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October 2021 SunNeverSetsOnMusic

October 2021 SunNeverSetsOnMusic

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Favourites|October2021

Ismael Ensemble - Visions Of Light

Visions Of Light

by Ishmael Ensemble

Released 6 August 2021

Severn Songs

*****

Ishmael Ensemble is the UK (Bristol) based collective led by saxophonist & producer Pete Cunningham. Visions of Light is their second album, succeeding their 2019 debut, "A State of Flow". The album opens with a short, ambient "Into" in which we encounter Cunningham exploring the lower registers of his tenor sax, amid a rising swell of harps and synths. But the piece is cut abruptly short after little more than a minute: it's as if the artist has made a false start. "Feather" which follows, resets the course and builds a moody vibe that sets the scene for the introduction Holyseuss Fly's soaring vocals. The lyrics are banal (When I hit the ground / You laid a mattress down / It was gold with feathers / I tripped and remembered ) but the track is a powerful statement of intent recalling and updating Brisolian precedents of Elizabeth Fraser / Massive Attack and Beth Gibbons / Portishead, whose influences are heard throughout this album. 

The opening half of "Wax Werk" presents the rapidfire clacketty-clack of drum, bass, synth attack of Krautrock before it is overwhelmed by Cunninghams wild saxes. The shuffling musical elements of instrumental "Soma Centre" start out indistinctly but thier individuality seems to clarify as the song builds momentum and intensity. "Empty Hands" (featuring disturbing lyrics) maintains this intensity. "Looking Glass" features fellow Bristol artist 

STANLÆY and "Morning Chorus" is another percussion-led piece reminiscent of Four-Tet or Atoms For Peace. The short piece "Visions of Light" features meloncholy vocals and dreamy instrumentals from Chris Hillier, while "The Gift" shifts back to a more uptempo groove, with Tiny Chapter providing the ethereal vocals. Holyseuss Fly returns on vocals for the album-closing "January".

"Visions of Light" is a solid sophomore album from "Ishmael Ensemble" but the group's influences remain close to the surface. Cunningham is featured on all tracks, however, the structure of the Ensemble otherwise allows a wide range of vocal and instrumental approaches going forward, with the potential for the Ensemble to establish a voice of its own, so as stand alongside contempories such as Moses Boyd and Sons of Kemet, rather than influences such Massive Attack, Portishead, Four Tet, Thom Yorke etc. 

Source: Bandcamp

POOKIE - Flick

Flick

by POOKIE

Released 24 October 2021

Achol Agaar

****-

FLick, the debut album from rapper, songwriter, composer and producer POOKIE - an encapsulation of the artist's musical journey over the last 4 years. With its roots still deep in hip-hop, FLick explores jazz, rock and r&b (in true POOKIE fashion, a little bit of this and a little bit of that). It’s like Sade – if she was South Sudanese and grew up in Perth, Western Australia.

The album's opening cut (and lead single) Halloween is the POOKIE anthem; the organ stabs, the strings and the hook will have you wanting to jump on the bandwagon (or at least run beside it). In this expeditious number, POOKIE seems to really be introducing herself to audiences, following her EP Dinka Girl – released earlier this year.

Aćol Agaar Apollo, better known by the stage name POOKIE, is a South Sudanese rapper, songwriter, composer and producer born in Nairobi, Kenya.

POOKIE attributes her love for music to numerous nostalgic childhood anecdotes. Among these tales are flashbacks of her older brother hurling stereo speakers in the middle of the family compound and blasting Chaka Damus and Pliers’ "Murder She Wrote" all day long.

At age seven, her family migrated to Australia where she was introduced to the works of Missy Elliot and the world of Hip-Hop music at large.

Growing up in Perth, POOKIE also discovered a love for other forms of creative expression, ranging from painting, sculpting and sketching. Utilising this creative arsenal, POOKIE’s art has become a dynamic display of her South Sudanese roots, with many of her pieces celebrating her Dinka culture and heritage.

POOKIE relocated to Melbourne in 2014, and found a scene of African creatives boldly celebrating their narratives - unapologetically committed to redefining the art scene by taking up their own space. Finding comfort among the like-minded, POOKIE began exhibiting her art, as well as organising and curating events for empowering Black femme creatives. Around this time, POOKIE also took to the stage with her spoken word poetry. Through experimenting with elements of her poetry, POOKIE discovered the world of production and in 2018 she began studying production and music business. In 2019, she formed a five-piece band. With a wave of authentic Afro-Jazz and Hip-Hop melodies, they quickly made an artistic impact in Melbourne’s music scene, while elevating their name with performances across Australia.

POOKIE not only employs her art as a means of self-expression, but uses it as a medium to bridge the gap between her experiences as a Black African woman growing up in Australia as she navigates the relentless challenges of this society.

With effortless eloquence and grace, POOKIE authentically represents life as it would have been in Paan Jieng, while being dispossessed and subjugated as a part of the South Sudanese Australian diaspora.

Credits

POOKIE: lyrics, main vocals, production, composition
Alejandro 'Silentjay' Abapo, keys
Jason Watts: bass, percussion, backing vocals
Charlie Bowmaker: keys, synth bass, vocals, backing vocals
Leon Sebastian: drums, backing vocals
Ayden Thorne: saxophone, vocals, backing vocals
Winton Findlay: percussion, trumpet, synth
Yannick: vocals
Elle Shimada: violin

Source: Heavy Machinery Records

Joseph Tawadros - Hope In An Empty City

Hope In An Empty City

by Joseph Tawadros

Released July 2021

Joseph Tawadros

*****

Born in Cairo (1984) and a  resident of Sydney since he was 3 years old, Joseph Tawadros is established as one of the world’s leading oud performers and composers. A virtuoso of diversity and sensitivity, Joseph performs in concert halls worldwide and is known for his brilliant technique, deep musicianship and joyous style of performance.

His drive to push musical boundaries has led to many collaborations with significant performers and a solid repertoire of innovative, original music.

He has recorded 14 albums, hass been nominated for Young Australian of the Year (2014) and received the NSW Premier’s medal for Arts and Culture, an Order of Australia Medal (AM) for his services to music and composition (2016) and 12 nominations and achieved four ARIA (Australian Recording Industry Association) Awards (2012, 2013 and 2014) for Best World Music Album, and as a contributor to the Ali’s Wedding soundtrack album in 2017.

Joseph is acknowledged for expanding the oud’s notoriety and acceptance  in mainstream western culture and has also been recognised in the Arab world, appearing on the judging panel of the Damascus International Oud competition in 2009, and taking part in Istanbul’s first Oud festival in 2010.

Joseph has been based in London through the COVID pandemic period but the majority of "Hope In An Empty City" was recorded in New York in June 2017 with an exceptional ensemble consisting of Jordanian Layth Sidiq (violin), Scott Colley (double bass), Dan Weiss (drums) and David ‘Fuze’ Fiuczynski (fretless guitar).

This release sees Joseph broaden the parameters of traditional Arabic music by inviting a crack Jazz players in to join the oud. The result is sheer delight - an album that will be ranked among the best of East-West musical fusion music. 

Three beautiful, melancholy solo tracks "Everything Is You", "Von Brady" and final cut "Ya Lel (The Night)" were recorded in London in May 2021, during lockdown. In interview with Andrew Ford (ABC The Music Show 17 July 2021), Tawadros explained that these tracks feature longer oud solos than the artist has previously allowed himself, a direct result of changes to his playing style that have occured in isolation.

The songs and album title derive from the conditions of the pandemic, and has what Tawdros describes as “a distinctive individual energy from each player as they come together creating a new sound for Joseph’s compositions, with a cinematic breadth that will take listeners on an evocative and emotional musical adventure.”

Source: Joseph Tawadros Official Site

Emel - Everywhere We Looked Was Burning (Live)

Everywhere We Looked Was Burning (Live)

by Emel

Released 7 September 2021

Partisan Records
****-

Emel Mathlouthi (Emel) isn't interested in being typecast as an exotic North African. For people who still haven't heard her ground her honeyed vocals in heavy, distorted electronics, and whose theatrical stage presence and arresting visuals call to mind the likes of Kate Bush and Björk, it's still useful to know how she rose onto stages across the world and become an anthemic voice during the Arab Spring. (NPR​)

As might be implied from the album's title "Everywhere We Looked Was Burning (Live)" is a concert recording, primarily revisiting songs from Emel's 2019 album if the same name. Recorded in Europe just before the COVID-19 pandemic, the set list contains the opening five songs of the original album, but swaps out four others: three from her 2017 release Ensen and one "Ma Lkit (Not Found)", from her 2012 debut "Kelmti Horra", before closing out the set with the titular track.

Everywhere We Looked Was Burning (Live) sees Emel and her audiences on a journey of hope and darkness at the same time - of warmth, simplicity and spontaneity. In Emel's own words, "...as the title of the album may suggest it was a cry from my heart to try to raise awareness of a range of truly burning issues - from the forced and violent displacement of people, to rampant misogyny, to the ravages of global business against the planet: problems that were springing up, festering or accelerating everywhere we looked as the last decade drew near its end". 

Although heralded as "a voice of the Arab Spring" her songs are poetic and her vocal delivery ethereal. Opening track "Rescuer" is a slow, dirge-like mystical poem that is sung in english against haunting percussion-led backing. 'This Place", which invites comparison with Bjork, recalls moments from the past "...All of it, all of it left and here I am".  Sung in Arabic, "Lost" builds gravitas and "Ensen Dhaif", "Ma Lkit" and "Thamaton" showcase Emel's power, range and musicality.  

