Friday, 28 May 2021

Silver Apples ‎– Silver Apples (1968)

Style: Psychedelic Rock, Experimental
Format: CD, Vinyl
Label: Kapp Records, Rotorelief

01.   Oscillations
02.   Seagreen Serenades
03.   Lovefingers
04.   Program
05.   Velvet Cave
06.   Whirlybird
07.   Dust
08.   Dancing Gods
09.   Misty Mountain
10.   Fractal Flow

Electronics, Banjo, Vocals – Simeon
Percussion – Dan Taylor
Remastered By – Silver Apples

At the start of 1969, Silver Apples had the world at their feet. The New York duo of Simeon Coxe and Danny Taylor had released a pioneering debut album, collaborated with Jimi Hendrix and played Central Park to tens of thousands of people. Their second LP was due imminently. Yet weeks later, the album was pulled, they were banned from performing and found themselves ousted and ostracised from the music industry.

“It ruined us,” recalls Coxe, now 80, from his Alabama home. “It was heartbreaking.”

To understand just what happened involves taking a trip right back to the beginning. Before Silver Apples, Coxe and Taylor had both been members of another rock group, the Overland Stage Electric Band, but when Coxe incorporated the sounds of an oscillator into what they were playing, it didn’t go down well with bandmates. “They hated it,” says Coxe. “When the venue manager said we should play more oscillator it pissed them all off so much they quit. Except Danny.”

Their manager Barry Bryant loaned them his loft space and they locked themselves away for months, fiddling with bits of semi-broken electrical equipment. They combined the unpredictable bleeps produced with Taylor’s deeply hypnotic, looping drumbeats and Coxe’s fragile vocals. The result was an innovative blend of psychedelic-tinged electronic rock.

Without realising, Coxe had built his own eccentric synthesiser. This idiosyncratic set-up soon mutated into a machine nicknamed “the Simeon”, which grew to consist of nine audio oscillators with 86 manual controls – including telegraph keys – to control lead, rhythm and bass pulses with the user’s hands, feet and elbows. It also included radio parts, lab gear and a variety of secondhand electrical items. “I had heard the word synthesiser, but I had no idea what it was,” Coxe says. “We were dirt poor and used what we had, which was often discarded world war two gear.” Coxe’s creation was so outlandish that Moog creator Robert Moog came to the studio one day to investigate.

Bryant was a hustler and a schmoozer. He directed a stream of A&R people to his loft to hear this new electronic space-rock that echoed from it night and day. “Most ran out with their hands over their ears,” Coxe says. For their first gig, Bryant scored them a slot playing in Central Park to 30,000 people. “I was scared to death,” Coxe remembers. “Every time I look at that picture I shudder. We had no idea if our equipment was going to work and the audience were just staring at us.”

Soon, an A&R from Kapp records liked them enough to sign them and a self-titled debut was released in 1968. It predates Wendy Carlos’s Switched-On Bach and White Noise’s An Electrical Storm, two watershed moments for electronic music, and sounds like a Can album, even though the krautrock pioneers had yet to put a record out at that point. “It never sounded weird to me,” Coxe reflects. “We weren’t intending to be futuristic. We were just kids playing and making pop music.”

During the recording of their second album, Contact, they found themselves sharing studio space with Jimi Hendrix, who Taylor used to play with. Both were due to perform versions of the Star Spangled Banner for Fourth of July shows, so they jammed and recorded their own trippy version.

For Contact, Kapp’s advertising agency had the idea of combining two clients: Pan Am, the airline, and Silver Apples. The band would get free access to aircraft for a photoshoot and Pan Am’s logo could be displayed – a win-win scenario. Except that it would sink the band. The front cover shows the pair in the cockpit with drug paraphernalia while in the reverse image they sit among the wreckage of a plane crash. “Somebody at Pan Am took offence even though it was all signed off,” Coxe says. “They said, ‘This isn’t free publicity, it’s damaging.’”

A judge ordered an injunction to have the records pulled from shelves. Kapp suffered financially and had to fire staff, and as part of the injunction the band were forbidden to perform as it was classified as promoting the album. “The whole operation was shut down,” Coxe recalls. At one show, city marshals showed up and covered the stage in police tape. “We freaked out and packed up my equipment but they got wise and confiscated Danny’s drums.”

The band had already recorded a third album on spec, but found they were personae non gratae. “The labels treated us like we had leprosy,” Coxe says. “We couldn’t get anyone to even listen to it. The big, bad evil legal gremlin had got in and destroyed an art form.”

A dispirited Coxe packed up and headed to Alabama, where his family lived. In just a few months he had gone from being a signed and touring musician to driving an ice-cream truck. “I thought, if I can’t be a Silver Apple then I don’t want to play music. Coxe buried Silver Apples deep into the dark corners of his memory. “I pretty much forgot about it,” he says. “I figured it was a failed experiment that would never be resurrected.”

Almost 20 years later he got a call. A friend in New York heard his CD in an art gallery. “What CD?” asked Coxe. A German bootleg copy, it turned out. Silver Apples’ mythical story and otherworldly music had developed a cult following. That same year, 1996, a tribute album was released and Coxe even had to deal with an imposter. A musician in San Francisco was performing his songs, with oscillators on the street, as Silver Apples. “It was a very strange time,” he recalls. “I was signing autographs on bootlegs of my own music.”

