es Necesario” (Change Is Necessary) features shifting rhythms and styles, an apt metaphor for Saracho’s own path as an artist.

In an album filled with rhythmic and stylistic sleights of hand, none may be as memorable as the guitar, quietly strumming along throughout the piece, suddenly taking over on the last two notes. Listening to the studio chatter of closing track “Calo” further emphasizes the cohesion and trust that each musician placed in each other throughout the entire recording session, and especially on this track. Driven by the interplay between drums and piano, each finishing the other’s sentences as undulating flutes and horns swoop in, it’s an excellent closing statement in making the case for Saracho’s status as a Jazz great.

After spending nearly fifty years away from the music industry, Garrett Saracho makes his return on Jazz Is Dead with a collection of shapeshifting tunes that hop from one style or tempo to another with shocking ease. Blending together Latin Soul and Psychedelic Rock influences alongside his enduring love for jazz, JID015 is a tribute to the enduring ties and cultural dialogues between genres, and to the perseverance of a musician who once stood on the precipice of stardom, now receiving his long overdue acclaim.

Source: Bandcamp

Iggy Pop - Apres (10th Anniversary Edition)

Apres (10th Anniversary Edition)

by Iggy Pop

Released 5 November 2022

GM Records

***--

I can’t quite remember how I came across this title, but it had been in my Amazon want list for at least a year, with it being among the titles I was searching for when visiting the Amoeba chain last year during my last vacation.  To no avail, I might add. This album, released only in France on CD, remained a decidedly difficult CD to obtain before my wife thought that it would make a nice birthday present for me and did the deed herself. Much to my delight!

ryuichi sakamoto - riskyJPNCDVAI was very ready for this album since I had loved the rare tender side of The Ig that had slipped out of the closet every now and then in his long and storied career, most notably with the ballad “China Girl.” But if one notices, it’s been available if not on his own records, then most notably on his many guest performances on other people’s records. The “Risky” single from Ryuichi Sakamoto has long been one of my favorite examples of Iggy the crooner, with his sonorous baritone working to devastating effect on the number. Then, a few years ago I bought the DLX RM of his “Party” album from 1981, and while the romantic ballad “Sea Of Love” was noted on this fine album that I’d had for decades, the CD also featured an amazing cover of the iconic Sinatra number “One For My Baby” really staking out a claim that no one would have anticipated. Alas, the latter was an unreleased cut from the 1981 sessions that by rights should have been on the album proper. All of this activity over the years had primed me for “Aprés.”

The program is brief but well rounded with titles [all covers] split between English and French. The album started out with a bang with “Et Si Tu N’Existais Pas” coming on full strength with a large band arrangement with dreamy femmevox, and four [four!] guitarists coming together to give this one a vibe redolent of a Leonard Cohen track. Following that the pace cools a bit to become more quiet and intimate following the “all guns blazing” opener. “La Javanaise” shows Iggy’s hand with a Serge Gainsbourg cover. While Serge is a ghost who hovers over all modern French chanson, Pop was painting with a much broader stroke here.

By the time of the next track, an excellent cover of Fred Neil’s “Everybody’s Talkin’” the large combo of the first two tracks had reduced to an intimate trio approach which most of the remaining tracks skewed towards. Even so, guitarist/producer Hal Cragin’s gently distorted electric solo is a subtle delight among the acoustic guitars and brushed drums.

Having touched upon Gainsbourg, Pop ups his Francophile ante with the thousandth cover of “La Vie En Rose.”  While you won’t forget Grace Jones at the mic, Tim Ouimette’s boozy trumpet adds a welcome and delightfully lax punctuation on this Gallic classic. Other tunes, like “Les Passantes” and “Syracuse” offer less well-trod territory for your approval. The former features just the producer Craggin on acoustic guitars while the latter adds Jerry Marotta on low key drums. The late night vibe was certainly welcome.