In the promotional material for the original 2019 album, the artist declared that it  "is a cry to people to realize that we are in this together. It's burning for everyone: the stakes are universal. This album is in big part a tribute to reconnecting with nature, whether by the themes, the poetry or sonically speaking. As humanity is at a unique stage of trouble, art is a beacon in these turbulent waters. It is not us against nature, we are part of nature. We are nature". The song speaks insightfully of humanity's plight in the face of political and environmental catastrophe"

Cleo Sol - Mother

Mother

by Cleo Sol

Released 19 August 2021

Forever Living Originals

*****

Cleo Sol has arguably been among the most interesting and prolific artists during the recent period, as the world has been assaulted by pandemic and shaken by resurgent racism, each giving rise to unprecedented social disruption: and all occurring in an era when the technologies and ownership of communication and media are changing constantly. The social and political outcomes of this era are likely to take generations to unravel and Cleo Sol's contribution to consciousness-raising as a member of the enigmatic UK soul ensemble SAULT will be an important piece of this period's musical heritage.

On the other hand, her solo albums are entirely different creations, reflecting personal relationships and influences.

Her sophomore new release"Mother"is an emotional and thoughtful response to the birth to her first child, in June 2021, which was reflected in a post to Instagram in which she wrote: “I became a mother this year and it’s been the most transformative, uplifting, heart-melting, strength giving experience thus far that led me to write this album. We worked with a small team of hand-picked individuals, who helped make this music so special and whose intentions were aligned with the honesty I was looking for and who trusted that vision.”

Working again with producer Inflo (whose work with the likes of Michael Kiwanuka, SAULT, Little Simz, Jungle has made him legend), the album is like a collection of tenderly sung diary entries, prayers and lullabies. However, the lyrics don't sugar coat the pain within; these songs deal with personal relationships, especially of the mother-daughter kind.

Opening track "Don't Let Me Fall"is sung daughter-to-mother: “We were kids under the sheets / In this hoarded house / There’s no hope in these rooms of looped dreams / All these pictures looking at me / Mothers don’t leave.” The song's extended  instrumental passage fuses seamlessly with "Promises" revealing a sad breakdown in the relationship: "We get closer, but not close enough / Why'd you have to leave? / Why'd you have to go?", she sings.

After this bleak start, some hope is restored in "Heart Full of Love", where Sol prays "Thankyou for sending me an angel straight from Heaven / When my hope was gone, you made me strong". 

"Build Me Up", the first of the two eight minutes long centrepieces among this collection, is a painful plea for a partner's selfless attention.

However, the songs for the remainder of the album, are affirming.

"Sunshine" ("You make me feel alive")  offers optimism, even in a foreign land.

"We Need You", "Don't Let It Go To Your Head" ("love is stronger than fear") and "Music" ("But life is yours / Dont let them take that away") each offer the encouragement of a parent. 

Even the gently sung lyrics of "23" belie it's subject matter, a mother who won't grow up and take responsibility. 

The second of the eight minute set pieces, "One Day" brings joy with the lyric "And it feels as if I was born to be free / Flyin' higher just you and me" and the penultimate song,"Know That You Are Loved" extends a heart-warming sentiment: ("Know that you are loved / Even if you don't love yourself"). Finally, "Spirit" closes out the album triumphantly, building from minimalist piano and sofly sung lyrics at the opening, to fully-voiced vocals and and exhuberant horn-filled backing.

Stylistically, the album sits close to the five SAULT productions however Sol's restrained gospel vocals are the standout element here, at times evoking Dione Warwick and Roberta Flack, she invites the audience to fully appreciate the lyrical content. If there is a criticism, it is that although the lyrics to the majority of the songs are positive, a melancholy unnecesarily permeates the entire project. The production might have benefited from a more lively sound pallate, as one world imaging Burt Bacharach and Hal David, for example, achieving in previous times.  

Nevertheless, this is an outstanding release that, SAULT's overt socio-political references are left alone, so that Cleo Sol is clearly and magnificently heard, as a solo artist once again. 

Nubya Garcia - Source + We Move

Source + We Move (Hi Res)

by Cleo Sol, Others

Released 22 October 2021

Concord Jazz

****-

Nubya Garcia's 2020 album SOURCE was among many critics' top 10-lists last year, including our own SunNeverSetsOnMusic 2020 Favourites. Following its release many of Garcia's peers released remixes of each

The song order does not replicate "SOURCE", one of it's songs ("Before Us: In Demerara & Caura") is missing and another "la cumbia Me Esta Llamando") is worthy of two new takes. Two additional remixes - Makaya McCraven's version of"Source" and Mark De Clive-Lowe's remix of "The Message Continues" are not included.

As AllMusic noted, Source, was a stunning, kaleidoscopic work that explored the connections between the thriving modern (UK) jazz scene and the composer's Afro-Caribbean roots, harmoniously blending dub reggae, cumbia, neo-soul, and several other genres into a powerful meditation on family history and identity.

Source: We Move is a short but diverse remix collection, further expanding the scope of the original album while keeping its message intact and continuing to honor Garcia's heritage.

Broken beat pioneer Kaidi Tatham starts off the set with a sparkling revision of "La cumbia me está llamando," which subtly shifts through different rhythms before landing at a heart-racing conclusion filled with shuffling percussion.

Nala Sinephro's brief, wondrous mix of "Together Is a Beautiful Place to Be" plucks some of the original's saxophone and places it in an orb of harps and echo effects, along with some momentary drum breaks.

DJ Harrison's "The Message Continues" collides more killer breakbeats with filtered sax melodies, basking in effortless good vibes.

Georgia Anne Muldrow and KeiyaA both inhabit more abstract spaces with their trippy reworkings of "Boundless Beings" and

"Stand With Each Other" respectively: Muldrow goes for a wonky Los Angeles beat scene approach, frequently fading the beat in and out, while KeiyaA loops pitched-up, chattering voices and threads the track with dubby, pulsating beats.

Suricata ("La cumbia me está llamando feat. La Perla") and Dengue Dengue Dengue (Source") both explore the cross-section of dub and electro-cumbia, with the latter's mix holding the heaviest bass weight.

Finally, visionary drummer Moses Boyd ends the set with a phenomenal drum'n'bass reworking of "Pace," comfortably setting Garcia's cascading saxophone to slamming breakbeats and trickling guitars.

While Source was an epic labor of love that clearly felt like the culmination of extensive soul-searching and constant refinement of the artist's craft, Source: We Move is far more spontaneous and off-the-cuff, recontextualizing snatches of the compositions in the postmodern tradition of hip-hop and dance music culture. The remix collection is considerably more fragmented than the cohesive original, but it's no less forward-thinking, and is well worth the time of anyone who was bowled over by the proper album.

Source: AllMusic

Joy Crookes - Skin

Skin

by Joy Crookes

Released 15 October 2021

Sony Music

****-

"Skin" is an impressive debut album by London singer-songwriter Joy Crookes, who although still stylistically influenced by her heroes (especially Amy Winehouse) still manages to stand out in the city's over-crowded, highly talented field of nu-soul female vocalists.

That's because she is overflowing with musical and lyrical vitality and possesses the happy knack of the very best writers and composers, to be able to commit her ideas to song in a way that makes the results of the combination of music and lyrics seem as if they were somehow inevitable.

Simultaneously, she marries the local to the universal and the personal to the political, broadening her reach and appeal.

It’s an album eight years in the making, capturing the South London musician’s journey through adulthood as she greater establishes her identity in her past, present and future, all while gazing out at the constantly-changing socio-political world surrounding her. It’s full of the intricacies and detail that have pedestaled Joy Crookes as a blossoming artistic force, full of the personal intimacy that sits within her lyrics, her production, and the visuals that tie them together. In all, Skin is an album that showcases every single facet to Joy Crookes: “This is an album about my identity,” she confirms.The songs are frequently autobiographical, drawing upon her Bangladeshi-Irish heritage and South London beginnings.

 It’s an album eight years in the making, capturing the South London musician’s journey through adulthood as she greater establishes her identity in her past, present and future, all while gazing out at the constantly-changing socio-political world surrounding her. It’s full of the intricacies and detail that have pedestaled Joy Crookes as a blossoming artistic force, full of the personal intimacy that sits within her lyrics, her production, and the visuals that tie them together. In all, Skin is an album that showcases every single facet to Joy Crookes: “This is an album about my identity,” she confirms.

Source: Pilerats

Valerie June - The Moon and Stars: Prescriptions for Dreamers

The Moon and Stars: Prescriptions for Dreamers

by Valerie June

Released 12 March 2021

Fantasy Records

****-

The Moon and Stars: Prescriptions for Dreamers emerged from a long-awaited revelation on the part of the Tennessee-bred singer/songwriter. “With this record, it finally became clear why I have this dream of making music,” June says of her third album for Fantasy Records. “It’s not for earthly reasons of wanting to be awarded or to win anybody’s love—it’s because dreaming keeps me inquisitive and keeps me on that path of learning what I have to share with the world. I think when we allow ourselves to dream like we did when we were kids, it ignites the light that we all have within us and helps us to have a sort of magic about the way we live.”

Produced by June and Jack Splash (Kendrick Lamar, Alicia Keys, John Legend), The Moon and Stars: Prescriptions for Dreamers achieves that transcendent effect thanks in no small part to the splendor of its sound, an exquisitely composed tapestry of folk, soul, gospel, country, blues, psychedelia, and time-bending symphonic pop. In bringing the album to life, June and Splash stayed true to the spirit of wide-eyed exploration by working with an eclectic lineup of esteemed musicians, absorbing themselves in a prolonged period of free-flowing experimentation and playing with a magnificently vast palette of instruments (flute and banjo, mbira and Mellotron, saxophone and synth, to name just a few). The result is a selection of songs both ornate and elegant, each moment crafted with a profound awareness of what’s most essential in creating enduring beauty.

Source: Bandcamp

Sarah Jarosz - Blue Heron Suite

Blue Heron Suite

by Sarah Jarosz

Released 7 May 2021

Rounder Records
****-

Composed after becoming the recipient of the FreshGrass Composition Commission in 2017, Blue Heron Suite was recorded in December of 2018 at Reservoir Studios in New York City and features Jeff Picker on bass and Jefferson Hamer on guitar and harmony vocals. The piece was inspired by frequent trips Jarosz and her parents made to Port Aransas, a small town on the Gulf Coast of Texas a few hours from the family’s home in Wimberley. “2017 was an emotional year for me - my mom had been diagnosed with breast cancer the previous winter and the town of Port Aransas was severely impacted by Hurricane Harvey,” recalls Jarosz. “Those two events caused me to think back to the early morning walks my mom and I would take along Mustang Island beach - we would always spot the Great Blue Herons along the shore… The bird came to be a symbol of hope for my family during a difficult time, and even now, throughout my travels, whenever I spot a Blue Heron, I always think of it as a good omen; a little reminder of the important things in life, especially family.”

