Our selection of the best new music across a range of genres from the week ending 29 May 2020.
Equal parts passion, grit, and musical ecstasy, Sybarite5 is an intoxicating cocktail of post-genre musical goodness expressed through the virtuosity of Sami Merdinian and Sarah Whitney, violins; Angela Pickett, viola; Laura Metcalf, cello; and Louis Levitt, bass. This exciting quintet is constantly evolving, defying categorization, and has been keeping audiences on their toes for 10 years. Their album Live From New York, It’s Sybarite5 showcases highlights from many years of Sybarite5 shows at The Cell Theatre in New York City. It’s the first record from Sybarite5 that features guest artists, including Shane Shanahan, Blythe Gaissert, and Ehsan Matoori. With a variety of music described as “happily diverse,” the tracks on this album span several genres and musical styles.
Is This Offensive And Loud? is Nat Vazer’s debut album. The Melbourne-based artist has created a world of hazy guitars and lilting vocalss to accompany her intimate confessionals. The title is taken from a lyric in the opening track “Like Demi”. Early in that song, there’s a line “I would ask them ‘why’?” This little line captures Nat’s attitude as an artist and a person – she isn’t afraid to ask questions, point out uncomfortable truths and wants to challenge the status quo, calling out racism and the patriarchy. She also calls out herself, admitting to selfishness, obsession and self-doubt. Whilst lighting a fire and forging the way ahead for a future she wants to see, she still stops to thank and recognise those who have come before her to pave the way.
Banjo player and fiddler Jake Blount digs deep into the roots of his music, pushing all the way back to Africa on his new album, Spider Tales. The title is a nod to the great trickster of Akan mythology, Anansi. “The Anansi stories were tales that celebrated unseating the oppressor,” Blount says, “and finding ways to undermine those in power even if you’re not in a position to initiate a direct conflict.” Blount is also drawing out the coded pain and anger in the songs to give voice to those who were shunned from America’s musical canon. “There’s a long history of expressions of pain in the African-American tradition,” Blount says. “Often those things couldn’t be stated outright. If you said the wrong thing to the wrong person back then you could die from it, but the anger and the desire for justice are still there. They’re just hidden. The songs deal with intense emotion but couch it in a love song or in religious imagery so that it wasn’t something you could be called out about. These ideas survived because people in power weren’t perceiving the messages, but they’re there if you know where to look.” Blount is determined to show that this music didn’t form in a vacuum, but in the face of ruinous hardship.
Alex Lahey has unveiled a surprise new EP, Between The Kitchen And The Living Room. The release features a series of fan favourites lifted from both of Al’s records and even her debut EP, B-Grade University. Self-recorded and produced during quarantine, the tracklist includes “Everyday’s The Weekend (Laundry Version)”, “I Haven’t Been Taking Care Of Myself (Hallway Version)” and “Let’s Go Out (Bedroom Version)”, the latter was also released with a beautifully illustrated lyric video (below).
Endangered Quartet (Roy Nathanson, saxophones; Curtis Fowlkes, trombone/vocals – both founding members of the famed Jazz Passengers – Jesse Mills, violin/vocals; Tim Kiah, bass/vocals) is a composing and improvising collective of four expert musicians with wide ranging careers and musicianship. Coming together through a shared affinity for “honest and soulful expression,” their eclecticism is on display on their debut album Heart. Renditions of music by Bach, the Beatles, and Ornette Coleman sit alongside compositions by members of the group. Heart is a fresh chamber amalgam of jazz, classical, folk, and Americana traditions, melded together in a debut release that captures the genuine warmth between these seasoned musicians.
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David Edwards is the editor of The Blurb and a contributor on film and television