Finally, the album closes with a trio of well known covers of songs in English. I prefer the Cole Porter classic [“What Is This Thing Called Love?”] to the one huge gaffe I find on this album; a cover of The Beatles’ rusty piece of kitsch you may have previously heard; “Michelle.”  The clear winner was the Sinatra cover, “Only The Lonely,” which opened with dinner party noise not a million miles away from that that heralded “Remake/Remodel” before it receded for Iggy and pianist Jon Cowherd to take center stage. The appearance of the phrase “fun time” in Sammy Cahn’s lyrics carried with it frissons of enormous ironic resonance. Iggy’s voice, which is deepening as he ages, has gotten to the point where he’s vying with Lee Marvin for bass frequencies. For anyone who’s ever heard Marvin’s orotund pipes on the “Paint Your Wagon” OST you’ll know whereof I’m speaking. If you’ve not, be glad – basso profundo aside, Marvin was painfully tone-deaf.

The album was an intriguing delight that successfully hit the target that I was expecting even as I was unsure of the technical particulars. The backstory for the album was possibly more astonishing. Iggy recorded it as a follow up to his earlier “Préliminaires” album of 2009. Except that this time Virgin balked and Iggy retaliated by licensing it himself in France. Hence, its scarcity. Fans of Iggy with open minds are encouraged to give this a spin. It’s an open secret that wild, Dionysian rock stars [Alice Cooper, The Cramps, etc.] usually listen to placid, easy listening tunes when relaxing at home off the tour grind, so it’s bold of Iggy to offer this glimpse into his less, commercial, private inner world as a balm for our sore ears. Remember; if you scratch a punk rocker, don’t be surprised if you find a romantic underneath the coat of graffiti. At the very least, it’s a rare glimpse of Mr. Osterberg actually wearing clothes!

Source: Post Punk Monk

The Kahil El'Zabar Quartet - A Time For Healing

A Time For Healing

by The Kahil El'Zabar Quartet

Released 4 February 2022

Spiritmuse Records

*****

Chicago’s legendary spiritual jazz shaman Kahil El’Zabar returns, leading an enviable ensemble of young masters from his hometown!

Kahil El’Zabar delivers yet another epic double LP’s worth of ancient/future music for the mind, body and soul. From swinging jazz that sings of his Chicago pedigree, to talking drums and soothing spiritual grooves that reconnect Black Classical Music with its African roots.

Multi-percussionist, band-leader, vocalist, composer, conductor and educator, Kahil El’Zabar has been at the forefront of the unceasingly creative avant-garde jazz scene in Chicago and beyond for over 4 decades. Considered the pioneer of spiritual groove and Afrocentric jazz, El’Zabar has recorded & performed with heavyweights such as Pharoah Sanders, Archie Shepp, David Murray, Billy Bang, Lester Bowie, Nina Simone and Stevie Wonder, to name a few.

Returning to his natural home on Spiritmuse Records, ‘A Time for Healing’ answers the urgent questions posed by his sold-out ‘America The Beautiful’ album, addressing the state of affairs today whilst calling for a better tomorrow. Hugely successful and universally acclaimed, the album was championed by Pitchfork, the Guardian and Gilles Peterson. As ever, the Chicago legend surrounds himself with the hottest young talent. Sonic scientist, Isaiah Collier joins on saxophone. Following his recent acclaimed album, ‘Cosmic Transitions’ LP, he has been hailed as the new ‘Coltrane’. Suffice to say, he doesn’t disappoint, as El’Zabar leads the ensemble through hypnotic groove after groove, providing Collier with ample space to improvise and uplift, channeling the spiritual sound of Trane and Pharoah.

Following stand-out performances on ‘America The Beautiful’ and the Ethnic Heritage Ensemble album, ‘Be Known Ancient/Future/Music’, El’Zabar disciple Corey Wilkes, considered one of best trumpeters in the world today, returns and shines once again. Having also worked with the likes of Roy Hargrove, Kurt Elling, Greg Osby and Marcus Belgrave, and who also filled the considerable shoes of Lester Bowie in The Art Ensemble of Chicago, leads stellar groups of his own, and has received plaudits from NPR and the Chicago Tribune.