The album steps away from the sassy Americana stylings of World On The Ground and taps Jarosz's folk sensibilities and vocal capabilities, to great effect. It's a very personal record that evolved from a time of hardship, but Jarosz does not allow the underlying melancholy to dominate. Instead, she and her  little trio bring an engaging range of moods, tempos and vocal approaches to each track.

Note: In March 2021 Sarah Jarosz won a Grammy in the Best Americana Album category for her June 2020 release, World On The Ground (which features in SunNeverSetsOnMusic's June 2020 Playlist)

Self Esteem - Prioritise Pleasure

Prioritise Pleasure

by Self Esteem

Released 22 October 2021

Universal Music

*****

Throughout Prioritise Pleasure, her second album as Self Esteem, Rebecca Taylor searches for a feeling she can rely on. Her stomach and heart seldom align. A callous lover makes her doubt herself. “Casual” texts from an ex evidently conceal ulterior motives. She has to check out emotionally in order to climax from a zipless fuck. Marriage and babies don’t appeal, yet other people’s still make her insecure. Even the nostalgia induced by a warm summer’s day can trick her into self-sabotage.

Pacing these shifting sands is exhausting. But simply by defining them, and acknowledging how normal it is for these contradictory states to coexist (especially in the lives of women, contorted by diet culture and dating), Taylor establishes a sturdy sense of common ground – one on which the makings of a stellar pop second act are taking shape.

Prioritise Pleasure (is) an album totally confident in its strange, brilliant vision: if there is a counterforce to all that instability, Taylor implies, it is in nothing but full-throated expression.(It) is a rare big pop album after 18 months of comparatively diminutive offerings from headline female pop acts.

On the title track, Taylor breathlessly lists her shortcomings over a choppy, earthy beat: “I shrunk, moved and changed,” she sings, a state of affairs that she immediately defies with a dizzying, moving chorus, It all comes together best on I Do This All The Time, which, improbably, melds the influence of Arab Strap, Baz Luhrmann’s Everybody’s Free (To Wear Sunscreen) and Lisa Stansfield into song-of-the-year material.

Self-Esteem’s second album shows that it is never as easy as all that. It’s a powerfully intense record that some may recoil from; confrontational and liable to catch you off-guard as Taylor crisply extracts gutting truths from the general murk of self-loathing, never sugarcoating grimness nor over-egging her attempts at self-affirmation. Despite the imperative contained in the title, the album doesn’t preach but invites you in, suggesting pleasure as a collective vision born of shared confidences. It’s remarkable.

Source: The Guardian (Laura Snapes)

Sofia Kourtesis - Fresia Magdalena

Fresia Mandalena (EP)

by Sophia Kourtesis

Released 19 March 2021

Jazz re:freshed

****-

Berlin based, Peruvian artist Sofia Kourtesis has today announced her new EP Fresia Magdalena will be released 19 March via Ninja Tune imprint Technicolour. Following her breakout EP Sarita Colonia - which saw her tipped as a 'One To Watch' by The Observer, feature on Emerging Artist lists from DJ and Mixmag as well as being named #4 in Gorilla Vs. Bear's 'EPs and Mixtapes of 2020' and appearing in this years NME 100 - the EP continues to hone her singular sound,
using astutely selected samples and a joyful sense of personality and place to make something utterly infectious. Today she has also shared lead single ‘La Perla’, a track that is at once energising and meditative. Utilising her own singing voice for the first time, ‘La Perla’ clears the head in an uplifting wave before getting the body moving.

Speaking of the track she says:
"Although I’ve sampled my own voice before, this is the first time I’ve really sung on a track. My dream is to develop a live show and I created ‘La Perla’ with that in mind. ‘La Perla’ is about staring at the sea, It's the first thing I’ll do when I return to Peru. My dad used to say staring at the sea is like meditation, it clears your head. This song is for him. It's hard for me to listen to La Perla as it wrote it during a time I lost my dad to leukaemia. This song is for him, descansa en paz papa"

Though undeniably present in all her work, Fresia Magdalena is more rooted in Kourtesis’ native Peru than ever. On one of her regular extended trips home, the process of making the EP began with the collection of field recordings around the city of Lima where Kourtesis' family currently live and specifically Magdalena, their district. "I look at songs like a collage" she says, "I put all the samples at the forefront and create music around them". Then finished between Peru and Berlin, the result finds both aspects of her life bleeding effortlessly into her music and weaving around themes and a broad range of styles that remain universal.

From the gritty and pulsating rumble of ‘Dakotas’ to the twinkling groove of ‘By Your Side’ and the exhilaration of ‘La Perla’, Kourtesis’ ability to naturally flow from one style to the next, though always with an eye on the return to the dancefloor, is ever apparent here. Thematically though, her message is simple and direct. "Fresia Magdalena is about activism" she says, "It's about making positive changes, whoever and wherever you are".

A passionately vocal voice for the wellbeing of the community herself, Kourtesis here attributes this message to the person who inspires her most. "Fresia is my mother’s name" she says, "her whole life she’s fought hard for the people of Magdalena, Peru. This is my tribute to her and the other activists around the world working hard to better the lives of others. We as musicians have a responsibility to help our communities to have their voices heard, changes are needed".

A nod to another significant figure both to Kourtesis and to any unheard voices, the artwork for the EP draws an elegant line between previous EP Sarita Colonia and this one. "Housed within one of Lima’s biggest favelas, The Cementerio Baquijano del Callao contains a beautiful tribute to Sarita Colonia, the Patron of the Poor" Kourtesis recalls, "she’s an icon within Peru and the voice of the underrepresented. Gaining access to this cemetery is challenging as not everyone can just walk into a favela but after some negotiations we managed to gain access". Much like the music itself these images were then collaged to create something striking and new.

Fresia Magdalena loses none of its impact when taken at its surface level – a collection of vibrant dance music that gets under the skin and lifts the mood with distinctive and addictive flourishes separating it from the pack. What really makes it unique though is the life bubbling under the surface of the collection as a whole. The influences, passions and relationships of Kourtesis as a person are behind every moment - a fierce call to action softened and presented with the warmth of family and home. 

Source: Bandcamp

Esperanza Spalding - Songwrights Epotecary Lab

Driftglass

by SEED Ensemble

Released 8 February 2019

Jazz re:freshed

****-

Four-time Grammy Award winner Esperanza Spalding has taken a scientific approach to her newest release, Songwrights Apothecary Lab.

For this project, the bassist and composer wanted to make her music a visceral healing experience for the listener — enlisting the help of not only fellow musicians, but a team of researchers, neuroscientists and music therapists, too.

Every song on the album is created with a specific human condition in mind, studying how the body responds to experiences of aging, social anxiety and stress, and counteracting those responses with each of the 12 new musical compositions.
The Songwrights Apothecary Lab itself is an ongoing project led by Spalding that will continue to bring artists and experts together to explore how musicians can apply the principles and findings of music therapy to their art.

“Half songwriting workshop and half guided-research practice, the Songwrights’ Apothecary Lab seeks to develop a structure for the collaborative development of new compositions designed to offer enhanced salutary benefit to listeners,” the website reads.

The songs (or formwelas) to come from these lab sessions were conceived in Wasco County, Oregon, and Portland. Spalding recorded the first six compositions in collaboration with Wayne Shorter, Phoelix, Raphael Saadiq, Justin Tyson, Ganavya Doraiswamy and Corey King for the first six songs. The second half of the album was recorded with drummer Francisco Mela, pianist Leo Genovese, guitarist Matthew Stevens, and saxophonist Aaron Burnett over the course of 10 days in June in New York. Theses sessions were also filmed for accompanying visuals.

Each night, the Songwrights Apothecary Lab extended invitations to the public, where they could listen to each song and speak with Spalding and her team of researchers about the intentions, methods and effects of each composition.

On Songwrights Apothecary Lab, Spalding takes a literal and methodical approach to the John Coltrane quote: “If one of my friends is ill, I’d like to play a certain song and he will be cured.”

Source: Jazz FM

Nightmares On Wax - Shout Out! To Freedom

Shout Out! To Freedom

by Nightmares On Wax

Released 29 October 2021

Warp Records

*****

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Source: The Quietus

Ego Ella May - FIELDNOTES

FIELDNOTES (EP)

by Ego Ella May

Released 15 October 2021

Ego Ella May

****-

Ego Ella May is a songwriter and vocalist, hailing from South London. She has an all-encompassing love of music, which she channels into her own neo-soul and contemporary jazz compositions.

Alongside writing from the heart, performing live is important to Ego Ella May to share and connect with the people who enjoy her music; “I feel most comfortable when my band is with me and I can just dance around whilst they play really sick versions of the tunes!”

Ella May has worked with the likes of Oscar Jerome, Joe Armon-Jones (Ezra Collective), Wu-Lu and Eddie Hick (Sons of Kemet), recording with live instruments in an impromptu jam-setting. She has received support from the likes of Bradley Zero (BBC Radio 1), Jamz Supernova (BBC Radio 1) and Gilles Peterson (BBC 6Music) alongside The New York Times, Noisey and Clash Magazine.

Regards FIELDNOTES, her first major release, the artist's Bandcamp entry says it best:

Fieldnotes refer to qualitative notes recorded by scientists or researchers in the course of field research, during or after their observation of a specific organism or phenomenon they are studying. Fieldnotes allow the researcher to access the subject and record what they observe in an unobtrusive manner. These 4 songs were written in lockdown and became my findings about myself during such a weird and confusing time. I was observing what was going on, and writing about it for my own sanity and as usually these songs helped me to understand myself a lot better and cope with what was going on. This EP is the first in the series of releases coming over the following months.

