Monday, 30 July 2018

Jazzanova ‎– The Pool (2018)

Style: Trip Hop, Breaks
Format: CD, Vinyl
Label: Sonar Kollektiv

Tracklist:
01.   Now (L.O.V.E. And You & I - Part 2)
02.   Rain Makes The River
03.   Follow Your Feet
04.   No. 9
05.   Sincere
06.   Slow Rise
07.   Let's Live Well
08.   Everything I Wanted
09.   Heatwave
10.   It's Beautiful
11.   I'm Still Here
12.   Summer Keeps On Passing Me By

Credits:
Jazzanova are Alex Barck, Claas Brieler, Jürgen von Knoblauch, Stefan Leisering & Axel Reinemer.

The DJ collective known as Jazzanova don't have many "proper" albums to their name. Sure, there have been many EPs and remix compilations along the way to keep the main albums company, yet the press material for Jazzanova's album The Pool states that this is their first album in ten years. It's funny to imagine that an album like the live-in-studio Funkhaus Studio Sessions, which I very much enjoyed, doesn't appear to count in the long run! Any way you choose to look at it, The Pool is very much a worthy follow-up to Of All Things and can take its rightful place alongside any other classic album of the electro-crossover persuasion. 
Stefan Leisering, Alex Barck, Claas Brieler, Axel Reinemer, and Jürgen von Knoblauch have never strictly stuck to any one genre because, back in their early days, they weren't sure what they were going to create. As time rolled along, old-fashioned soul, R&B, and modern hip-hop had no problem cozying up to electronic dance pop or anything remotely "jazz" related in Jazzanova's world. This time around, the flagship single from The Pool "Rain Makes the River" could eerily pass for Portishead. "If rain makes the river / Rain needs to fall," Rachel Sermanni coos in a voice that barely registers in a mix stuffed with hypnotic trip-hop samples and soft horns. Two tracks later, we're in Gorillaz territory as KPTN tags slightly extended drawls at the end of his phrases on "No. 9". The odd thing is, when you're listening to The Pool, a stylistic shift from "Rain Makes the River to "No. 9" (which samples the Beatles's "Revolution 9", in case you were wondering) doesn't feel the slightest bit jarring.

This isn't hard to believe. Jazzanova have been honing their niche "thing" for more than 20 years now. To have at least 11 different guest vocalists appear on a 51-minute album without it sounding like a badly jumbled amateur mixtape is a special skill, not to mention a subtle one. Good songs and professional performances help, too. The easy-going and soulful "Let's Live Well" is a highlight thanks to Jamie Cullum's smooth melody. Pete Josef's pop-friendly tenor keeps "Follow Your Feet" light. Paul Randolph, who sang on the ruthlessly magnetic single "I Human" from Funkhaus returns for "It's Beautiful", which holds the catchy cards close to the chest while playing all the abstract, moody ones. My personal favorite could be the last word, "Summer Keeps on Passing Me By" featuring Ben Westbeech. It swiftly swings on a waltz beat, chugging over an electric piano, never giving in to modern R&B clichés. 
To be perfectly honest, I didn't think that an outfit like Jazzanova was capable of making an album like The Pool. I knew they were good, but I wasn't aware that they were this good. Each track can survive on its own in the wild. Together within one album, and it's an unstoppable force. I don't know how they did it -- and I doubt that Jazzanova are all that confident on how they did it either -- but they have made a classic with The Pool.
John Garratt / popMATTERS

Delia Derbyshire Appreciation Society ‎– Delia Derbyshire Appreciation Society (2017 )

Style: Ambient, Experimental
Format: CD
Label: Six Degrees

Tracklist:
1.   Blue Filter
2.   Cloudface
3.   Half Light
4.   Sine Language
5.   St. Tropez 1966
6.   Ride Under Trees
7.   The Scent Of Rain

Credits:
Garry Hughes - Composer, Keyboards, Sleeve Photo, Synthesizer, Treatments
Harvey Jones - Composer, Keyboards, Synthesizer, Treatments
Bob Katz - Mastering

Music industry veterans Garry Hughes and Harvey Jones have crossed paths several times before, but Delia Derbyshire Appreciation Society is their first full-scale collaboration. The duo intriguingly named the project in tribute to the British sonic innovator best known for her groundbreaking work with the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, including the original theme to Dr. Who, recorded in 1963. However, the DDAS moniker is somewhat misleading, as the pair's debut album isn't nearly as eerie or playful as Derbyshire's work, and definitely nowhere near as weird as An Electric Storm by White Noise, an absolutely brilliant experimental pop album from the late '60s that Derbyshire played a major part in creating. Instead, DDAS sound much closer to the serene ambient recordings of Brian Eno (with or without Robert Fripp) as well as '90s ambient techno artists such as Pete Namlook. Both Hughes and Jones are avid collectors of vintage synthesizers, and here they pool their resources for seven original compositions. Considering that Jones resides in New York City and Hughes lives in Wales, the collaboration feels seamless and natural rather than pieced together through the mail or over the internet. There are no beats on the album, but there's still plenty of lightly pulsating rhythms. Opener "Blue Filter" seems to calmly dance its way in, punctuated by deep bass plunges and warm, scattered arpeggios. Some pieces like "Half Light" are more free and drifting, and also somewhat darker. They also contain slightly warped textures that signify the analog nature of their recording. The most light-spirited moment is "St. Tropez 1966," which features layers of softly bubbling, melodic textures and a general feeling of dazed cheerfulness. "Ride Under Trees" starts out smooth and new age-y, with plenty of crystalline synths and reversed bell-like tones, but it ends up being almost overwhelming as it becomes flooded with swerving bass and sweeping filters. The release is an enjoyable effort that never seems to take itself too seriously.
Paul Simpson / ALLMusic