Coxe and Taylor began playing and releasing music as Silver Apples again, although Coxe had to rebuild the Simeon after he lost most of it in Hurricane Frederic in 1979. The unreleased third album, The Garden, finally saw the light of day in 1998 but, just as the duo’s good luck seemed to be gaining momentum, a dose of the bad struck again. Their tour van was forced off the road and Coxe broke his neck in the accident. “I was told I would never walk again,” he says. “I rejected that mentally and went into all the programmes available and got my physical strength back. It took two years before I could feel my feet again.”

Just when Coxe had recovered enough to re-enter Silver Apples’ world, his musical partner Taylor died in 2005. Coxe pressed on regardless and built a new set-up that worked around his diminished mobility. He chose to sample Taylor’s drums rather than replace him.

By this stage, the world had finally caught up. Silver Apples were loved by, and had influenced, countless bands including Stereolab, Spiritualized and Portishead. Sean Lennon even informed Coxe his father, John, had been a big fan. Portishead invited them to play the ATP festival they curated in 2007 and their 2008 album, Third, featured We Carry On, an unashamed homage to the band. Portishead’s Adrian Utley had discovered them years earlier. “He said: ‘you have to check this out’,” remembers Geoff Barrow of the group. “And I was like: ‘Fucking hell, this is amazing.’ For people like us, they are the perfect band. Silver Apples were a pathway to Portishead. They should definitely be up there with the pioneers of electronic music.”

Coxe continues to perform and tour as Silver Apples. He released a new album in 2016, and a release for Record Store Day on 13 April is due next month. Despite a lifetime of turbulence and rotten luck, he insists the good times far outweigh the bad. Even 50 years on from the moment that sent his career into the wilderness for nearly two decades, he refuses to have any regrets. “No,” he says. “Not one.” 

 Daniel Dylan Wray / The Guardian

Monday, 24 May 2021

PZ ‎– Selfie-Destruction (2021)

Style: Abstract, Alternative Rock, Avantgarde
Format: CDFLAC
Label: Meifumado

01.   Podia Ser
02.   Incompatibilidades 
03.   Não Bulas Madalena 
04.   Em Paz Na Minha Guerra  
05.   Vão Ser Milhões 
06.   Dona Elisa 
07.   Tu Teimas
08.   Pareces Defunto 
09.   Uma Anormalidade 
10.   Daqui Para Fora 
11.   Fruta e Canivetes
12.   Falta Dar

Música e Letras: Paulo Zé Pimenta
Misturado e Masterizado por: Zé Nando Pimenta

"Selfie-Destruction" é o sexto álbum de originais do artista portuense que continua a trilhar o seu caminho pijamístico dentro da sua particular estética “do it yourself”. Mais uma vez, a produção ficou a cargo de PZ, desta feita, forçosamente confinado no seu quarto/estúdio que serviu de pano de fundo tanto para as músicas como para a “selfie” que originou a capa do álbum: um auto-retrato em forma de catarse com um olhar que evoca uma certa esquizofrenia que se espalha pelos 12 temas. Seguindo a veia electrónica que percorre a sua carreira, PZ expõe as suas dúvidas, destrói as suas neuroses, e usa o humor perante a trágica condição humana. Tudo serve para transformar fragmentos da memória em peças musicais, mesmo as memórias recentes de uma pandemia que continua a assolar o Mundo.

Friday, 21 May 2021

Sons Of Kemet ‎– Black To The Future (2021)

Style: Afrobeat, Fusion, Avant-garde Jazz
Format: CD, Vinyl
Label: Impulse!

01.   Field Negus
02.   Pick Up Your Burning Cross
03.   Think Of Home
04.   Hustle
05.   For The Culture
06.   To Never Forget The Source
07.   In Rememberance Of Those Fallen
08.   Let The Circle Be Unbroken
09.   Envision Yourself Levitating
10.   Throughout The Madness, Stay Strong
11.   Black

Alto Saxophone – Cassie Kinoshi
Trombone – Nathaniel Cross
Trumpet – Ife Ogunjobi
Tenor Saxophone – Kebbi Williams, Steve Williamson
Vocals, Lyrics By – Joshua Idehen, D Double E, Kojey Radical, Angel Bat Dawid, Moor Mother, Joshua Idehen
Drums – Eddie Wakili-Hick, Tom Skinner
Tuba – Theon Cross
Written By, Woodwind], Producer, Creative Director, Liner Notes – Shabaka Hutchings

Shabaka Hutchings is one step ahead – always. The saxophonist last released a record, his other band Shabaka and The Ancestors’ ‘We Are Sent Here By History’, in mid-March last year. This was the eve of the COVID-19 pandemic tearing through the United Kingdom; the album centred around themes of confronting the destruction of humanity. ‘Black to The Future’, Hutchings’ latest record, this time with Mercury Prize-nominated quartet Sons of Kemet, is an 11-track album that finds them at their most dynamic and urgent.

Featuring an all-star cast of guests such as UK saxophonist Steve Williamson, Chicago bandleader/vocalist Angel Bat Dawid, American poet Moor Mother, legendary British grime MC D Double E, British rapper Kojey Radical, singer Lianne La Havas and poet Joshua Idehen, the album is the kind of career-defining work that makes the case for Sons of Kemet as jazz greats in their own right.