Breathe: It's funny because the song order is the order in which the songs were actually written. I remember writing this song in the peak of the first lockdown because it felt like everywhere I looked people were trying to make the most of being in a global pandemic. It was their opportunity to realise their dreams!! write a novel, make the best banana bread, get fit, and not let this precious time go to waste, and I was just bewildered because.. we're in a pandemic! no1 has a clue what's going on, and even now we are still trying to push ourselves to be working non-stop and on the grind. I thought if this time wasn't a call to rest then what was it gonna take?
I also wrote it because it seemed I was the only one who was doing nothing! I started to feel pressure to 'be someone' but then deepening my yoga practice helped me to realise that just being during this time is more than enough. I don't need to DO anything. I can simply observe, take my time, and breathe. This is the first collab I did with Geo Jordan and it just felt so natural that we did another.. (yoyo)

YoYo: I wrote this because the media was pissing me off. I felt like a lot of things were being exaggerated which resulted in lots of fear and separation. I was still in a period where I didn't have an understanding of anything really going on and so my views changed daily and I was questioning everything.. it felt like I was doing a lot of yoyo-ing simply because I was so confused. I felt like an alien and in my annoyance about that I dreamt about living off grid, where there's no TV and no iPhone, I'm with like-minded people and we just grow our veg and make clothes, and cook and sing and dance and make up our own rules, and that's how yoyo came about. It's a song about my dream life. Aside from that I really love the production on this song! it's so feel good, and was produced once again by Geo Jordan.

I Feel Something: I wrote this song when I ran away to Margate for a few weeks to live by the sea during yet another lockdown. It was in February, it was cold, snowing, and everyone was miserable. I wanted to be on a beach somewhere but I felt trapped here. I ran away because I wanted to try something new, I actually took up running for a little while simply because for the most part I just felt numb and in a routine that was slowly killing my creative. So Eun (producer) sent me some stuff to work on and I freestyled this song and never changed it. The end of the song feels like a light at the end of the tunnel when I say 'somethings lit up, they won't get us' - I had gotten to the end of the song and felt like "ok, still got it!" because I hadn't recorded anything in a while.

Speck Of Dust: The last song I wrote for the EP, and a good closing song because it made me realise that I was no longer in that 'I feel something' headspace. The weather was getting warmer, and my mind was getting clearer and I suppose I was getting used to this 'new normal'. I'd survived a dark time! This song is about how miniscule your problems can be sometimes, in the grand scheme of life. I'm just a speck of dust in this really big world. An ant! and none of this matters- and I mean that in the best possible way! all of this will simply fade away, so why worry?? It made me feel good to think about life in that way..
I worked on this song with Flwr Chyld and I'm still so blown away by the production- it's one of my faves. 

Source: Bandcamp

Brian Owens & The Royal Five - Love Came Down

Love Came Down

by Brian Owens & The Royal Five

Released 15 October 2021

Life Creative Group

****-

Music and love define the artistry of singer, songwriter and dedicated community activist Brian Owens. These qualities radiate from all of his work. In 2017, Brian Owens constructed two critically acclaimed albums: Soul of Ferguson and Soul of Cash. Each record was highlighted by Rolling Stone magazine along with several other prominent online media outlets

His new album, "Love Came Down" focuses on themes of faith, family, and purpose as Brian offers listeners his most personal and introspective recording to date.

A unique part of this process is the partnership with LIFE Arts, a nonprofit founded by Brian which seeks to produce the future-ready leaders of today through arts education, programs, projects, and pathways. Through the LIFE Creative Pathways Initiative, Brian will empower several students to help with production oversight as well as implementation of the album’s overall concept. Specifically, six young artists and writers ranging from 12 to 28 years have been selected to work on this project in areas of A&R, songwriting, and production. These students will receive paid experience as well as recording and mentoring opportunities with and from the Grammy-award winning team Brian has selected to create this record.

In all, while this album will be Brian’s most personal lyrically, it symbolically will be a global introduction to the transformative work happening through Brian and his organization—LIFE Arts—in his hometown of Ferguson, MO.

Source: Bandcamp

Baker Boy - Gela

Gela

by Baker Boy

Released 15 October 2021

Island Records Australia

****-

It may have taken him a while, but the Fresh Prince of Arnhem Land has come through with the goods. Since bursting on to the scene in 2017 with “Cloud 9”, Baker Boy has slowly but surely pieced together a debut album that highlights the dance beats he’s become known for, willingness to indulge modern music and pay respects to his ancestors, while putting at the forefront of each song his ability to perform in both his native tongue and English. The former Young Australian of the Year, Baker Boy has been ever-reliable in releasing catchy pop songs that the public has flocked to en masse. Here on his debut album, Gela, this has not changed.

With half of the album’s 14 songs already released and on streaming services, there isn’t a heap of new material on Gela left to surprise the listener with a first listen. This normally wouldn’t be ideal, but based on the overall quality of the remaining album tracks, when combined with a flurry of hit singles already released, Gela stands up as one of the better debut albums of 2021. Gela, Baker Boy’s skin name and one of the truest forms of his identity, takes you into Baker Boy’s world as he paints the best and most vivid picture of himself. A proud Yolngu man, Baker Boy (or Danzal Baker as his friends know him) incorporates his rich connection to his culture into all of Gela which, as he puts it, makes the album him; it’s his story. At the root of it, Gela is Baker Boy’s connection between his home, his people, the big city and his progression to being one of the most exciting artists in the country.

 

The album has its notable peaks in the form of its singles, with Baker Boy melding his native tongue and English effortlessly across all his hits, from the slinky and bass heaving “Cool as Hell” to the clean and killer “Meditjin”. As probably the best known of his tracks, it’s the quality of these two tracks that ooze and fill the remainder of the album with quality. Notable collaborations with G Flip on “My Mind” and Yirrmal on “Ride” showcases Baker Boy’s ability to delve into full blown pop mastery (“My Mind” being an absolute love song and hit), while “Ride” embraces elements of modern hip-hop, big band and Indigenous Australian music. It’s this willingness to embrace different styles and voices that helps Gela stand on its own.

The love of “My Mind” continues on “Butterflies”, a deep dive into the feelings everyone has felt when they think about their crush or partner. Describing the song as being about that adrenaline hit and feeling of excitement you get while chasing love, “Butterflies” once more shows the overall strength and catchiness of Gela.

While the pre-released singles are all hits and worthy singles, it’s the remainder of the album tracks that hold the key to maintaining Gela at such great heights. “Stupid Dumb” is the closest of tracks to follow a traditional hip-hop style and flow, with its three minutes run time just not long enough to allow the song to go to another level.

Flipping the album on its head once more, “Funk Wit Us” gives the album a little disco flavour, with its simplistic hook intertwined with the vibes of a great house party and classy backing vocals.

“Make You Want to Dance” is cut from the same cloth as “Funk Wit Us”, and as the album closer features the experimental elements of a Beastie Boys track if it were to be released in 2021.

 

Baker Boy is to be commended on his willingness to have friends, family and industry colleagues feature across Gela. From the aforementioned features of G Flip and Yirrmal, to the faultless vocals of Lara Andallo, or the intense and forceful delivery of “Survive” featuring Uncle Jack Charles on a spoken word verse, Gela highlights Baker Boy’s want and ability to invest his time and efforts into his story, people and industry.

It’s not often debut albums hit like Gela does. It’s been a slow build for Baker Boy after seemingly breaking through overnight, but in the end, waiting four years to hear the album was worth the wait.

Gela might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but the album and the artist who created it will undoubtedly do wonders for many people for many years to come.

Source: The AU Review

Australian Art Orchestra - Hand To Earth

Hand To Earth

by Australian Art Orchestra, Daniel Wilfred, David Wilfred, Sunny Kim, Peter Knight, Aviva Endean

Released 8 October 2021

Forever Living Originals

*****

With an emphasis on improvisation, the AAO explores the meeting points between disciplines and cultures, and imagines new musical forms to reflect the energy and diversity of 21st century Australia. Led by trumpeter/composer Peter Knight, the AAO explores the interstices between the avant-garde and the traditional, between art and popular music, and between electronic and acoustic approaches.

Hand to Earth is a call to open ears: eluding genre, traversing continents and fusing ancient and contemporary. At its heart are Yolgnu manikay (song cycles), a 40,000+ year-old oral tradition from South East Arnhem Land, northern Australia. These songs exist to cross vast time and space, to continuously make the continuous – known as raki, the spirit that pulls all together, all performers all listeners.

Hand to Earth developed during an Australia Art Orchestra (AAO) residency in the remote highlands of Tasmania. Yolgnu songman, Daniel Wilfred, and Korean vocalist, Sunny Kim, formed an effortless rapport; their combined vocal approaches expressing a deeply human commonality whilst also invoking raw elemental forces. Trumpeter and composer, Peter Knight draws upon his minimalist influence to create a bed of electronic atmospheres that meld beautifully with these contrasting voices. The combination of Aviva Endean and David Wilfred’s evocative sounds transport the listener to previously unimagined sonic plains. Together the ensemble wields these mystical elements with a masterful improvisational touch that AAO is famous for.

Source: Bandcamp

Bob Weatherall, William Barton, Halfway - Restless Dream

Restless Dream

by Bob Weatherall & Halfway, William Barton

Released 27 August 2021

ABC Records

*****

Restless Dream is a collaboration between Brisbane band Halfway and Kamileroi (Northern NSW) elder Bob Weatherall, with legendary Australian yiḏaki (didgeridoo) player, William Barton.

In 2015, they began to work on the writing and recording of an album of song-stories.

Aboriginal ancestral remains and secret, sacred objects are scattered across the globe, in museums both overseas and in Australia. In Aboriginal religious law, there will be no spiritual peace until the dead have been returned to the place of their birth and received their last rites in accordance with their traditions.

