Our selection of the best new music across a range of genres from the week ending 2 April 2021.
Bell Orchestre return with their first full-length album in over a decade: House Music — an immersive ecosystem created by the acclaimed Montreal-based outfit, which include Arcade Fire’s Sarah Neufeld and Richard Reed Parry. House Music unfolds as one long piece, a recorded-then-sculpted improvisation that vastly expands their work, coalescing classical and electronic instrumentation in the creation of genre-defying musical worlds. In the album’s liner notes, the group recalls countless moments when, in kinetic moments of improvisation, “a nuanced piece of music would emerge organically, completely formed, without any plan or discussion or rational thought” — and then be lost because it wasn’t recorded. In conceiving a new album, they decided to celebrate the spontaneous and accidental, to centrally situate the act of collaborative, democratic creation in their finished work. With the legacies of improvisation-exploring greats like Talk Talk, The Orb, Bitches Brew-era Miles Davis and the late Ennio Morricone in mind, on House Music, Bell Orchestre captures the impulsive, connective, mysterious poetics of musical invention happening in real-time.
The Bond is the latest offering from Dopolarians to the gods of free expression and lyrical beauty. Dopolarians are a multi-lineup group, but this incarnation features William Parker (bass), Brian Blade (drums), Kelley Hurt (vocals), Chad Fowler (alto sax), Christopher Parker (piano) and Marc Franklin (trumpet). With Alvin Fielder, their most inspiring force, having moved on, it was only fitting that they return to the beat that unlocked their potential in the first place: Brian Blade. And in this free context, Blade reveals his creative depths as never before, applying his acuity in the fleeting moments of creation, composer indeed. The album represents an achievement of musical telepathy and empathy equal to any in the free jazz tradition. In three extended pieces, “The Bond,” “The Emergence,” and “The Release,” the collective hive-mind of Dopolarians conjures up a dream, an ineffable narrative, springing from the unconscious, and flying free in directions both gripping and glorious.
On Hallgató, recorded live in the Grand Hall of Budapest’s Liszt Academy, Ferenc Snétberger and the Keller Quartett, respectively Hungary’s outstanding acoustic guitarist and its foremost string quartet, are heard together and separately in a moving and organically unfolding programme, with compositions by Snétberger, Shostakovich, John Dowland and Samuel Barber. Snétberger’s “In Memory of My People”, dedicated to his Sinti and Roma forebears, is a powerful and spirited piece, both threnody and celebration. Shostakovich’s 8th String Quartet, also dedicated to the victims of war, is played with great sensitivity and feeling by the Keller musicians. Subtle arrangements of John Dowland find Snétberger with the Keller Quartett for “I saw my lady weep” and in duo with cellist László Fenyö for “Flow, my tears”. The Keller Quartett address the yearning quality of Barber’s Molto adagio from his String Quartet op.11, and Snétberger offers a glimmer of hope with the tender solo guitar piece “Your Smile”. The concluding “Rhapsody 1”,with Snetberger and string quintet, is a new arrangement of a radiant theme originally written by Ferenc for a film project about the Roma.
Living In The Last Days is the new Sacred Soul debut record from the gospel soul veteran Elizabeth King. At 79 years young, Elizabeth has reemerged as a shining light in the Memphis soul-gospel scene. Producer Bruce Watson (Bible & Tire Recording Co. / Big Legal Mess / Fat Possum) continues to broaden his landscape of Sacred Soul, a genre he coined back in 2019. With a line up of seasoned, Memphis session musicians, these recordings of early D-Vine material are brought back to life with a fire, not yet previously realized within the catalog.
On her second full-length record, Head of Roses, Jenn Wasner – a.k.a. Flock of Dimes – follows a winding thread of intuition into the unknown and into healing, led by gut feelings and the near-spiritual experience of visceral songwriting. The result is a combination of Wasner’s ability to embrace new levels of vulnerability, honesty and openness, with the self-assuredness that comes with a decade-plus career as a songwriter, producer, multi-instrumentalist and prolific collaborator. Simply put, Head of Roses is a record about heartbreak, but from a dualistic perspective. It’s about the experience of having one’s heart broken and breaking someone else’s heart at the same time. But beyond that, it’s about having to reconcile the experience of one’s own pain with the understanding that it’s impossible to go through life without being the source of great pain for someone else.
Dry Cleaning’s new record New Long Leg is out now. The South London group consists of Nick Buxton (drums), Tom Dowse (guitar), Lewis Maynard (bass) and Florence Shaw (vocals). The 10-track long-player, which includes ‘Strong Feelings’ and last year’s single ‘Scratchcard Lanyard’, was recorded over two weeks last summer at Rockfield Studios in rural Wales with producer John Parish (PJ Harvey, Aldous Harding). Following on from their 2019 EPs Boundary Road Snacks and Drinks and Sweet Princess, New Long Leg is more ambitious and complex, with Shaw’s spoken vocals tightly intertwined with the band’s restless instrumentals. With lyrics preoccupied by themes like dissociation, escapism, daydreaming, complicated feelings of love, anger, revenge, anxiety, the kitchen, lethargy, forgetfulness, and survival, Shaw says, “the title is ambiguous; a new long leg could be an expensive present or a growth or a table repair.”
Luca Yupanqui was not yet born when she recorded her debut album. The music on the aptly titled Sounds of the Unborn is the expression of life in its cosmic state — pre-mind, pre-speculation, pre-influence, and pre-human. It is the first album created by a person while they were still inside the womb, the expression of a soul that hasn’t yet seen the light of day nor taken a single breath of air. It is a message that comes from a different realm, a sub-layer of our existence. Sounds of the Unborn was made with biosonic MIDI technology, which translated Luca’s in utero movements into sound. With the help of her parents, Psychic Ills bassist Elizabeth Hart and Lee Scratch Perry collaborator Iván Diaz Mathé, Luca’s prenatal essence was captured in audio.
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David Edwards is the editor of The Blurb and a contributor on film and television