Our selection of the best new music across a range of genres from the week ending 13 November 2020.
Welsh musician Gwenifer Raymond’s 2018 debut album, You Never Were Much of a Dancer, introduced a new voice on acoustic guitar, receiving 5 stars in The Guardian, big spreads in MOJO and UNCUT, and airplay on multiple BBC programmes. This led to months of touring on the European festival circuit. Her second album, Strange Lights Over Garth Mountain, finds Raymond ranging into unexplored experimental territory, drawing from her Welsh roots.
Hachiku have released their highly anticipated debut LP I’ll Probably Be Asleep on Milk! Records. When a close friend took an in-advance listen to the album, she had one question for bandleader Anika Ostendorf: “why are you so angry?” It’s not the first reaction that most people would have to the Melbourne-based outfit, whose dream-pop jams — all dewy guitars, rickety drum-machines, and layered ambience, topped off with Ostendorf’s oft-breathy voice — would seem to contain no sharp edges. But, following Hachiku’s self-titled 2017 debut EP, Ostendorf found herself dealing with darker themes; which reflected the 25-year-old growing up, changing, and feeling mounting frustrations.
Katy J Pearson provides the soundtrack for your hazy, slumber-induced solitude on her debut album, Return. The record symbolises the re-entry of Pearson into music-making after a previous, collaborative project with her brother fell foul of the pressures of a major label record deal. “I didn’t write for about seven months”, Pearson reflects. “I was just like nope, I’m gunna become a gardener, this isn’t happening. Return is about the whole experience of beginning to enjoy writing again, really”. Over the course of two-and-a-half years, between her parents’ house in Gloucestershire, her Bristol bedroom, and nearby community arts space The Island, Pearson honed her craft as a solo artist, learning to rely on her creative instincts, and bringing forth an album just as shaped by the South-West of England as the rich musical history of America’s Southern States. The songs were strengthened and evolved in a live setting — including in support of Olden Yolk and Cass McCombs on their respective UK and European tours — before being taken to the studio of producer Ali Chant (PJ Harvey), where they were captured in their final form. The result is a jewel in the dirt by the side of the highway; ten songs which slide effortlessly between lovelorn country, lo-fi folk and glistening, unforgettable pop.
The great bassist and composer Charles Mingus had his diehard supporters and detractors. His explosive intermingling of devil may care attitude, imposing character and aggressive music was sure to rub some listeners the wrong way and was just as likely to attract adventurous fans. But his genius could not be denied; it just may have taken some time to break down barriers. A good way to examine this change in listener attitudes is to investigate the differences in critical appraisals from two performances in the port city of Bremen, Germany, a decade apart. The initial performance in 1964 introduced Mingus’s firebrand ways to an unsuspecting audience while his 1975 appearance was met with the expectancy of jazz royalty. The performances appear in their first official release remastered from the original source tapes on Charles Mingus @ Bremen 1964 & 1975. Both of Mingus’s performances in Bremen are incredible marathons of brilliance from the top musicians of two decades. The performances don’t show a wilting in the passion of the leader. A decade apart, the performances are every bit as cutting edge. The only thing that seems to have changed was the attitude of the critical mind, as ten years of achievement had cemented Mingus’s legacy in Europe.
New Zealand’s platinum sensation BENEE has unveiled her eagerly awaited full-length debut album, Hey u x. Fueled by one off-kilter bop after another, Hey u x sounds like the perfect lost Gen X classic made for Gen Z. Blending, bending and breaking genres like only BENEE can, the album boasts an all-star cast of collaborators, including Lily Allen, Grimes, Flo Milli, Gus Dapperton, Mallrat, Kenny Beats, Bakar and Muroki.
The Grammy Award-winning Pacifica Quartet performs works by three Pulitzer Prize-winning contemporary composers – Shulamit Ran, Jennifer Higdon, and Ellen Taaffe Zwilich – on Contemporary Voices (out now on Cedille Records). Written for the Pacifica and receiving its world-premiere recording, Ran’s Glitter, Doom, Shards, Memory — String Quartet No. 3 is a moving tribute to painter Felix Nussbaum, who perished in Auschwitz in 1944. Higdon’s Voices, dedicated to the Pacifica, evokes explosive energy, otherworldly calm, and spiritual serenity. In Zwilich’s Quintet for Alto Saxophone and String Quartet, a lusciously singing saxophone shares the spotlight with virtuosic string playing. The Pacifica, quartet in-residence at Indiana University’s Jacobs School of Music, partner with their IU colleague, renowned classical saxophonist Otis Murphy.
The Great Ongoing is the debut solo album from Simon Robert Gibson. A well-known figure in the Sydney music scene, Simon is best known as a drummer with his musical outings stretching way back to the thriving indie-rock years of the Sydney music scene of the ‘90s. A founding member of the much-loved Disneyfist and later Modern Giant, Simon was also an original member of the acclaimed Aerial Maps, along with his brother Adam Gibson. Along the way Simon has played and recorded with many Australian bands, with long stints in legendary Half A Cow Records soul/popsters, Sneeze, plus Lazy Susan, the Simon Holmes-led outfit, Fragile, and his own later ensemble, The Coolites. The record features a selection of Simon’s indie guitar songs, in the vein of The Lemonheads, The Go-Betweens, and Weddings Parties Anything.
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David Edwards is the editor of The Blurb and a contributor on film and television