This album tells the story of the Repatriation of Aboriginal Ancestral Remains. Restless Dream is a very personal story, yet it touches all Aboriginal Nations as they grapple with the task of repatriation and reburial, just as it acknowledges those who have taken on the task of uncovering the past and advocating for the Rights of the Dead.

Bob and William are both friends of Halfway.

John Willsteed of Halfway says “Bob used to come to band practices, to listen to us play, and to share the summer nights and his stories. My ears sought out Bob’s words in the dark, the stories of his work: travelling to the other side of the earth; the arrogance and thievery of scientists and protectors; the overwhelming emotion of this job. A job which chose him. A tricky job, full of negotiation, responsibility, righteous successes and disheartening failures. And he was burdened with an overwhelming question: Who is going to carry this work on?”

Writer and performer Bob Weatherall adds, “We have a responsibility to uphold the fundamental rights of the dead to return to the lands of their birth, and to be given customary last rites in accordance with their culture and beliefs. Restless Dream will help to put an end to the injustices of the past in the true spirit of reconciliation and justice.”

The album was recorded at QUT in Brisbane in 2016, by Yanto Browning (Kate Miller-Heidke, Art of Sleeping) and mixed in South Carolina by Mark Nevers (Yo La Tengo, Bonnie “Prince” Billy, Lambchop, Jason Isbell).

It is a blend of songs, stories and instrumentals; like a Halfway album and then some. Restless Dream has been assisted by the Australian Government through the Australia Council and supported by the Queensland Government through Arts Queensland.

Source: Halfway

The Merindas - Complicated (EP)

Complicated (EP)

by The Merindas

Released 27 September 2021

The Merindas

****-

The Merindas are the collective force of Kristel Kickett a Ballardong Whadjuk and Nyoongar woman from Tammin, Western Australia and Candice Lorrae of Jawoyn and Thursday Island heritage, born in Darwin, Northern Territory.

Now based in Melbourne, these soul sisters are set to trail-blaze their innovative style of Indigenous music. They describe their unique sound as “electronic pop with a dance-hall feel, alongside hip hop and R&B influences.”

The Merindas formed in 2012, singing Motown hits for the premiere of The Sapphires movie. What was supposed to be a one-off show became a full-time career, having performed more than 400 shows in the last eight years. Garnering rave reviews on the live circuit, playing festivals and major corporate events across Australia, The Merindas present a world-class, fresh and energetic show. During their performance, audiences can expect choreographed dance moves, soaring vocals, and visual projections that weave into the fabric of their music and stories.

On the back of their debut LP release ‘We Sing Until Sunrise’ in June 2020, The Merindas return with their incredible follow up EP ‘Complicated’. Delving into a more Disco/Pop feel, The Merindas are showing their true essence with this EP as they continue to find their unique voices and individuality through the lyrics and production of the new tracks.

The songs on 'Complicated' delve into themes of relationships, falling in and out of love, while also expressing happiness, uplifting feelings and more matured outlooks on life.

All songs written and performed by Candice Lorrae and Kristel Kickett

Musicians:
Phil Turcio - keys,
John Clark - percussion
Emilio Kormanic - guitar
 

Source: Jazz FM

James Blake - Friends That Break Your Heart

Friends That Break Your Heart

by James Blake

Released 8 October 2021

Republic

****-

James Blake attracted attention from the momet he first emerged on the UK music scene in 2010-2011 with a series of excellent EP's and his eponymous debut. He joined a growing list of artists such as Ahnoni, Justin Vernon and Thom Yorke who paired their high tenor voices with electronica, but Blake's point of difference was his ability to strip his music to a minimalist form of post-dubstep without losing the underlying pop sensibilities that account for his wide appeal.

Matthew Cole of Slant Magazine wrote that "the combination of traditionalist songwriting and avant-garde sonics is what makes James Blake such a compelling listen."

Blake has collaborated more and more with other artists with each release and "Friends That Break Your Heart" (his fifth album) is no different: he shares writing credits with numerous others and engages vocalist SZA, rappers JID and SwaVay, vocalist Monica Martin, slowthai but adds conventional songwriting to his familar spatial arrangements. 

Song-by-song, "Friends" is beautifully crafted (and uncharacteristicly straighforward in parts) but there is still plenty of his trademark disruptive production to satisfy the fans of his early work.

Continuing a trend that has emerged tentatively in the past couple of albums, the songs are more expressive and warmer than we've heard from him before, but there's none that are as memorable as "The Wilhelm Scream" or his cover of Feist's "Limit to Your Love", from his debut.

Perhaps the minimalist musical choices of his early records were so effective that it has taken the past few albums for Blake to work through their possibilities and find new foundations for his work. Omne part of that, his collaborations with cutting-edge rappers has been well worked over. If so, "Friends That Break Your Heart" may allow Blake to pivot towards a wider musical vocabulary in future releases.

Jarvis Cocker - Chansons d'Ennui Tip-Top

Chansons d'Ennui Tip-Top

by Jarvis Cocker

Released 22 October 2021

ABKCO Music

****-

Following a pair of collaborative albums -- one a tribute to Hollywood's Chateau Marmont with Chilly Gonzales, the other with his improvisational art rock group, Jarv Is -- the eccentric, former frontman for 1990's Bri-pop icons Pulp takes another unpredictable stylistic turn with his first solo album in 12 years, Chansons d'Ennui Tip-Top.

A tie-in to the soundtrack for the 2021 Wes Anderson film The French Dispatch, it offers 12 cinematic covers of classic French pop songs, some with ties themselves to other films. A collaboration with Anderson, the record closes on the larger-than-life "Aline," Cocker's version of the hit '60s ballad by Christophe that he recorded for The French Dispatch soundtrack and which inspired a full album of like-minded covers. Steeped in echo, thundering drums, harpsichord, and a weave of strings and soaring backing vocals, it's guided by Cocker's spoke-sung vocals as they rise from sultry whispers to tortured pleas. Generally using the dramatic, stylized arrangements of the originals as templates throughout, he opens the album with "Dans Ma Chambre" and, loyal to the Dalida original, a quote of the famous opening to Bach's Toccata and Fugue in D minor, which recurs during the song. A highlight for its quirky theatricality, the space-age "Contact," a Serge Gainsbourg tune made famous by Brigitte Bardot, is a fairly spot-on cover by Cocker, who has Bardot-like vocal support on the choruses. Speaking of guests, Stereolab's Laetitia Sadier is featured prominently on another Dalida entry, "Paroles Paroles," the singer's seductive 1973 duet with actor Alain Delon. The Tip-Top version employs a similar palette but emphasizes piano, bass, hand drums, and eventually strings over the original's bossa-style guitar, though all this and more comes into play on both editions. Elsewhere here, French cinema is represented on tracks such as "Requiem pour un Con," a Gainsbourg original from the 1968 film Le Pacha, the psychedelic "Mao Mao" from 1967's La Chinoise, and the finger-snapping funk entry "Elle et Moi," an earlier track included in 2003's Any Way the Wind Blows (featuring a dramatic reading in the style of the '80s new beat original by Max Berlin). Intriguing from beginning to end, Cocker's lush, emphatic takes should delight fans of vintage French and Baroque pop.

Source: AllMusic

Theon Cross - Intra-I

Intra-I

by Theon Cross

Released 29 October 2021

New Soil

*****

Theon Cross' new album, Intra-I, finds the gifted tuba player and composer creating a sound system powered by breath. This unique record is an uplifting celebration of Black music that, thanks to Cross' pioneering approach, helps to redefine the sonic possibilities of the tuba.

Reflecting his own heritage, the young virtuoso melds jazz with dub, hip-hop, soca, grime and other sounds connected to the Afro-Caribbean diaspora. Additionally, the record - which features Remi Graves, Shumba Maasai, Afronaut Zu, Ahnansé, Consensus and Oren Marshall - is Cross' first music to include collaborations with guest vocalists, adding a further new dimension.
Theon Cross is at the forefront of the thriving London jazz scene. In 2015 he released solo EP Aspirationsand in 2019 followed it with his acclaimed debut solo album, Fyah. In addition to his solo endeavours, Cross is a core member of Mercury nominated group Sons Of Kemet and has collaborated with Little Simz, Stormzy, Moses Boyd, Nubya Garcia, Kano and others. An incredible live performer who's constantly looking to push boundaries, Cross participated in SXSW Online earlier this year by playing a live set from Abbey Road Studios and, using motion capture technology, as a 3D digital avatar in a VR showcase.

Source: Bandcamp

Aya Nakamura - Aya

Aya

by Aya Nakamura

Released 13 November 2020

Whirlwind Recordings

****-

Since catapulting to the top of the French charts, multi-platinum Malian-born artist Aya Danioko has been given countless labels. In one breath, she is abbreviated as an Afro-pop artist, the next bundled into France’s robust and increasingly populous rap scene, teeming with talent from Paris to Marseille. Her success has frequently been minimized as a novelty act, despite being the most listened-to contemporary French act in the world. Her international smash hit “Djadja" - from her sublime second album, 2018’s Nakamura - placed her on a feminist pedestal she was reluctant to embrace. Her detractors looked at her unflappable demeanor as a tall dark-skinned woman, churning out hit after hit in France’s cis-male dominated music industry, and pegged her as overly cocksure.

The clearest signal in the noise, however, lies in the labels she gives herself, indicating her creative essence long before she became a mainstay on Spotify. Her performing surname, Nakamura, comes from the character Hiro Nakamura of the superhero series Heroes; a warrior who, through sheer force of will, can bend space and time, transporting himself to different worlds. This has been Aya’s superpower since the days of her 2017 debut Journal Intime - playing with the universes of not just Afrobeats, but zouk, R&B, and pop to layer in her penetrating musings on life, love, and freedom.

Aya has a challenging act to follow; it seems nearly unfathomable to eclipse the cultural phenomenon of “Djadja.” The Aulnay-sous-Bois-raised chanteuse rose to the occasion, however, masterfully employing l’argot, or French slang, as she shifts through her various modalities of defiance, softness, and matters of the heart to create a cohesive, intimate experience. Aya is the sound of a young woman and mother who has found the love she deserves and is embracing it unreservedly.

