Sunday, 11 October 2020

Hypnotic Brass Ensemble ‎– Book Of Sound (2017)

Style: Jazz-Funk, Contemporary Jazz
Format: CD, Vinyl
Label: Honest Jon's Records

01.   Lead The Way
02.   Purple Afternoon
03.   Kepra
04.   Morning Prayer
05.   Now
06.   Solstice
07.   Midnight
08.   Sri Neroti
09.   Heaven And Earth
10.   Synapsis
11.   Royalty

Acoustic Guitar, Electric Guitar – Kevin Hunt
Alto Saxophone, Trombone, Synthesizer – Seba Graves
Bass, Electric Bass – Hashim Bunch
Euphonium – Uttama Po Tolo Ra
Flute, Vocals – Maia Hubert
Trombone – Cidjan Graves
Trumpet – Amal Baji, Benyehudah Hubert, Tarik Graves
Trumpet, Sousaphone – Jafar Baji
Vocals – Aquilla Sadallah

A group playing brass instruments in a New York subway once hypnotised a businessman. He was so mesmerised by their music that he stood listening for ages and missed numerous trains. Relaying this later to the performing band of brothers, he helped create their name.

Book Of Sound is the second album by Hypnotic Brass Ensemble on Honest Jon's Records, a label run in conjunction with Damon Albarn. The act's self-titled debut was a steamy brew of rapping rhythms and brassy busking, thus fusing two forms of street music. The percussion has been dropped for this outing, leaving the focus on a chorus of trumpets, trombones and more besides.

HBE are all sons of the late Kelan Phil Cohran, a man whose legacy runs deep across Chicago. Not just a fine musician with Sun Ra Arkestra and many others, Cohran also formed the Afro-Arts Theater for musical and political events. He passed away in June 2017, only months before Book Of Sound was released. If it's intended as a tribute to their father, then his boys have done him good. This album brings a tranquil wave to your soul. It doesn't lack vitality, but there's an inner peace within the fervent and prayerful beauty of each track.

So the vibe this time is more grieving than grooving—closer to the Balkan blues of Boban Markovic Orkestar, or the muted exuberance of Menahan Street Band. HBE still sound like cool streetwise cats, but with a wise and experienced edge.

Opening track "Lead The Way" brings humming vocals and bouncing brass, like a strange invocation. The trumpet lines of "Purple Afternoon" float among serene upright bass notes as if praising a sunset. "Kepra" finds one brother singing a treble line above long brassy tones—each drawn from deep breaths like a meditation. "Morning Prayer" has a circular drone with melodies that drift and murmur, creating a sacred air.

Elsewhere we get "Now" where another chant shimmers in as instruments tease back and forth. "Midnight" features the voice of Aquilla (one of three mothers to the band) with divine trumpet and flute lines over hypnotic guitar. Aquilla's voice keens like a lament for Cohran, but might also be guiding his soul onwards. Some of Alice Coltrane's ashram music comes to mind here. "Sri Neroti" features another mother, Maia, piping sweetly on piccolo amid the stately baritone brass.

HBE admit they were taught cosmic ideas from a young age, about the stars and planets making their own music. Listen closely to Book Of Sound and you might just hear the universe sighing in admiration. Or perhaps, as Sun Ra once informed us, space really is the place after all.
Gareth Thompson / All About Jazz

Alex Reece ‎– Al's Records: Series 1 (1997)

Style: Future Jazz, Drum n Bass
Format: CD, Vinyl
Label: Island Records, Al's Records

01.   Touch Me
02.   A Nu Era
03.   Streetplayer
04.   Rough Cut
05.   Double Edge
06.   F.V.R.
07.   Nag
08.   New York (Extended Version)
09.   Reactivate
10.   Bounce
11.   Skatta
12.   Jazz Shaker

Sleeve – Simon Emery

AL'S RECORDS: SERIES 1 isn't all Alex Reece, but it's close enough, especially when you dive into the funk bass of "Touch Me" before the vocal sample comes in to smooth things out. "A Nu Era" starts off with what might sound like atonal notes, but it quickly resolves into some modal breaks. The Jazz Cartel take over for "Streetplayer," a chunk of aural chocolate, and add some wide sweeps and flutes to "Double Edge." Reece returns for the sweet breaks of "F.V.R." or the wiggling groove of "Nag." "New York" starts off with some ominous synths before the beats come in to mug you. But the smoothness returns on "Reactivate," and even if "Bounce" starts off with harsh metallic tones, the thick bassline clears things up. "Skatta" gives the percussion a lightly more live feel, and "Jazz Shaker" doesn't sound as if it has as much jazz as other tracks -- it's more of a drum workout. Still, it's always great to hear more of Reece's work.
scoundrel / Discogs

VA ‎– Outro Tempo (Electronic And Contemporary Music From Brazil 1978-1992) (2017)

Genre: Electronic, Jazz, Latin, Folk, World, & Country
Format: CD, Vinyl, FLAC
Label: Music From Memory