Bookended by Idehen’s poetic eloquence on ‘Fields of Negus’ and ‘Black to the Future’, it’s full of powerful lyricism and musical statements that swirl around rage, resentment and frustration. “How can we expect the dungeon keeper to make the rules and play fair?” Idehen asks on the opening track, a thesis for the album wrapped up in barbed imagery.

The album’s thematic content focuses on 2020’s summer, swept up in the protest in the wake of George Floyd’s death and the subsequent Black Lives Matter protests. On one of the most infectious song of the album, ‘Hustle’, Kojey Radical repeatedly chants: “I was born from the mud with the hustle inside me.” Like ‘Pick Up Your Burning Cross’, ‘Think Of Hope’ and ‘For The Culture’, the track flows steadily inwards to a centre point, before swirling into a whirlpool of emotion.

Shabaka leads Theon Cross (tuba), Edward Wakili-Huck (percussion), Tom Skinner (percussion) and more towards the crescendo of ‘Let the Circle Be Unbroken’, where the album seems to unshackle itself from the constraints of genre, the cacophony mimicking the cries of someone fighting themselves, unlearning generational trauma and terrors.

Across these 11 tracks, Sons of Kemet have crafted a narrative that sees Black people freeing themselves from the constraints of oppression, a message strengthened by the closing track’s rapturous and improvisatory free jazz instrumentation, which underpins Idehen’s pointed monologue as he screams into the ether: “This Black struggle is dance / This Black pain is dance / Just leave Black be / You already have the world / Just leave Black be / Leave us alone.”
Dhruva Balram / NME

Wednesday, 19 May 2021

Jóhann Jóhannsson ‎– Virðulegu Forsetar (2004)

Style: Modern Classical, Experimental, Ambient
Format: CD, Vinyl 
Label: Touch

1.   Part 1
2.   Part 2
3.   Part 3
4.   Part 4

Bass, Electronics – Skúli Sverrisson
Conductor – Guðni Franzson
Ensemble – The Caput Ensemble
Glockenspiel, Bells, Electronics – Mathias M.D. Hemstock
Organ – Guðmundur Sigurðsson, Hörður Bragason
Trumpet – Eiríkur Örn Pálsson, Ásgeir Steingrímsson
Tuba – Sigurður Már Valsson
Horns – Anna Sigurbjörnsdóttir, Einar St. Jónsson, Emil Friðfinnsson, Stefán Jón Bernharðsson, Þorkell Jóelsson
Written-By, Arranged By, Producer, Piano, Electronics – Jóhann Jóhannsson

Listening to music by Icelandic composer Jóhann Jóhannsson reminds me of optical illusions, those little diagrams where you can't believe this line is really the same length as that line, or you're amazed that the swirling circle isn't really rotating. Our brains are complex computers but it doesn't take much to short the circuits. We're constantly constructing patterns based on context.

Virðulegu forsetar is a long piece in four parts that depends heavily on juxtaposition. Over the course of an hour it continues to repeat a single phrase on trumpets, french horns, and tubas. Though simple, it's a bold little cluster of notes with an inherent grandeur, and the brassiest voicing early in the piece suggests a fanfare before a great announcement. But Jóhannsson invests the refrain with a host of different meanings by slowing it down, shifting the pitch, putting it beside all sorts of interesting drones, and making it disappear completely for minutes on end. Over its length the piece undergoes remarkable shifts in mood and feel, which is even more notable considering the basic instrumentation (in addition to the brass, it's scored for organs, piano, bass, glockenspiel, and subtle electronics) is the same throughout.

So Virðulegu forsetar is about minimalism and repetition, obviously, but it's also one of the most patient records I've heard. Where last year's equally great Englabörn album consisted of chamber pieces at pop-song length, Virðulegu forsetar should be taken in all at once and in a proper way. Listen to it loud and the organ/electronic rumble connecting the melodic bits comes alive, with odd bits of noise perfectly mucking up the pristinely deep bass pedals. The held tones become vitally important as the piece progresses and the primary motif slows to a crawl; with more space between the notes the connecting drone that stretches to infinity becomes the focus. The horns are always around the corner. At times they're wounded and barely able to sound, but they're always there. Toward the end there's a stretch of silence almost two minutes long before one last gasp of the opening theme carries the piece out on an exhausted note.

This gorgeous package contains a DVD audio disc with a 5.1 surround sound mix that attempts to replicate the feel of the original performance (I don't have the technology to hear it, unfortunately). Virðulegu forsetar was first performed in 2003 at Hallgrimskirkja, a large cathedral in Reykjavik, and the album was recorded in the same space. During that first performance, players were positioned on all sides of the audience; it was spring in Iceland which meant a show starting around 11:00 p.m. would finish as the sun was setting. As a visual accompaniment, Jóhannsson filled the cathedral with helium balloons that were slightly underinflated, so that over the course of the piece they fell extremely slowly into the crowd.

