New music round-up

Our selection of the best new music across a range of genres from the week ending 3 April 2020.

When Anna Burch introduced herself on her 2018 debut Quit the Curse, and now follows up with If You’re Dreaming (released 3 April). The new album takes a different path from its predecessor, shedding some nervous energy in favor of a deeper exploration of an internal world.  If You’re Dreaming was tracked with producer Sam Evian at his home studio in upstate New York. Where the first album had been a rush of inspired songwriting followed by a drawn-out process of arrangement and mixing, Burch and Evian worked with self-imposed time limitations to establish a sharper focus and get to the core of the new songs.

With recurring themes of isolation, weariness and longing, the songs seek to deliver that emotional arc with delicate execution. Burch’s songwriting dials down the urgency of her debut a notch, taking a turn towards airy, jazz-voiced chords, floating reverb and an expansion of the sonic palate with unexpected instrumentation. The soft-rock bass grooves and understated saxophone lines of “Not So Bad” push the pop structure into exciting new territory, and the sweetly melancholic “Tell Me What’s True” centers around muted electric piano, its languid but metered vibe recalling the gentler side of Carole King.

Three heavy hitters in the world of classical music – Anne-Sophie Mutter, Yo-Yo Ma and Daniel Barenboim – celebrate the 250th anniversary of Beethoven’s birth in a new recording of the composer’s Triple Concerto. Pairing the Concerto with the Seventh Symphony, the new Deutsche Grammophon album also features – and marks the 20th birthday of – the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra. The album has been released 40 years after appearance of legendary Triple Concerto recording made by Mutter and Ma under conductor Herbert von Karajan.

The recordings were made at concerts held in Buenos Aires and Berlin – in July and October 2019 respectively – to mark the West-Eastern Divan’s 20th birthday. Co-founded by Daniel Barenboim in 1999, the orchestra now stands as a symbol of multicultural understanding, as well as being the brave realisation of a long-held dream.  The Seventh Symphony is famous for its joyful, dance-like character, with lilting rhythms pervading almost the entire work. The Triple Concerto, too, has a special place in Beethoven’s output, its sophisticated idiom and architecture revealing both his sense of humour and his revolutionary spirit.

Thundercat is back with his new album, It Is What It Is. Produced by Flying Lotus and Thundercat, the record features musical contributions from Ty Dolla $ign, Childish Gambino, Lil B, Kamasi Washington, Steve Lacy, Steve Arrington, BADBADNOTGOOD, Louis Cole and Zack Fox.

It Is What It Is follows on from Drunk (2017), which completed his transition from virtuoso bassist to bona fide star and cemented his reputation as a unique voice that transcends genre. “This album is about love, loss, life and the ups and downs that come with that,” Bruner says about It Is What It Is. “It’s a bit tongue-in-cheek, but at different points in life you come across places that you don’t necessarily understand… some things just aren’t meant to be understood.”

The new single ‘Black Qualls’ sees Thundercat (a.k.a. Stephen Lee Bruner) teaming up with Steve Lacy (The Internet) and funk icon Steve Arrington (Slave). The track highlights the lineage of his music and pays respects to the musicians who inspired him. Discovering Arrington’s output in his late teens, Bruner says he fell in love with his music immediately: “The tone of the bass, the way his stuff feels and moves, it resonated through my whole body.”‘Black Qualls’ emerged from writing sessions with Lacy. It references what it means to be a black American with a young mindset: “What it feels like to be in this position right now… the weird ins and outs, we’re talking about those feelings… Part of me knew this [track] was where Steve [Arrington] left us.”

Monument is the debut album by Melbourne based folk outfit The Bell Streets. The Bell Streets is a musical collaboration between Nick Batterham and Josh Meadows. Nick has been a central figure in the bands Blindside, The Earthmen and Cordrazine. Josh is the singer from The Sugargliders and The Steinbecks. The pair have known each other since the early ’90s when they were both in bands on Melbourne indie label Summershine. Now, as The Bell Streets, they’ve come together to write and record an album. All songs on the album are by Batterham/Meadows. They also play on the record along with Kelly Day (vocals), Craig Mitchell (drums), Joel Sprake (drums), Phil McLeod (cello), Jenny M Thomas (violin and viola) and Adam Simmons (sax).

The deluge of political divisiveness, horrific violence and hateful rhetoric that seem to have polluted our lives on a daily basis over the last few years have left many people around the world feeling angry, frustrated and hopeless. It would be more than understandable if that feeling was even more intense for jazz saxophonist Jimmy Greene, for whom the flood of outrageous headlines and social media missives play out against the backdrop of personal tragedy. Greene however refuses to succumb to the negativity, however. On his new album, While Looking Up, the saxophonist was guided by the inspirational words of his pastor: “If I’m not able to find strength or peace by looking inward,” he said, “or if I’m not able to do it by looking outward to my immediate surroundings, I have to look upward.” The record features guitarist Lage Lund, bassist Reuben Rogers and vibraphonist Stefon Harris, all of whom collaborated on Greene’s 2009 album, Mission Statement. For the remainder of the ensemble he reached back even further: drummer Kendrick Scott last joined the saxophonist on 2008’s The Overcomer’s Suite, while pianist Aaron Goldberg returns after appearing on Greene’s debut album more than 20 years ago.

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