Source: Pitchfork

Safire, QQQAkane - Slowly Rushing

Slowly Rushing

by Safire, QQQAkane

Released 27 August 2021

Heavy Machinery Records

*****

Slowly Rushing is the debut LP from Melbourne multidisciplinary duo Safire & QQQ Akane, in a collaboration bound by creativity and community. They act as the glue connecting people, experience and art; leveraging their craft of audio and visual design to stew a melting pot of forward thinking cool sh!t.

Collaboration is key when identifying their artistic practice. They seem to have an organic knack of creating parties/raves, record labels and releases, technical masterclasses and inclusive artistic spaces that place emphasis on community.

As artists independently, they have hit their respective heights. Ben Safire has toured extensively throughout Europe and Asia, representing Australian Drum and Bass on a global scale. As a musician and event curator he has built the foundations of bass music in Melbourne, collaborating locally and internationally with Noisia, Alix Perez, Dub Phizix, Zed Bias and DLR, to name but a few.

To limit QQQ Akane as a visual artist would be an injustice. While she is well known for her creative collaboration with Metalheadz boss Goldie and visual art with record label Plasma Audio, QQQ Akane is an enigma of creativity that flows from fashion and dance to vocalism and music production.

Slowly Rushing is the debut long play from the seasoned duo. The album feels like the soundtrack to a warm night, sharing food on a big table with your friends and family. A dinner where the conversation is as filling as the meal. Before you know it, the table has disappeared and made room for a hazed-out dance floor, exploring non-verbal communication and telekinetic meditation.

Slowly Rushing broods warmth, taking notes from jazz, dub, hip-hop and bass music to hypnotically wrap around your consciousness like a snake to a snake charmer. QQQ Akane calls on her indigenous Amami roots of storytelling and musical styling, that simultaneously feels grounded whilst taking you further down the rabbit hole.

Safire and QQQ Akane have created their own world, a dinner party if you will, all they ask is you bring a plate and enjoy. 

Source: Bandcamp

Tim Shiel - Distractions One

Distractions One

by Tim Shiel

Released 27 October 2021

Spirit Level

****-

In the cracks of each song on Distractions One lie the cracks of modern life itself - missed connections, divided attentions and everyday existential angst.

But those complexities are offset by the project’s deeply human nature. Each song connects contributors and reflects real-life connections and friendships, stitched together by the playful spirit that has long been a hallmark for Naarm/Melbourne producer Tim Shiel. His intuitive production style deftly avoids cliche while still retaining a warmth and openness, gently but purposefully nudging familiar elements just slightly out of their orbits. Deep house pulses, afrobeat rhythms, ambient textures, boom-bap and more combine on a collection that is both emotionally resonant and sonically thrilling. 

After a dreamlike invocation from Happy Axe, the album opens in earnest with “Right In Front Of You,” a sprawling workout where waves of psychedelic horns and ambiences build and crash against a relentless four-to-the-floor pulse. Braille Face repeatedly asks “How does what you missed right in front of you have anything to do with me?” - and this gently defiant question sets the tone for the entire release.

The theme of missed connections echoes on “Call Me Back!” - a playful and sentimental house track built around anonymous voicemails from friends desperate to connect. “Sparrow” catches Kaitlin Keegan reflecting on time itself over a gentle Bristol-ish breakbeat while on “Coliseum”, Genesis Owusu lends his restless energy to a song that imports its boom-bap from Stankonia and feels as claustrophobic as it is fun.

On “Together Again,” vocalist NIK NAVY tenderly celebrates how truly powerful a deep connection is: “You put me together again no matter how many times I fall apart.” Melbourne art-pop duo Hemm also make a rare appearance, lending an unreleased song from their archives to the album, transformed by Shiel into the wistful album closer “Inside My Head.”

Many more of Shiel’s longtime friends appear on the record, including folk singer/harpist Lucy Roleff (“Get Into Your Love”), Sydney producer Anatole (trumpet on “Right In Front Of You”) and pianists Leah Kardos (“Sparrow”) and Luke Howard (“Together Again”).

“I think I realised a few years ago that I’m a better editor than I am a composer. A lot of my process is to just take whatever I have in front of me and shape it into something else, combining things with each other until there is something new. So now I tend to be much more careful about what those raw materials are in the first place, because I know how it informs the end result.

If I reach out to the people I love and people I admire, and ask them to give me sounds - a vocal, or a piano part, sometimes a whole song - from that point on, they are embedded in the music too, they are intertwined in it. That to me is so interesting and rewarding. The song becomes more than the sum of its parts, it becomes about more than just me. This collection of songs is also a collection of my friends.” - Tim Shiel 

Source: Bandcamp

Peter Broderick - The Wind That Shakes The Bramble

The Wind That Shakes The Bramble (EP)

by Peter Broderick

Released 10 September 2021

Erased Tapes

****-

The five tracks on this EP from Irelan-based American singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist, Peter Broderick have been collected from various sources:  the opening two pieces ("Some People Don't Have Gonads" and "A Year Without Summer") are left-overs from the sessions for his 2020 album, Blackberry.

Then follows a beautiful two-part reworking of fellow American artists Bing & Ruth's "What Happened to Your Heart".

The EP concludes with the new 22-minute title track; an expansive and meditative ambient odyssey, and balm for the baffling chaos of the current era.

Sung to piano-only accompanyment in vaudevillian style, "Some People Don't Have Gonads" commences the recital on a positive note, urging us to"Come on now, people! just get out there and livethose lives!"

"A Year Without Summer" ia a sombre song deliverred in a powerful soaring voice that shares as much of Leonard Cohen as Scott Walker and recalls "This has been / A year without summer / A year without laughter / A year without you / A year shook by winter winds / A year of December / A year to remember The summers we knew ... And here I stand / On the edge of nowhere / With nowhere to go / In the summer snow" . It's a powerfully evocative subject for a world beset by pandemic, ecological catasrophy and rampant injustice.

"What Happened to Your Heart" is a sombre monologue with a deceased grandparent: "So what happened to your heart? / Did you see it coming, Grandpa?" the singer asks. 

The title track references a ballad called ‘The Wind That Shakes The Barley’, written by local poet Robert Dwyer Joyce from Limerick, Ireland in the mid-1800s.

A bullet pierced my true love’s side

In life’s young spring so early
And on my breast in blood she died

While soft winds shook the barley
(excerpt)

The recurring imagery of the barley standing tall amidst the breeze was meant to symbolise the resilience of Irish people amidst oppressive British rule. In 2006, the song title and its theme served as the inspiration for a powerful and heart-breaking film starring Cillian Murphy. Now, in 2021, Broderick pays homage once again.

Broderick’s obsession with and devotion to the blackberry plant go well beyond his music. Last year, along with the release of the new album, he shared an eight-part video series titled The Blackberry Diaries in which he demonstrated all the different uses of this incredible, ubiquitous plant.
 

Source: Bandcamp

Ambrose Akinmusire, Michael Yezerski - Blindspotting (Music From The Original Starz Series)

Blindspotting (Music From The Original Starz Series)

by Ambrose Akinmusire, Michael Yezerski)

Released 8 October 2021

Republic

****-

The 2018 film Blindspotting was one of the best of the year – an emotionally raw look at the effects of gentrification and police brutality in Oakland, California that also managed to be extremely funny. One of the most unique aspects of the film was the use of music and spoken word to create a theatrical, heightened reality. This same feel has now been translated into a TV show, which has an even greater use of music and dance than the film did. It focuses on Ashley (Jasmine Cephas-Jones), the girlfriend of Miles (Rafael Casal) and her coping with life with her young son after having to move in with her mother-in-law (Helen Hunt) while Miles is in prison.

Blindspotting (Music From The Original Starz Series) is the work of composers Michael Yezerski (who scored the film), an Australian and Ambrose Akinmusire, an Oakland-native, best known for his  October 2020 release "on the tender spot of every calloused moment".

Yezerski: "Ambrose and I were given a unique opportunity - to create a score that actively expresses the emotional journey of the characters. Our music for the show is the heartbeat, the underscore, and the dance – as intricately connected to the drama as the choreography and the camerawork. Ambrose and I come from different corners of the world and yet we found a way to craft a musical language that felt entirely of ourselves, yet true to the spirit of collaboration that permeated all aspects of the production".

Akinmusire: "I was born and raised in Oakland, and representing my city - the stories, community, and culture - is personal for me. The project provided an opportunity to produce a score that highlights the complexity of emotions and points of view that are often simplified or overlooked"

Source: Jumpcut Online and  Black Film Online

Mushroom Hour Half Hour - On Our Own Clock

On Our Own Clock

by Mushroom Hour Half Hour (Various Artists)

Released 2 September 2021

Mushroom Hour Half Hour

****-

Pre-pandemic, there was a plan. The plan was for musicians from South Africa and Senegal to travel to London’s influential Total Refreshment Centre to make an album with musical kindred spirits in the UK. Like so many plans, it had to be adapted.

During the first wave of COVID-19 lockdowns in 2020, groups of heavy-hitting musicians met for a day of intense recording in their home cities then sent the music to their compadres across the oceans. They returned to the studio a month later to respond to the music they’d been sent. The result is ‘On Our Own Clock’, a sonic testament to trenchant and collaborative creativity which digs into layers of South African jazz, traditional Senegalese instrumental music and London’s rich diaspora-informed musicality. Individually these are powerful strands of music. Collectively, they are super-sized.

‘On Our Own Clock’ contains interludes titled ‘How To Make Art In A Pandemic’. The phrase became a byword and a prayer to keep the process going across the multiple hurdles that presented themselves: people getting Covid; the fear and fury that proliferates in the twin pandemics of Covid and racism; the practicalities of making music across two continents. It builds on another phrase, in the spirit of evolution and improvisation: two words used in the foreword to Toni Morrison’s novel Jazz in which she describes the ‘unreasonable optimism’ of musicians. Making this album was unreasonably optimistic even before the pandemic. To have created a deeply-rooted and warm-hearted gem like this is extraordinary.