Think for a moment what a fantastically beautiful image this is. And yet, there's nothing to it. An epic space, sure, but beyond that we're talking balloons, horns, and a keyboard. Careful gestures, simple tools, and a good mind are all Jóhannsson needs. This is the way to live.
Mark Richardson / Pitchfork

Monday, 17 May 2021

Bruno Pernadas ‎– Private Reasons (2021)

Style: Pop, Psychedelic, Fusion
Format: CD, FLAC
Label: Pataca Discos
01.   Family Vows
02.   Lafeta Uti
03.   Fuzzy Soul
04.   Theme Vision
05.   Little Season I
06.   Little Season II
07.   Recife
08.   Jory I
09.   Jory II
10.   Brio 81
11.   Loop Joy
12.   Step Out Of The Light
13.   Far Beneath Your View

Cello – Raquel Merrelho
Double Bass, Electric Bass – Pedro Pinto
Drums, Percussion – João Correia
Electric Bass – Nuno Lucas
Flute – Dina Hernandez
Piano – João Pedro Coelho
Piano, Synthesizer, Voice – Margarida Campelo
Trumpet, Flugelhorn, Flute – Diogo Duque
Vibraphone – Paolo Santo
Viola – Cátia Santos
Violin – Joao Andrade, Lyza Valdman
Vocals – Francisca Cortesão
Voice – Minji Kim
Alto Saxophone, Tenor Saxophone – João Capinha
Guitar, Electric Bass, Synthesizer, Percussion, Voice, Artwork, Design, Recorded By, Written By, Arranged By, Producer, Words By – Bruno Pernadas 

The first time I’d heard of Bruno Pernadas I was watching him at a festival in Portugal. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but my Portuguese friends assured me I’d love it. So, with a bit of trepidation, I settled in to watch. After five minutes I was interested. After 15 I was into it. After 30 I was captivated and by the end, I was a convert. The last thing I did that day, when I was back in the hotel, was order his back catalogue so it would be at home waiting for me upon my arrival.

Since then, Pernadas has performed concerts only playing Sun Ra songs, produced albums for Kikagku Moyo and Montanhas Azuis and hinted that he was working on a follow up to 2016’s ‘Worst Summer Ever’ and ‘Those Who Throw Objects At The Crocodiles Will Be Asked To Retrieve Them’. The waiting is now over. Pernadas has released his fourth album ‘Private Reasons’.

There is a hazy brilliance to ‘Private Reasons’. It triggers memories of sunny holidays abroad. ‘Family Vows’ opens with delicious harmonies and melodies. Everything is laidback. It isn’t as jazzy as ‘Worst Summer Ever’. Nor is it as loop based as ‘How Can We Be Joyful In A World Full Of Knowledge?’, but it does follow on the 70s psych of ‘Those Who Throw Objects At The Crocodiles Will Be Asked To Retrieve Them’, but everything just feels bigger. More polished and, well, gorgeous.

The standout track is ‘Step Out Of The Light’. Here Pernadas really flexes his musical muscles and shows what he can do. It is filled with classical motifs, luxurious strings, then a lumbering beat kicks in and it skews into an elegant pop song. It’s playful, but there is slight bite to the music underneath. During the instrumental section, the flutes, strings, and guitars dance about, but the piano keeps everything in check and when it’s time to get back to the job at hand everything slots back into that sublime groove.

At first I wasn’t sure about ‘Private Reasons’. Maybe it was because I’d played his previous three album A LOT since that fateful day in Lisbon, but it wasn’t grabbing me. The music was good, but it felt like Pernadas has been listening to the Beach Boys too much before recording. Then I do what I normally do at this time. I played it again. And again. And again. By the end of the second listen, I was into it. By the end of the third I was captivated and after that I got it. Or I think I do. ‘Private Reasons’ has a tropicalia psych vibe to it. It sounds like it was recorded in glorious sunshine sometime in the last century. The flute solo in ‘Brio 81’ feels like Kodachrome rays of sun shooting out of the speakers.

The burning question after listening to the album is has it been worth the five year wait since Pernadas’ last album? The answer is an unequivocal yes. This is everything I wanted and didn’t realise I needed. Overall ‘Private Reasons’ is Pernadas most ambitious album to date. It’s also his most rewarding. The songs are filled with luscious melodies. They feel familiar, but they aren’t. What Pernadas has done is tap into a rich vein of music that he adores but instead of feeling nostalgic it filled with contemporary bounce to it that is invigorating. It makes you want to listen to it more and more.

If there is any justice, this should be the soundtrack to the summer. But if it isn’t then I guess you have your own private reasons.
Nick Roseblade / Clash Music

Tuesday, 11 May 2021

Associates ‎– Sulk (1982)

Style: New Wave, Synth-pop, Art Rock
Format: CD, Vinyl
Label: BMG, Beggars Banquet, V2

01.   Arrogance Gave Him Up 
02.   No 
03.   Bap De La Bap 
04.   Gloomy Sunday
05.   Nude Spoons 
06.   It's Better This Way 
07.   Party Fears Two 
08.   Club Country 
09.   Skipping 
10.   Nothinginsomethingparticular 
11.   Love Hangover
12.   18 Carat Love Affair 
13.   Ulcragyceptimol 
14.   And Then I Read A Book 
15.   Australia 
16.   Grecian 2000
17.   The Room We Sat In Before

Bass – Michael Dempsey
Drums – John Murphy
Performer (Instruments) – Alan Rankine
Vocals – Billy MacKenzie
Composed By, Lyrics By – Billy MacKenzie
Producer – Mike Hedges

Previous album reappraisals I have written have tended to be attempts to draw attention to bands lesser known, more under-appreciated albums, but I’m going to go against my own grain and focus on their masterwork , 1982’s “Sulk”.

