New music round-up (for w/e 2 July 2021)

Our selection of the best new music across a range of genres from the week ending 2 July 2021.

Red velvet curtains draw back to reveal a cosmic wheel of fortune, floating in the deep black star-studded theater of infinite space. A whirl of timbres, personalities, and stories. The Turning Wheel, the third full-length by Spellling (Chrystia Cabral), revolves around themes of human unity, the future, divine love and the enigmatic ups and downs of being a part of this carnival called life. Venturing to push the boundaries of her primarily synth-based work, Spellling took on the ambitious task of orchestrating and self-producing an album that features an ensemble of 31 collaborating musicians. The Turning Wheel incorporates a vast range of rich acoustic sounds that cast Spellling’s work into vibrant new dimensions. The double LP is split into two halves — “Above” and “Below.” Lush string quartet shimmer combines with haunting banjo and wandering bassoon leads, as the album progresses from the more jubilant, warm, and dreamy mood of the “Above” tracks to the more chilling and gothic tone of the “Below” tracks. This progression is anchored by Spellling’s familiar bewitching vocal style that emphasizes the theatrical and folkloric heart of her songwriting.


Hiss Golden Messenger’s Quietly Blowing It was written and arranged by M.C. Taylor in his home studio — a small sanctuary packed floor to ceiling with books, records, and old guitars — as he watched the chaotic world spin outside his window. Between March and June 2020, Taylor wrote and recorded upwards of two dozen songs—in most cases playing all of the instruments himself—before winnowing the collection down and bringing them to the Hiss band. In July, the group of musicians, with Taylor in the production seat, went into the studio for a week, where they recorded Quietly Blowing It as an organic unit honed to a fine edge from their years together on the road.


From the slums of Recife in Brazil’s North-East to international jazz icon, Amaro Freitas has worked tirelessly to become the artist he is today. Gaining international attention for “an approach to the keyboard so unique that it’s startling” (Downbeat), his debut and sophomore albums Sangue Negro (2016) and Rasif (2018) arrived on a wave of instant acclaim. His new album Sankofa – a spiritual quest into the forgotten stories, ancient philosophies and inspirational figures of Black Brazil – is his most stunning and sincere work to date.


Dialogo is the new record from John Henry Crawford (cello) and Victor Santiago Asuncion (piano). The program explores several different modes of a concept that is vital to the fabric of our lives, our relationships, and even the progress of our society as a whole — dialogue. The opening movement of the Ligeti Sonata, titled Dialogo, is an ideal musical encapsulation of this theme and the inspiration behind the title of the album. A story of unrequited love, young Ligeti fell for a fellow student, Annuss Virány, who was a cellist. He wrote the first movement as a metaphorical love duet for her. As one voice begins in inquiry, another responds, until eventually they merge together, singing in tandem.


A Color of the Sky is the third album by Lightning Bug – the project of musicians and friends Audrey Kang, Kevin Copeland, Logan Miley, Dane Hagen and Vincent Puleo. A Color of the Sky is an album of many firsts: the band’s first album with their new label home, Fat Possum, the band’s first time recording together as a live band, and the first time Lightning Bug, initially a three-piece, is rounded out by Hagen and Puleo as full-time band members. Recorded in a rundown home-turned makeshift studio in the Catskills, A Color of the Sky finds Lightning Bug sounding more organic, dynamic and lush than ever, while also finding the band’s songwriter Audrey Kang sounding bolder than before.


Twenty-plus years into his career, producer/vocalist/songwriter/DJ Matthew Dear remains artistically unpredictable in pursuit of his prescient strain of electronically-formed, organically-delivered indie pop. His new “lost album” Preacher’s Sigh & Potion finds Dear unknowingly at an intersection in his young run, a burgeoning songwriter at his most freewheeling and unaffected. Throughout 2008 and 2009, Dear amassed a set of personal, playful, looping guitar-centric recordings he’d consider for his next album. He later decided to shelve the material, but now it sees the light of day some 12 years later.


Growing up in Naples (Italy), Stefano De Stefano cut his teeth on the Italian music circuit with a local band before going solo. His debut album as An Early Bird, Of Ghosts & Marvels, was released in October 2018 followed by the EP In Depths in September 2019. An Early Bird has been touring extensively across Europe sharing stages alongside artists like Joshua Radin, Jake Bugg, S. Carey, Stu Larsen, Grant-Lee Phillips and Dan Owen. The album Echoes Of Unspoken Words (2020), featured songs that continued a path of exploring that has progressively moved the songwriter from the early folk sounds to a richer and multi-layered sonic dimension. With the pandemic making touring impossible, the artist’s third album, Diviner, has followed in quick succession. On this album, An Early Bird stops being afraid of showing his pop side when creating folk songs.


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