Our selection of the best new music across a range of genres from the week ending 15 July 2022.
Amid massive global paradigm shifts Dave Hartley (aka Nightlands) became a father twice over and left his native Philadelphia for Asheville, where the pace of daily life is slower and it’s easier to maintain a zoomed-out perspective on modern life. From the newfound refuge of a studio he built using the bones of a barn attached to his hundred-something-year-old house in the mountains, Hartley has tailored a collection of well-crafted pop rock, pointedly titled Moonshine. Guided by some of the harmonic sensibilities that have helped make The War on Drugs a force in modern music, Moonshine combines immaculate-yet-dense vocal stacks and billowy clouds of effected keyboards with classic songcraft, revealing previously unseen acreage in the unfurling dreamscape that is Nightlands. The surrealistic album art by Austin-based illustrator Jaime Zuverza depicts an archway opening to the stars over the surface of an idyllic sea flanked by both moon and sun. Similarly, Moonshine reveals portals within portals leading to ever deeper places in Hartley’s vocal-centered labyrinth.
Rae Morris’s new album Rachel@Fairyland is out now on RCA Records. The exquisite, heart-warming album arrives after the release of singles ‘No Woman Is An Island’, ‘Go Dancing’ and final teaser, ‘A Table For Two’ just last week, in anticipation of the album release. This third album from the supremely and naturally talented Rae is both a homecoming and a rebirth; a tender and staggeringly original record about finding solace in familiarity, as much as it is a celebration of defiantly embracing the unknown. Written and recorded after parting ways with her label of eight years – and prior to signing with RCA – Rachel@Fairyland is also the sound of the Blackpool-born star exploring her artistry utterly unfettered for the first time since she was discovered, in her mid-teens.
Channeling his background in classical music, SUUNS’ Ben Shemie combines string fractals, manipulated vocals, and synth-powered chaos to bridge the universes of past, present, and future. Over the course of ten tracks, Shemie chronicles a wandering soul tangled in its own dark orbit, searching for meaning in a world of stardust and astral mirages. Breathing life into Shemie’s orchestral maneuvers was the Molinari String Quartet, one of Canada’s most celebrated contemporary ensembles. Recording the album’s ten tracks in two single-takes, the urgency and dynamism of these compositions can be heard as much felt. The listener can sense the stuttering pulse of Shemie, flanked by five amplifiers and wading in electronic bedlam, as the Molinari Quartet switchbacks measures of strings and chimes.
Renaissance is the debut solo album by South-London virtuoso DoomCannon, a project brimming with free jazz compositions and new contemporary flair. As a pioneer of the UK Jazz scene, DoomCannon presents a meticulously crafted debut album journeying through an awakening and re-imagining of the young Black British experience. Renaissance signifies the birth of a new era in DoomCannon’s trajectory, inspired by an accumulation of experiences over the past four years and defined by significant events like the global pandemic to the worldwide outcry of the Black Lives Matter movement in the summer of 2020. DoomCannon aspired to create a concept album, fashioning accessible music and home to a powerful universal message of equality and humanity, where listeners are invited to conceive a world beyond the society we currently live in. A world far from the UK’s colonial past and present, where human experience and compassion is at the epicentre of Government agendas, free from systemic injustice – where equality and community spirit reigns supreme.
Ben Woods has unveiled his new record Dispeller, out through Shrimper Records (USA) / Melted Ice Cream (NZ) / Meritorio Records (EU/UK). Accompanying the release is a short film directed by filmmaker Martin Sagadin (Aldous Harding, Tiny Ruins, Marlon Williams) – see below. On Dispeller, Woods’ intimate experiments in rock paint a vivid portrait. Here, the New Zealand artist leans comfortably into intuition and abstraction. Expansive arrangements are anchored by heavy-lidded prose, while carrying the air of the portside shack it was made in. The accompanying film expands the world of the record, Woods brings in artists and friends from Aotearoa to piece together takes from the album. Homemade demo recordings and scuffed handheld footage are stirred through these performances, showcasing Woods and the southern antipodean town he abides.
Black Oak Ensemble, the Chicago-based string trio with an international following, treats listeners to a double-album of stylish and often witty French treasures written between the World Wars with Avant l’orage (Before the Storm). The ensemble offers seven rarely heard delicacies from the 1920s and 30s, including world premiere recordings of trios by Henri Tomasi, Robert Casadesus, and Gustave Samazeuilh along with works by Jean Cras, Emile Goué, Jean Françaix, and Gabriel Pierné. Most were written for and dedicated to the virtuosic Trio Pasquier, which ranked among the era’s chamber music superstars.
Fred Smith with his all-star band will headline the 2022 Sydney Folk Festival – or SydFolkFest22 – from 19 to 21 August. The 3-day event will feature bespoke concerts, workshops and interactive sessions with 35+ acts in two Surry Hills festival hubs, The NSW Teachers Federation Conference Centre, 37 Reservoir St and the Gaelic Club, 1/64 Devonshire St. Smith is arguably the most interesting and engaging singer songwriter of the folk idiom since Eric Bogle and his performances are much anticipated. A special focus of SydFolkFest22 will be a celebration of the creativity, diversity and talent of folk arts and artists from across NSW. As well as Sydney favourites Kejafi, Traditional Graffiti and SqueezeBox Boogaloo, the regions from the Blue Mountains to the Central West and the North and South Coasts will be well represented with artists like Saije, The Water Runners, Nerida Cuddy and Genni Kane.
David Edwards is the editor of The Blurb and a contributor on film and television