Sometimes bands most successful or famous albums are that for a reason and that can, on my opinion, most certainly be said of “Sulk”, which whilst sharing many elements with their other albums of the early 80’s period still remains largely like nothing that came before it – and there has been little like it since. Whilst “Sulk” features an undoubtedly talented group of musicians playing on it, the whole beating heart of it still lies with the multi-instrumental talents of Alan Rankine and the stunning multi-range voice of Billy Mackenzie, adorning the sleeve in a lush, rich setting which reflects the tone of the whole record, which is though consistent in this style seems to have a slight divide between a first half imbued with 80’s pop sensibilities, all be it in a truly unique manner, before taking a darker and distinctly more dramatic nearer the end.

Opening with “Better This Way,” an exemplary opener with an incredible swirling bassline and typically vocals which pull the listener right in instantly, this then gives way to one of the most uniquely wonderful singles of the 80’s, “Party Fears Two.” Comprised of oblique lyrics that initially seem like free verse but that pull into something more structured that reinforce the idea set by TS Eliot that perhaps free verse does not really exist, the full range of Mackenzie’s vocal skill turns it into something strangely touching. The classic first Top of the Pops performance of this single, with Mackenzie looking at himself in the monitors and smiling, shattering televisions mystique, has sealed its reputation as an 80’s classic. More pop gems follow; the boldly sweeping “Club Country” and the heartbreakingly sublime , “18 Carat Love Affair,” the latter a beautiful take on forbidden love which, with lines like “I told you not to meet me here/I can’t be seen/with you whispering in my ear/ I don’t mind holding hands but not in front of company” seems at face value to be about hiding infidelity but could just as easily be about trying to cover up a same-sex relationship. Given Mackenzie’s own, rarely talked about bisexuality this simply makes it all the more emotive.

The aforementioned darker, more dramatic turn that “Sulk” takes is best represented by my personal favourite track, “No,” a huge Gothic number which its almost impossible not to be impressed by; Rankine’s dramatic piano work complementing Mackenzie’s most epic vocals, it sounds as though it should be played within the depths of a huge castle hall or on the unswept checkerboard floor of a decaying Hollywood mansion; the lyrics rife with images of anxiety such as hair-pulling (at the roots, before planting the them in someones garden to wait for the shoots to grow -all a psychoanalysts dream) and biting nails to the quick with worry.

If there’s anything that signifies the change in tone between the first and second halves of the album though, its the two cover versions that grace it. One is a gleefully camp version of Diana Ross’s “Love Hangover,” which retains the glitzy disco feel of the original. The other is a powerfully revealing version of a song with one of the most talked about histories in music, Gloomy Sunday. Written in 1932 by Rezsco Seress, it was blamed for 18 suicides in Hungary. It was first recorded in the UK with English lyrics by Hal Kemp, with many other versions following (Billie Holliday’s 1942 version being the most famous and beautiful), and its reputation for being responsible for many suicides grew so much it was banned by the BBC in all forms for 66 years. The ban was in still in place when The Associates recorded their version on “Sulk” (it would be lifted twenty years later), so its certainly a bold choice of song. Its mournful lyrics are undeniably ones that would draw in the saddest of listeners (something more likely to be responsible for the songs history than any superstition, I believe), and its hard to imagine anyone of completely stable mind being able to fully communicate its suicidal tone. The Associates version has an extra sheen and aural layer to previous versions, but its power is intense and haunting. Mackenzie tragically took his own life in 1997, not only feeding the songs history but adding extra poignancy. “Sulk” – his final album with Rankine and thus as The Associates as we know them – would perhaps be his ultimate legacy, an album as multi-layered, stylish and at times eccentric as he was. In the grey gloom of the bleak 80’s landscape, “Sulk” was a ray of light which stands the test of time today.
Amy Britton / Louder Than War

Monday, 10 May 2021

Nicola Conte, Gianluca Petrella ‎– People Need People (2021)

Style: Bossa Nova, Soul-Jazz, Deep House, Jazzdance
Format: Vinyl, FLAC
Label: Schema

01.   People Need People
02.   Hold On To Your Dreams
03.   Nigeria
04.   Imani River
05.   The Higher Love
06.   Tribes
07.   Inner Light
08.   African Spirits
09.   New World Shuffle
10.   Good Juju
11.   Mother Of The Earth

Producer – Gianluca Petrella, Nicola Conte

For over twenty years, the Italian producer, composer and guitarist Nicola Conte has pursued a resolutely independent path in jazz and jazz-related music. The Schema label, with whom he has almost exclusively partnered since his breakthrough album, 2000's acid-jazz masterpiece Jet Sounds, is based in the fashion-centric northern city of Milan. But Conte nearly always records at Sorisso Studio in his hometown, Bari, a seaport on the heel of Italy's boot on the country's southern Adriatic coast. This off-the-beaten-track location reflects, and doubtless bolsters, Conte's independent spirit.