Keyboard wizard Justin Dillard, who truly shone on his collaboration with El’Zabar on ‘Spirit Groove’, returns for another stellar performance, steeped in the heritage of Dr. Lonnie Smith and McCoy Tyner. Chicago Tribune puts it this way, “there’s something more to Dillard’s work as well; a quest for new ideas in music, in the manner of his AACM mentors”. His earthy Hammond grooves simultaneously ground and lift the quartet’s sound.

Kahil El’Zabar explores the gamut of Great Black Music in America, tracing its lineage through all the movements that’s flourished in Chicago, from the blues to R&B, soul, gospel, house music, spiritual jazz, and then back to all of its common African roots. This is captured brilliantly on the title track, where kalimba and spirit bowls evoke the ancestors, before the horns commence a yearning refrain, calling for guidance and healing. Then, El’Zabar’s new tomorrow hails its’ arrival on “The Coming Of Spring”, a beautiful swinging number full of joy and hope.

El’Zabar continues to pay homage to his mentors and idols, dedicating one “electrifying” number to tenor legend and electrified sax pioneer “Eddie Harris”. Long undervalued, his footprint nonetheless persists, as world renowned DJs no-less-than Theo Parris turn new audiences on to his avant-garde grooves. Elsewhere, “Resolution”, the central piece of Coltrane’s revered ‘Love Supreme’, is transformed by the quartet, with Dillard providing a fresh low-end groove on Hammond before delivering a stellar solo.

The album closes on a beautiful and hauntingly sparse treatment of Gershwin’s “Summertime”. Centered around El’Zabar’s legendary kalimba playing and a hummed groove. Wilkes, Collier and El’Zabar deliver the standard’s well-travelled melody with unheard depths and heart-wrenching spirituality.

Recorded in December 2020 in Chicago, ‘A Time For Healing’ is not only the answer to the urgent questions asked by El’Zabar’s ‘America the Beautiful’; its’ spiritual and ever probing human journey offers a regenerative opus in the face of growing global anxiety. What the world needs right now is exactly what El’Zabar and his quartet have on offer: A Time for Healing.

Source: Bandcamp

Asa 808 - Boy, crush

Boy, crush

by Asa 808

Released 28 October 2022

TOYS Berlin

*****

ASA 808’s new album Boy, crush is a very personal inner journey as well as a call to fight and free ourselves from toxic masculinity.

In eight tracks that subtly merge electronica, ambient, breakbeat and house, the Berlin-based artist processes their own quest for gender identity.

The album proposes new, softer and more diverse forms of gender fluidity. ASA 808 invites listeners to expand their views of the gender spectrum. The title Boy, crush plays with the term “boy crush” and is meant as an encouragement for all men to collectively crush manhood with all its toxic traits and consequences:
“Toxic masculinity has kept our grandmothers and mothers small and brought deviant boys into line. It took me a long time to unlearn so much sexism and queerphobia, and find my inner queer child again to let it grow, bloom and shine. I dream of a world in which men emasculate themselves and choose to embrace softness, weakness, vulnerability, solidarity, consideration, mindfulness, self-reflectiveness and nonviolence", explains the non-binary producer and DJ who discovered their gender-nonconforming side at an early age.

"I loved to dress up and dance when I was a kid. I loved everything that glittered and sparkled. My best friends were girls. I often felt like boys’ nights were a downward spiral and tried to refuse my socialization as a man. Still today, it seems to me that so many toxic behaviors are linked to hegemonic ideas of masculinity. We’re all suffering from them, whether we’re men or not, whether we want it or not, some obviously more than others.”
To free ourselves from the restraints of patriarchy, ASA 808 always saw the dancefloor as a potential space for emancipation where everyone should feel included and safe.

While the introverted ambient tracks on the album were recorded during the pandemic, the more energetic tracks emerged when life returned to the city and clubs reopened.
"Everyone was hungry for culture and there was a very exciting and blissful energy in the air", recalls ASA, who released previously on George FitzGerald’s MakeMusic imprint and developed a special connection to the capital's nightlife through their own TOYS fundraiser parties. 
 