01.   Piry Reis - O Sol Na Janela
02.   Nando Carneiro - G.R.E.S. Luxo Artesanal / O Camponês
03.   Cinema - Sem Teto
04.   Os Mulheres Negras - Só Quero Um Xodó
05.   Fernando Falcão - Amanhecer Tabajara (À Alceu Valença)
06.   Anno Luz - Por Quê
07.   Andréa Daltro - Kiuá
08.   Os Mulheres Negras - Mãoscolorida
09.   Bené Fonteles - O M M
10.   Carlinhos Santos - Giramundo
11.   Priscilla Ermel - Gestos De Equilíbrio
12.   Carioca - Branca
13.   Marco Bosco - Sol Da Manhã
14.   Maria Rita - Cântico Brasileiro No. 3 (Kamaiurá)
15.   Marco Bosco - Madeira II (Mãe Terra)
16.   Priscilla Ermel - Corpo Do Vento
17.   Luli E Lucina - E Foi

Compiled By – John Gómez
Mastered By – H.P.
Sleeve – David McFarline

In 1985, Brazil’s repressive junta finally allowed for direct elections for a president for the first time since their military coup of 1964. For artists and musicians of all stripes, the censorship and repression experienced during that military reign came to be known as “vazio cultural” (cultural void). The most well-known example came with the 1968 arrest and subsequent exile of two stars of Tropicália, Caetano Veloso and Gilberto Gil. But for the artists who stayed in country, the regime’s censorship became increasingly Kafkaesque to navigate. Some artists resorted to recording without words so as to elude such censorship—see Milton Nascimento’s Milagre Dos Peixes­—but it was only as the military’s stranglehold finally loosened that others began to rediscover their voices.

In the liner notes to Outro Tempo—a beguiling and dizzying assemblage of fourteen Brazilian experimental and fusion artists from around the time of that country’s thawing—producer John Gómez remembers happening upon Marco Bosco’s 1983 album Metalmadeira in a British thrift shop and finding a handwritten note within: “Dear Mr. Eno, I would like you to know about our work, we work with tapes and sounds of Nature.” Whether or not Mr. Eno ever happened upon this music, in the instance of taking over thirty years for this work to drift to ears, each track feels like a message in a bottle. As guitarist Nando Carneiro states in the notes, musicians during this time “had to stay caught in a cage.” Emanating from a country increasingly isolated from the rest of the world, these artists put wild blends of electronics, jazz fusion, new age drifts, new-fangled digital drum machines, and traditional Brazilian percussion into a new, curious sound.

A trace of Nascimento’s wordless music echoes through Anno Luz’s “Por Quê,” as pan flutes get stretched into a cloud and a bright, fingerpicked guitar figure moves in and out of an analog synth haze. Carneiro’s “G.R.E.S. Luxo Artesanal” also aims for a similar space, wedding his nimble samba phrases to a programmed rhythm and a synth line that slowly becomes unmoored from the beat. Some four minutes in, he splices the tape and the guitar drifts into “O Camponês,” with Carneiro’s non-verbal accompaniment capping the piece with a poignant coda.

One of the sets more thrilling juxtapositions is between the hand percussion that’s underpinned Brazilian music for centuries and these stiff new electronic components. Most of these devices had to be smuggled into the country through bribed officials. But even culturally, there was hesitation to have such computers make facsimiles of the lithe Brazilian rhythms. It’s the tangy interplay of hand drum patter and percolating electronics that gives Cinema’s “Sem Teto” a soda-pop fizz, suggestive of the similar samba hybrids envisioned a hemisphere away by bands like Antenna.

And as the military regime fell asunder and artists regained their voices, so did the music begin to expand and change. The other dialogue flowing through Outro Tempo is between Brazilian artists as they began to interact not just with one another, but with the indigenous tribes in Amazonia endangered by rampant deforestation going on during that decade. Some composers traveled to the jungle so as to better interact with these ancient sounds. Bené Fonteles’ haunted “O M M” chants that sacred Hindu syllable, strikes chimes, and shakes rattles until it resembles the clatter of the rainforest, while Maria Rita couples her powerful voice with tribal percussion and electric bass on “Cântico Brasileiro No.3.”

The most stunning compositions come from Priscilla Ermel, represented by the two longest cuts on the compilation. During the ’80s, Ermel traveled into the rainforest to immerse herself in study of these vanishing indigenous forms, seeking to fuse it with her own sensibilities as a musician and composer. But rather than just conduct a simple integration of ancient and modern, she also reaches outside of her country for other timbres, suggesting a “world music” more holistic than such a tag implies. Across the nine-minute “Gestos de Equilíbrio,” she interweaves guitar, synth, oboe and clay pot drums, but also makes foreign objects like the banjo, kalimba and Indian stringed-instrument the dilruba all sound right at home on her gently undulating ambient piece. Even more formidable is her 15-minute masterwork, “Corpo do Vento.” Across a thundering battery of bombo and cultrun, Ermel breathes through ocarina, Chilean chirimia and Nepalese flute, giving the epic a ritualistic vibration. She judiciously adds piano and viola caipira and the middle section drifts into new age territory before returning to the drum-driven mesmerism of the final passage.

“They are portals through which stories, people, and cultures can be revealed,” Ermel explains in the album’s liner notes about how she perceives her music. And almost every track here resonates like a secret kept silent for decades. Outro Tempo opens up a portal for us in the present moment back to a time and place where —under the suffocating weight of a totalitarian state—a few brave musicians nevertheless could hear the sounds of a brighter world.
Andy Beta / Pitchfork