Most of the highwater marks in Conte's discography have featured the trombonist Gianluca Petrella, another Bari resident, who is the co-leader on People Need People. The pair have been involved in such landmark recordings as Conte's Jet Sounds, New Standards (Schema, 2001, an EP co-billed with Petrella), Jet Sounds Revisited (Schema, 2002), Other Directions (Schema/Blue Note, 2004) and most recently Let Your Light Shine On (MPS, 2018), on which Petrella played a role approaching co-leadership. But People Need People is the duo's first full-length 360-degree collaborative project.

The album is positioned to attract the more inquisitive end of today's electronic-dance-music audience. Along with modal jazz, soul and spiritual Afro-jazz, longtime staples in the Conte-Petrella mix, the jointly composed and produced disc draws on hip hop and digital beats. There is less improvisation than on Other Directions or Let Your Light Shine On, but the music retains an underlying jazz sensibility and the with-vocals tracks address contemporary societal issues in a thoughtful manner. The album merits approaching with an open mind.

Several of the key players here are also featured on Let Your Light Shine On: reed player Magnus Lindgren, keyboardists Seby Burgio and Nduduzo Makhathini, drummers Tommaso Cappellato and Teppo Mäkynen, percussionist Abdissa Assefa, and singers Carolina Bubbico and Bridgette Amofah. Other contributors of note include trumpeter Marco Rubegni, saxophonist Pasquale Calò and spoken-word vocalist Rashaan Ahmad.

P.S. Among the instrumental tracks is "Nigeria," a gritty Afrobeat-inspired platform for Petrella's trombone, which once again raises the perennially perplexing question: why is the trombone almost entirely absent from modern West African styles including Afrobeat, yet so widespread in that diaspora's Brazilian samba? Answers in the Comments box below please.
Chris May / All About Jazz

Saturday, 8 May 2021

STR4TA ‎– Aspects (2021)

Style: Jazz-Funk, Fusion, Soul-Jazz
Format: CD, Vinyl, FLAC
Label: Brownswood Recordings, Beat Records

01.   Aspects
02.   Rhythm In Your Mind
03.   Dance Desire
04.   We Like It
05.   Steppers Crusade
06.   After The Rain
07.   Give In To What Is Real
08.   Kinshasa FC
09.   Vision 9
        Bonus Track
10.   Aspects (Demus Dub)

Bass – Francis Hylton
Keyboards, Drums – Matt Cooper
Mixed By, Producer – Richard Bull
Producer – Bluey, Gilles Peterson, Matt Cooper, Paul Booth
Recorded By, Mixed By – Mo Hausler

Producer Gilles Peterson originally made his name in the 1980s as a resident DJ in Camden at the Electric Ballroom and Dingwalls playing the contemporary dance music of the time, variously known as Jazz Funk, Brit Funk and, in a later 1990s revival, as Acid Jazz. The significance of this music isn’t just that it was the predominant British dance music of the time, but that it used the rhythms and musical inventions then coming from electric Jazz.

More importantly, however, the music was a London-based hub of creativity that let British dance culture develop its own distinct path and, crucially, was colour-blind at a time when the ethnicity of a British musician was still considered worthy of attention. This was the kind of music played by the likes of British bands such as Level 42, Imagination and Incognito.

Peterson has collaborated with the leader of Incognito, Jean-Paul “Bluey” Maunick to form STR4TA. This is an intentionally nostalgic band that endeavours to recreate the rhythms of the early 1980s, along with a consciously raw, relatively unpolished production sound. So, on Aspects, their debut album, we find slap bass, propulsive guitar, spare and punchy drums, falsetto harmony vocals, and floaty electric piano. This is dance-floor oriented music that is tight, taut and immediately danceable, but rather than being dependent on electronic instruments relies instead on musicianship and sympathetic production.

Peterson has a history of putting together imaginative collaborations that focus attention on easily overlooked musical genres from both the Americas and beyond, most famously on the album Nuyorican Soul. It is perhaps inevitable that he would eventually revisit the music that he did so much to champion and shape in his earliest days on the London scene. This is illustrated by the self-consciously fanzine-style album cover which features a montage of a decidedly youthful Gilles Peterson and a similarly young Maunick.

The album opens with the title track, Aspects, which could have been sourced from the back of a 1980s record crate. It is a checklist of the elements that drew people onto the Dingwalls dance floor, propelled by an infectious bass-line and a catchy chorus. This is followed by Rhythm In Your Mind, which sounds even more like a song from the time. There is a jazzier piano sound on the instrumental Dance Desire which allows Maunick space to show off what he can do with an electric guitar. Peterson displays his DJ credentials by following the serviceable We Like It with Steppers Crusade, a groove-based tune that steadily builds up to euphoric heights.

After the Rain opens the second side of the LP with a relatively thoughtful invocation of a good night out, leading into the similarly reflective Give In To What Is Real whose groove and bass line will appeal to fans of Level 42. The title of Kinshasa FC might be intended to evoke the comparable DIY ethos of contemporary Congolese music, but otherwise this instrumental tune only hints at the African rhythms beginning to influence British jazz and dance music of the time. The final track, Vision 9, might bring back pleasant memories of Jazz Fusion of the late 1970s and early 1980s, before it descended into its current state of soporific smoothness.