Album highlights among the phenomenal 11 tracks include singles ‘Dune Dance’, which steps and hustles around a gorgeous groove that was written in Joburg and reflected back by the London players.

‘Ngikhethile’ (an isiZulu word which translates as ‘I Have Chosen’) fuses playing from across continents in an incrementally intense salutation to powerful optimism.

‘Be The Light’ draws deep from the endless well of feeling that the Senegalese kora provides, and builds up and outwards from a sweet-yet-solid bedrock and Grandmaster Cap’s vocals.
Featuring:

Alabaster de Plume – Sax (UK)
Asher Gamedze – Drums (South Africa)
Damola Owolade – Emcee (Nigeria)
Danalogue – Synthesizer, Piano, Sax (UK)
Grandmaster CAP – Emcee (South Africa)
Lex Blondin – Drum Machine (UK)
Mpumelelo Mcata – E. Guitar (South Africa)
Nosisi Ngakane – Vocals (South Africa)
Siya Makuzeni – Trombone, Vocals (RSA)
Tarang Cissoko – Kora (Senegal)
Tebogo Austebza Sedumedi – E. Bass (RSA)
Theon Cross – Tuba (UK)
Yahael Camara Onono – Percussion (UK / Senegal / Nigeria)
Zoe Molelekwa – Keyboards, Wurlitzer (RSA)

Source: Bandcamp

Hania  Rani - Music for Film and Theatre

Music for Film and Theatre

by Hania Rani

Released 18 June 2021

Gondwana Records

****-

Writing music for film and theatre has always been a big part of Hania Rani’s musical world. It is also a part of the creative process that can be tantalisingly out of reach for listeners, either the project doesn’t come to fruition or the music simply isn’t available away from the film or play. From early collaborations with friends, to last year’s two scores for full length films ("xAbo: Father Boniecki" directed by Aleksandra Potoczek and I Never Cry directed by Piotr Domalewski‘) Rani has been involved in many such projects, each representing an important step in her artistic development and life as a composer and artist:

“Composing for motion picture or theatre is for me a very different kind of work than writing for my own projects. Firstly, I need to collaborate with somebody else who sees the world through the lense of their own art and craft. That's why these kinds of encounters can be so exciting - they are a promise of creating something very new, as a result of creative work of so many people from all walks of life. Secondly, I feel that music in film is an invisible character, a missing emotion that creates a special atmosphere and sensation. It doesn't illustrate, it completes the work of art. I think it is an extremely sensitive matter that rejects banal associations and easy solutions. I feel like composing for film works like an exercise for my imagination.”

It is the nature of these collaborations though, that sometimes the composers own preferred compositions don’t make the final cut. This is where Music for Film and Theatre comes in as it allows Rani to present a selection of her own personal favourite pieces composed for film and plays. Pieces that made it to the final cut and pieces that were rejected by the director or the producer. Bringing the music together as an album offers a chance for Rani to share her music with her listeners on her own terms and a chance for her fans to hear a different side of her art.

“I put them in one place, as a collection of precious objects that were kept for years in a drawer. Some of them were composed a couple years ago, some are the result of recent research. I am very happy to finally be able to present them as a separate project."

Rani is of course grateful to all of the directors who have entrusted her to create music for their projects, but she professes especially warm feelings for the pieces composed for her first ‘real’ theatre play, Pradziady, directed by Michał Zdunik. The title comes from ‘Dziady’ a term in Slavic folklore for the spirits of the ancestors and a collection of pre-Christian rites, rituals and customs that were dedicated to them. The essence of these rituals was the ‘communion of the living with the dead’, namely, the establishment of relationships with the souls of the ancestors. “I felt this story needed extremely dark and fragile music, and at the same time a sound that could express the mixture of the two worlds - the living and the dead. I decided to compose part of the soundtrack with a string quartet but including two cellos, viola and only one violin. We recorded in a little house, completely built from wood, mostly from Finnish pine. I always felt this space has a very special, warm and natural acoustics - especially when it is combined with string instruments. The track composed for this theatre play is called Ghosts but actually didn't finally make it to the performance, although I like it so much that I thought it would perfectly fit this compilation”. Other highlights include the enchanting Soleil Pâle written for a collaboration with director Neels Castillon, and improvising dancers Alt Take, the beautiful melancholy of In Between (from the film score for xAbo: Father Boniecki) and the magical bliss of The Beach (from I Never Cry) and together they create a beautiful offering from an artist whose every note is worth hearing, but for whom the journey is just beginning:

“I am very happy to see that many artists consider my music as the right soundtrack for their works, because film music was always a huge inspiration for any of my compositions. I find there a lot of life and real emotions, but also a feeling of freedom. Freedom from my own thinking patterns and prejudices. I also believe strongly in collaboration between people, I always feel this is the way to create something really new, based on a mixture of different ways of thinking, feeling, expressing.”
 

Source: Bandcamp

`Hania Rani - Inner Symphonies

Inner Symphonies

by Hania Rani, Dobrawa Czocher

Released 29 October 2021

Deutsche Grammophon

****-

Fresh from Music for Film and Theatre, Hania Rani teams with renowned cellist and childhood friend Dobrawa Szocher for the exquisite Inner Symphonies.  The album was conceived during the pandemic as the composers considered how they might encourage each other and offer hope through their music.  

The saying of Hania’s grandmother ~ “Spring will come, that’s for sure” ~ is reflected in the title of the final track and the album’s upbeat mood.  The tone travels from restrained and contemplative to exuberant and unleashed, as demonstrated in the contrast between the overture and “Con Moto” ~ joy crouched behind a couch, followed by the leap.  The track features a multitude of friends in the auditorium of Kraków’s Juliusz Słowacki’s Theater, the theatre beautifully lit.  Early on, one witnesses the flurries of notes that we now associate with Rani’s playing.  The small orchestra may be playing in an empty theatre, but the lushness of their sound makes the seats seem filled.  The title means “lively, with movement and spirit,” and these performers ~ all university friends ~ embody the definition.

The keening of “Whale’s Song” is reflective of the human spirit in a time of lockdown: tired, lonely, yearning.  One expects “Scream” to be loud, but instead the selection is subdued: an inner scream matched by the Inner Symphonies of the title.  We bear silent burdens and silent hopes, but Rani and Dobrawa give them voice.  So even “Scream” eventually includes glockenspiel, perhaps the world’s happiest instrument, and leads directly to the album’s second single and spiritual center, “There Will Be Hope,” the title reminiscent of a Daniel Day-Lewis movie, but with a completely different outlook.  The song is inspired by Philip Glass, the key change signaling hope’s arrival, Drew Tyndell’s abstract video like a dance of fire and ice, hope and despair, finally arriving at reconciliation.  The struggle begins again, with “Anima” and “Demons,” but leads to the same conclusion: hope wins.

The album cover is black and white and wintry; the video cover is green and lush, signaling the arrival of a spiritual spring.  This is the inner symphony that can give one strength to carry on, and even to thrive: like a friendship rekindled, a reservoir rediscovered.  Our grandmothers have lived through times far worse than these; thanks to their wisdom and witness, we know that we can do the same. 

Source: A Closer Listen

I'll Be Your Mirror A Tribute To The Velvet Underground & Nico

I'll Be Your Mirror: A Tribute To The Velvet Underground & Nico

by Various Artists

Released 1 October 2021

Verve

*****

When it was initially released in 1967, The Velvet Underground & Nico sounded less like an album ahead of its time than music that had appeared out of time and out of nowhere. There was some context for the sinister but dreamy pop of "Sunday Morning," the tough R&B of "There She Goes Again," and the Teutonic girl group accents of "Femme Fatale," but the dark themes, ferocious attack, and moral ambiguities of numbers like "I'm Waiting for the Man," "Venus in Furs," and "Heroin" were strong meat and without precedent in rock & roll. Brian Eno's famous quote about the album has become one of rock writing's greatest cliches - "The first Velvet Underground album only sold 10,000 copies, but everyone who bought it formed a band" - but it does speak to the fact that the few who embraced the album did so deeply and passionately.

If time and changing tastes have allowed the record to evolve from a curiosity to a widely acknowledged classic, its style and personality remain unique. Producer Hal Willner, who took the tribute album to the level of an art form with projects like Amarcord Nino Rota, Stay Awake: Various Interpretations of Music from Vintage Disney Films, and Lost in the Stars: The Music of Kurt Weill, had long planned to pay homage to the Velvets' debut, and it was a project he was working on at the time of his death in April 2020. I'll Be Your Mirror: A Tribute to the Velvet Underground & Nico, doesn't play like a grand conceptual reimagining of the original album's themes in the manner of Willner's most ambitious releases. Instead, he allowed each artist the space to explore one of the LP's songs and find in it what they will, and the strength of I'll Be Your Mirror is how the performances often find a middle ground between the formative vision of the Velvet Underground and the viewpoint of the artist taking their turn with the music.

Bobby Gillespie and Thurston Moore's cover of "Heroin" is more of an homage than a reimagining, and Sharon Van Etten and Angel Olsen approach "Femme Fatale" as if they think they can out-gloom Nico, but Andrew Bird and Lucius offer a remarkable take on "Venus in Furs" that strips away its noise without compromising its tension, Courtney Barnett takes the prettiness from "I'll Be Your Mirror" and makes it sound all the more organic and heartfelt, and Matt Sweeney and Iggy Pop take a deep dive into the maelstrom with "European Son" that actually outworks the original's terminal pulse.

More than 50 years after its release, it seems there isn't much new to be said about The Velvet Underground & Nico, and I'll Be Your Mirror doesn't challenge that notion. But it does allow a number of worthy artists a chance to see themselves reflected in these songs, and it's a labor of love that's engaging and from the heart.