Source: Bandcamp

JK Group - Rising

Rising (EP)

by JK Group

Released 14 October 2022

La Sape

****-

Multi-dimensional future-jazz outfit JK GROUP release a new EP, Rising on La Sape Records. The brainchild of award-winning saxophonist, Joshua Kelly (30/70 collective, PBS Young Elder of Jazz 2019), the band returns to the label with a follow up EP to the mind-bending 2021 release, What’s Real? 

Where What’s Real? served as a platform for wild experimentation, Rising returns to a more considered and familiar format for the band, offering up 4 cohesive tracks that are deep in conception and expression, at once original and fresh. Conceived after recording an as yet unreleased body of work written whilst undergoing chemotherapy, Rising celebrates bandleader Josh’s survival and eventual recovery from the intense treatment he received for lymphoma in 2020. 

The band stays true to their honed format of jazz traditions melding with influences from electronica and beyond.

Like the first release, The Young Ones (2020), Rising sits comfortably in the crossover of raw, live jazz and electronic dance music,  whilst also throwing an unexpected curveball to the listener expanding the palate of the bands sound to a pigment never before heard in their music.

The EP takes you on an emotional journey throughout the four tracks, best listened to start-to-finish.

Source: Bandcamp

Sai Galaxy - Get It as You Move (EP)

Get It as You Move (EP)

by Sai Galaxy

Released 15 July 2022

Soundway Recordings

****-

As the name suggests, Sai Galaxy represents a star-studded cluster of artists from around the world – their varied styles colliding to form a refreshing fusion of classic Afrobeat, disco and West African funk.

Drawing from the influence of 70s and 80s Nigerian artists such as Nkono Teles, Jake Sollo and Mike Umoh, the Sai Galaxy collective is on a mission to reproduce the analogue warmth and groove from those decades. Consequently, they lean heavily on 70s production techniques - free from the predictable rigidity of digital sequencing. Combined with a wealth of live music experience between them, the result is a melting pot of musicians flying in such tight formation you’d be forgiven for assuming they’d passed through quantisation.

It comes as no surprise then that many of the musicians on the Get It As You Move EP have previously collaborated on other projects. The symbiotic relationship is undeniable - from the raw unadulterated drums, to the wobbly bass, squelchy synth, smoky vocals and spontaneous percussive jams.

Spearheaded by Australian multi-instrumentalist Simon Durrington (who also produces under the moniker Sai Galaxy), the members include Olugbade Okunade - former trumpet player from Seun Kuti’s Egypt 80 - as well as guests Gabriel Otu, Ray Lédon and Vanessa Baker.

Several of these artists appear with Digital Afrika, the live electronic outfit from Simon Durrington and Zhonu Moon, which signed in 2020 to Carl Cox’s imprint Awesome Soundwave. Others include Papua New Guinean musician Ray Lédon, who performs alongside Durrington in Sorong Samarai, a political band primarily made up of West Papuan indigenous tribes living in exile.

While the EP seeks to reflect 70s production, glimpses of contemporary elements can be found in the arrangements and harmonies, at times reminiscent of modern artists such as Lord Echo, Bosq and Voilaaa. On the lead single ‘Rendezvous’, featuring the sultry vocals of Vanessa Baker, the drums temporarily slip out of four-to-the-floor and into a shuffling breakbeat, while Ray Lédon’s voice gets a distorted, filtered treatment on ‘Don’t Wanna Be Your Lover’.

Channelling West African funk with a touch of psychedelia is the single ‘Obio’, featuring lyrics in the language of Ga, as sung by Ghanaian artist Gabriel Otu. On each track, the ensemble explores the theme of the dancefloor experience - finally epitomised by ‘Get It In The Sun’, a joyful rallying call to join the festivities. As Durrington believes: “dance is vital to health and community”. And with an EP that urges you to dance from start to finish, consider Sai Galaxy a cosmic tonic for the modern lifestyle. 

Source: Bandcamp