This is a record designed to please those with memories of London summers in the early 1980s when Robbie Vincent was featured on BBC Radio London, when night clubs were mostly small, intimate affairs and when pirate radio was often the only place you could hear the type of music featured on the album. However, for those of a different generation or with different memories, this is the perfect introduction to a musical genre which is nevertheless very much of its time. This is as much a credit to the musicians gathered together on the album, such as Francis Hylton, Matt Cooper, Richard Bull, Peter Hinds and Randy Hope-Taylor, as it with the partnership of Peterson and Maunick in realising what must have been a project they’d always dreamed of doing together.
Graham Spry / London Jazz News

Friday, 7 May 2021

Kit Sebastian ‎– Mantra Moderne (2019)

Genre: Jazz, Rock, Funk / Soul, Pop
Format: CD, Vinyl, FLAC
Label: Mr Bongo

1.   Senden Baska
2.   Mantra Moderne
3.   Tyranny 20
4.   Pangea
5.   Kuytu
6.   Yanimda Kal
7.   Yürüdüm, Büyüdüm, Cürüdüm
8.   With A Sense Of Grace
9.   Durma

A&R – Graham Luckhurst
Lyrics By – Kit Martin, Merve Erdem
Mastered By – Kelly Hibbert
Music By – Kit Martin 

“Mantra Moderne” is the debut album of London-based Anglo-Turkish duo, Kit Sebastian. A collaboration of Kit Martin, who plays the instruments and vocalist Merve Erdem. It is being described as fusing ‘Anatolian Psychedelia, Brazilian Tropicalia, 60’s European pop and American jazz’. Interesting!

The opening track is “Senden Başka”. Twangy guitar introduces the vocals restrained to a Gainsbourgian mumble doubled with guitar with unintrusive bass and organ support. The superb “Mantra Moderne” opens with a burst of distorted, reverberated saxophones introducing the motif, before launching into a swaggering descending melody line followed by smooth organ and chinking guitar. On “Tyranny 20”, spidery reverberated guitar crawls over the driving beat on an ambience of authentic sounding 60s guitar fuzz tones and organ. “Pangea”’s laid back samba-like percussion is the platform for the repetitive and slightly tedious melody line. However, there’s an effective instrumental passage and solo towards the end. “Kuytu” is lead by the chiming keyboard backed by fuzzy guitar which gives way to a swingy rhythm with a sparse vocal line. It’s the high point of the record and has a more confident structure than some of the other tracks here. “Yanimda Kal” successfully mixes the samba rhythm with Asian instrumentation without leaning too much into exotica. “Yürüdüm, Büyüdüm, Çürüdüm” is light and airy, apart from a proggy burst midway through, with guitar coiling around the repetitive breathy lyric. “With A Sense Of Grace” has a chiming keyboard motif and plays on the duet vocal lines reminiscent of Bardot and Gainsbourg collaborations. “Durma” closes the set with an urgent bass line which introduces jabbing horns, stroboscopic wah-wah guitar, serpentine melody lines and Erdem’s spoken word vocals.

It is clear that there has been a lot of care in creating the complex and opulent sonic textures of this music. That care has been worthwhile as it sounds beautiful and lush. You can also appreciate the ambition to merge differing styles and it is good listening. Often the sound references the 1960s without quite becoming pastiche. The album could be a soundtrack from a lost French new wave movie. Expect to hear snippets from this album on T.V. shows and trailers over the next few months or so! Some of the care towards the sound has come at a slight cost as a few of the tracks here feel a bit like fillers. Maybe it is because they are lacking that visual element which is probably intended for them. Overall though, it is an enjoyable album. An accomplished and exciting debut and promises much more to follow.
Kevin Ward / UKVIBE

Sunday, 2 May 2021

Brwnowave ‎– BEATS OF NO NATION VOL. 1 (2020)

Style: Chillwave, Downtempo, Lo-fi
Format: FLAC
Label: Not On Label

01.   UP_TO_DAY 
02.   little lullaby 
03.   anjo da guarda
05.   14_04_ 
06.    UP_TO_DAY_2 (blue is the perfect mood) 
07.    金田正太郎 (Kaneda) 
09.   excelente momento(too late) 
10.   R E A L N E S S 
11.   saudades 
12.   falling stars 
13.   borboletas 
14.   sayyes 
16.   ありがとうございましたthank you

Composto e Produzido por - Bruno de Oliveira


uma bicicleta pichada no asfalto se ergue sob a bandeira de nenhuma nação ● nenhuma nação bate no peito ● mas é a batida no peito que leva o passo adiante ● e um passo adiante não é mais o mesmo lu- gar – sabemos – nos foi dito num beat ● é um lugar à frente ● ou uma nova direção ● assim uma bati- da a mais e temos um novo tempo ● a bicicleta que leva o sonho a imaginação o desejo ● nada pode confinar o sonho a imaginação o desejo ● mas da imaginação do sonho do desejo durante o confina- mento nasceu o beat ● mas o beat não é mais a imaginação ● é desejo corpóreo ● torso sonoro do so- nho ● ainda não visível ● mas passível de toque aos ouvidos ● de chutes no tórax ● no animal o som pertence ao corpo ● o tambor no peito ● o ritmo dos passos ● a batida do som das palavras ● afinal o corpo sabe: nada no universo – absolutamente nada – está imóvel ● e todo movimento – um beat ● to- da oscilação – um ritmo ● “todo átomo, feliz ou triste, dança em torno do sol” – nos disse o poeta o músico o místico ● o som – como o sol – arrasta ao seu redor tudo que está a seu alcance ● o ritmo move o corpo e molda os átomos ● as vibrações se estendem – colidem ● recriam o movimento ● a batida ● gira no mover dos mundos ● no compasso dos astros ● movimentando átomos pelos átimos