Source: AllMusic

Various Artists - Stay Awake

Stay Awake (Various Interpretations Of Music From Vintage Disney Films)

by Various Artists, Hal Willner (Producer)

Released 1988

A&M

****-

Whether you regard him as one of the greatest storytellers in American history or a cold-hearted marketing genius who forced a set of prepackaged consumerist myths on several generations of unsuspecting youth, there's little argument that the films of Walt Disney have become an indelible part of our collective subconsciousness. Then again, for every child who delighted in the antics of Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck, there's another who had the bejesus scared out of him by the Wicked Queen or went into hysterics after Bambi's mother was shot; there's a mingled joy and tragedy in Disney's best work that's helped to give his films a cultural resonance Bugs Bunny or Tom & Jerry have never achieved. Consequently, different people have wildly different perspectives on Disney's work, and producer Hal Wilner, a man who joyously revels in diverse perspectives, made the most of that on Stay Awake, in which 21 songs from classic Disney films are reinterpreted -- sometimes faithfully, sometimes radically -- by a startling array of artists brought together by Wilner.

Some of these tunes are barely recognizable from their sources (most notably Tom Waits' predictably clanky version of "Heigh Ho [The Dwarfs Marching Song]"), while others are faithful yet idiosyncratic (Syd Straw's jaunty "Blue Shadows on the Trail," and Los Lobos's rollicking "I Wan'na Be Like You [The Monkey Song]"), but just about everyone seems to find a different angle from which they approach these tunes.

Bonnie Raitt gets soulful on "Baby Mine," Buster Poindexter's take on "Castle in Spain" is high camp at it's most eyebrow wagging, Sun Ra and His Arkestra take "Pink Elephants on Parade" to the spaceways, the Replacements pull "Cruella De Ville" from a puddle of stale beer, and Sinead O'Connor invests "Someday My Prince Will Come" with a desperate longing that's just a bit disturbing. For every nightmare there's a moment of genuine beauty, and when Ringo Starr wraps it up with "When You Wish Upon a Star" the cynics and the incurable optimists join hands and all get along just fine for a moment, just the way Uncle Walt would have wanted it.

A fascinating look at a massively influential and little explored treasure trove of music.

Source: AllMusic

Various Artists - Lost In The Stars The Music Of Kurt Weill

Lost In The Stars: The Music Of Kurt Weill

by Various Artists, Hal Willner (Producer)

Released 1985

A&M

****-

Not to be confused with Sony's 1997 soundtrack release, September Songs: The Music of Kurt Weill, which was inspired by this 1985 CD on A&M, and co-produced by visionary Hal Willner, Lost in the Stars: The Music of Kurt Weill indeed contains the "eclectic updates of Kurt Weill's distinctive German theater music" with help from Sting, Marianne Faithfull, John Zorn, Lou Reed, Carla Bley, Tom Waits, Charlie Haden, and more.

This deep and complex work contains a 12-page booklet chock-full of information condensed into tiny, tiny print. Did the onset of compact discs hold this elaborate project back? If it were released on vinyl à la Jesus Christ Superstar, would it have reached a wider audience?

With such diverse artists as Peanut Butter Conspiracy keyboardist Ralph Shuckett, Van Dyke Parks, and Aaron Neville, it's literally a cast of thousands. Coming on the heels of new wave, as techno and trance were taking more of a hold, this extensive presentation may have been a bit too heady for audiences embracing the simplicity of power pop and punk.

You expect Marianne Faithfull to hit a home run, and she does on "Ballad of the Soldier's Wife," with some help from Chris Spedding, while superstar Sting is at his underground finest performing a creepy "Mack the Knife," a place his original fans wanted him to stay. Surprisingly, it is Lou Reed who, along with Ms. Faithfull, walks away with the "Oscar" here. Reed's outside appearances on soundtracks and tribute projects is hit or miss, working best when he gets to put together "My Love Is Chemical" for the film White Nights or a "Little Sister" from the Get Crazy soundtrack, disappointing when "Soul Man" for the film of the same name goes nowhere. "September Song" by Lou Reed is such a standout that its almost five minutes get extended to seven plus, as it becomes the title track to the aforementioned film this CD project inspired.

Henry Threadgill's controlled cacophony on "The Great Hall" is everything Brian Eno's Portsmouth Sinfonia aspired to be. Had Eno taken that ensemble in this direction, they may have had a chance.

Todd Rundgren and Gary Windo sound like Trevor Horn let loose in the studio to have some '80s fun, while Aaron Neville, Mark Bingham, and Johnny Adams are the antithesis of this track that follows them. Sounds and ideas from over a century of music cascade across the 67 minutes and 34 seconds of this CD.

Both breathtaking and pretentious, there is so much to discover and contemplate that at the end of the day, Lost in the Stars gets a thumbs up.

Interesting to note that in 1998, Marianne Faithfull would release a disc, The Seven Deadly Sins, featuring her performing music by Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill. For that great artist, this type of material is a perfect fit.

Source: AllMusic

Arcade Fire, Owen Pallett - Her (Original Score)

Her (Original Score)

by Arcade Fire, Owen Pallett

Released 21 March 2021

Sony

****-

Spike Jonze’s science-fiction masterpiece, Her, is set a decade into the future, but there’s so much about the film that feels tangible for society today. For one, it’s hardly as dystopian a world as Jonze’s previous works, (including)1999’s Being John Malkovich. But really, it’s the seemingly unprecedented relationship Joaquin Phoenix’s Theodore Twombly has with his revolutionary OS system (voiced to perfection by Scarlett Johansson). What starts as a simple working relationship, no different from ours with Apple’s Siri, blossoms into the top-level romance that leads romantics to start thinking, I could spend my life with this someone. And so he tries, and, well, audiences relate. After all, we also wake up, eat, sleep, at times fornicate, and even shower with our OS systems. They’ve become appendages of our bodies, a modern communication tool that’s more or less a form of evolution, and the closest thing we have to a real-life soul in the digital era.

As Arcade Fire sang on last year’s “Reflektor”, “We fell in love when I was 19/ And I was staring at a screen.”

How fitting, then, that Will Butler scored the film. Actually, how fortunate for Jonze. Butler not only “got” what the cult filmmaker was going for with Her, but managed to enhance the project’s themes and visuals. His score, written with multi-instrumentalist Owen Pallett, is substantial proof, a strikingly human and organic collection of music that keeps the film grounded in reality. While Twombly shuffles through a future Los Angeles, passing time with advanced video games and handless computers, Butler and Pallett follow along with archaic instruments like the piano or violin. Oddly enough, this wasn’t always the case; in fact, when Johansson replaced Samantha Morton last minute, the score changed “radically,” as Butler told Billboard. He explained: “The movie got less high-concept and became more about these two people. The music did the same thing: It started in a Blade Runner world and slowly became more piano-centric and less epic, with strings and warm synthesizers.” When you watch the picture, or even listen to the score while walking around aimlessly, it’s jarring how timelessly it resonates.

Her isn’t a complicated film by nature. It’s a love story - read: A Spike Jonze Love Story - for an era that’s only just beginning. When you look at it that way, you can see how the story’s initial thematic threads start tying on to bigger ideas that weren’t there to begin with, which essentially makes this a bigger, more complicated tale. By focusing on the core human elements and paying credence to the future that may or may not come, Butler and Pallett successfully created a portal for any filmgoer today to walk into. That’s not exactly the job or role of a composer, but it’s the mark of a great one.

Source: Consequence of Sound

Berk Icli - Glimpses Of An Eternal Bloom

Glimpses of an Eternal Bloom

by Berck Icli

Released 15 October 2021

Zel Zele Records

****-

An introspective dive into an ethereal atmosphere, “Glimpses of an Eternal Bloom” is the debut album of Turkish producer, composer and pianist Berk Icli. The album is an attempt to frame certain moments of “being” no matter the emotional state concerned, whether euphoric, sentimental or dark and contemplative. At times, this is done through orchestrations of strings, brass and woodwinds. Other times with solo piano, field recordings, electronics and the use of samples.

Born in Istanbul, Berk Icli recorded his album in NYC, which had been his home for the past several years. Studying classical and jazz composition at The New School’s Mannes Conservatory allowed him to practise unconventional ways of obtaining sounds from various instruments, to produce a timbre widely unbeknown to their true nature. The album was recorded, produced and mixed in Berk Icli’s apartment over a year. “I wanted to project the sound of my personal space and in this fashion refrained from pushing for a clean and sterile sound” he explains. Glimpses of an Eternal Bloom opens with dramatic scenery enhanced with spiritual chants. Throughout the album, Icli incorporates simple yet emotive piano-led pieces in tracks such as “Lullaby for Laika”, “Unsan Musho”, “Postlude” and “Ils sont devenus Intemporels”. In “Bambino’s Nap” evolving rhythmic patterns with liberating vocals create a dreamlike state in which the sounds & sentiments get mixed up, evoking feelings of joy along with melancholy. Varying musical tones are set with the use of synths, bass-heavy soundscapes, a powerful brass section in the track “Blossoms”. It spirals in & out of tremulous episodes paving the way for a spirited ending. Berk Icli incorporates real-life field recordings from his neighbourhood, voices of his friends and the children from the elementary school he worked at. The tracks were composed in succession and sequenced to construct a coherent sensual experience. 

Source: Bandcamp

Nils Frahm, FS Blumm - 2X1=4.

2X1=4

by Nils Frahm, F.S. Blumm

Released 20 October 2021

LEITER

****-

Nils Frahm is a singular figure in contemporary electronic music. As Tony Naylor put it in 2015, he's just as likely to be "playing solo piano pieces to the ravers and prickly techno at the Royal Albert Hall." But on the records that he makes with F.S. Blumm, he trades the emotional gravitas of his solo work for playfulness and curiosity. Their first two releases, Music for Lovers, Music Versus Time and Music For Wobbling Music Versus Gravity, were lovely introductions, as we heard the duo stumble on a melody or groove and then transform it with studio wizardry and found sounds (everything from crumpling paper to door springs).

On 2016's Tag Eins Tag Zwei, the pair settled into a comfortable—and fused—sound, where Blumm's country-informed guitar danced over Frahm's keys.