mas tudo não passa de ouvidos mortais reverberando ● só a batida dos vivos que em breve silencia- rão ● mas ainda são capazes de ouvir & dançar ● ouvir & mover o mundo dentro e fora de si ● pelo breve compasso de um coração ● pelo tempo de uma batida ● pelo intervalo de um beat ● antes do si- lêncio do contratempo ● entregue-se ● a casa é sua: chama-se corpo ● a viagem não é segura – nunca é

como uma bicicleta nas ruas ● mas há vibração & movimento ● assombro & surpresa ● as cores do sangue com seu sentimento ● sua inteligência ● nosso anfitrião ergueu a nau de sua bicicleta pela paisa- gem sonora ● sob a bandeira de nenhuma nação bate o tambor no peito ● permita-se ser levado ● se renda ● largue o controle ● aproveite

Saturday, 1 May 2021

Sarah Tandy ‎– Infection In The Sentence (2019)

Genre: Jazz, Funk / Soul
Format: CD, Vinyl, FLAC
Label: Jazz Re:freshed

1.   Bradbury Street
2.   Nursery Rhym
3.   Under The Skin
4.   Timelord
5.   Light/Weight
6.   Snake In The Grass

Bass – Mutale Chashi
Drums – Femi Koleoso
Piano, Keyboards – Sarah Tandy
Saxophone – Binker Golding
Trumpet – Sheila Maurice-Grey
Mastered By – Dan Baldwin 
Mixed By – David Wehinm

Sarah Tandy, pianist and band leader, is a rising star of London’s vibrant jazz scene. We are lead into her debut recording via ‘Bradbury Street’, which begins with a simple motif played in unison by Sheila Maurice-Grey on trumpet and Binker Golding on sax, the riff is accompanied by Mutale Chashi’s pulsing bass sound, pretty soon they are joined by Tandy herself who initially offers us a sliver of a Thelonious Monk type sound before the piece accelerates into a more contemporary direction. Maurice-Grey’s trumpet momentarily giving us a slightly Middle Eastern flavour before Golding returns with his muscular sax. Drummer, Femi Koleoso, is also pretty busy powering the wonderfully rich and elastic sound of Chashi’s bass while simultaneously snapping around the sax and trumpet. At one or two points Tandy’s piano gets somewhat lost in the mix but is soon retrieved with her energetic lightness of touch. The piece self soothes towards the end with the reprise of the gently repeated riff that we heard at the outset. Talking of adjectives to describe Tandy’s playing Julian Joseph came up with the phrase, “fleet fingered”, when she recently played a session on his BBC radio show J to Z, this description is hard to disagree with.

The second track, ‘Nursery Rhyme’, sees a change of pace, sounding much more lyrical with those fleet fingers traveling across the keyboard in a Nordic kind of jazz mood. Tandy describes wanting to build a tune around a simple theme that a child may sing but adding elements of the darkness that can sometimes be found in a nursery rhyme.

On ‘Under the Skin’, Tandy’s piano feels like it is weaving its way above and below the drums, the delicate interplay between the two musicians here is breathtaking, I want more of this stuff! Tandy said the group developed gradually allowing space for steadily evolving musical relationships and it really does show on this track in particular.

This is an album of two distinct approaches with Tandy plugging in her Yamaha for the second half of the recording. ‘Timelord’ is built around a nifty electronic motif but no, it doesn’t sound anything like the Dr Who theme tune. But perhaps this is Tandy’s homage to Jodie Whittaker for bravely going where only males have gone before in her role as the Doctor. Anyway the theme is tentatively explored with some sensitive sax and pleasing Zawinul like sounds.

‘Timelord’ and the penultimate tune, ‘Light/Weight’, make a great pairing. Here we are offered another mellow electronic introduction reminiscent of Chick Corea’s Return to Forever, but played over a more acoustic sounding piano riff – she’s made this work pretty well, which is no mean feat.

The final track is probably the least polished on offer and feels more like a work in progress. ‘Snake in the Grass’ sees an uptempo return of the trumpet and sax over a reggae/ska style theme which hints at dub in places, the keyboard squelches around searching for its feet before giving way to the rather fine Freddie Hubbard like tones of Sheila Maurice-Grey. Overall though a great debut recording, I want to go back for more and definitely catch a live date.

Finally a word about the intriguing title of this record, it helps if you know that Tandy is a Cambridge graduate of literature as well as a classically trained musician when trying to figure this one out. The title may be a reference to feminist literary theory on female perception of the male litery canon but translated to a female artists’ approach to becoming a jazz musician. The sleeve art reflects this with mirror images of Tandy bound together and at the same time muted by the banner of the album’s title. The back to back images of Tandy presumably acknowledging her jazz precursors and at the same time looking forward to her future as a jazz musician.
James Read / UKVIBE