Our selection of the best new music across a range of genres from the week ending 30 July 2021.
Orrin Evans’ astonishing new album The Magic of Now finds the celebrated pianist and bandleader at a personal and career crossroads. Leading a rhythm section that he intended to record over 10 years ago–bassist Vicente Archer and drummer Bill Stewart–and one of the most decorated artists of 2020 (and a fellow Philadelphian)—alto saxophonist Immanuel Archer—Evans finds perfect timing within uncertain times. The Magic of Now was recorded at a livestream engagement at Smoke Jazz Club during the second weekend of December 2020. Evans and the band didn’t know they were making an album until listening to playbacks. The music was too good not to release. For Evans, it was his first performance playing indoors again, clad with masks to a room sans an audience since March 2020. Despite a change in almost every external dynamic, Evans says it was being “like a kid in a candy store,” which is a sentiment that fully captures what is arguably one of Evans’s most masterful projects to date.
Having taken time out to raise a family, Dot Allison returns with Heart-Shaped Scars, her most realised and illuminating album – and there have been several significant predecessors to compare it to. Since her debut solo album Afterglow in 1999, Allison has strived to, keep the listener on a journey – and herself too. She revolts against what she has done before, to evolve and not just occupy the same space. Nature itself gets a credit on Heart-Shaped Scars, namely field recordings of birdsong, rivers and also the ambience of the sea from the Hebridean Islands. Allison, who lives in Edinburgh, has a cottage there; it’s also the location for regular gatherings amongst folk musician pals (Sarah Campbell and Amy Bowman included), “sharing ideas and passing instruments between us all, amongst friends and the island community,” says Allison. “It’s where I first sang ‘Long Exposure’ in public at a folk house-concert. So, I can definitely hear some of the Hebrides in Heart-Shaped Scars.”
Iván Fischer and the Budapest Festival Orchestra have completed their Brahms Symphony Cycle on Channel Classics Records. This new album features Brahms: Symphony No. 3 and Serenade No. 2. A minor miracle! The recording commenced one day prior to Hungary closing its borders on September 1st, 2020. Engineer/Producer Jared Sacks had just arrived from The Netherlands. Despite the lockdown, the venue remained accessible, and the recording could be completed. According to Fischer, “A life’s story in ten bars – there is no more magnificent opening of a symphony than the first 34 seconds of Brahms’ Third.”
For Lily Konigsberg and Nate Amos, music has always been the plan. After years performing with her experimental punk group Palberta, Konigsberg was beginning to carve out a solo career, and thought Amos could be a potential producer. What began as a trial session for her debut album quickly evolved into a songwriting competition, with the two churning out dozens of tracks over the Fall of 2020. “Lily became the lyric supervisor and I became the music supervisor”, explains Amos, “the roles emerged”. With such undeniable chemistry, it was only logical that they form a band, the hilarious and perfectly named My Idea. On their debut EP, the duo pack their immense personalities into bite sized pop experiments.
It sounds like part of a genre that should have happened: sixties teen country music that merged with sixties pop. New Day with New Possibilities, the latest ‘country’ offering by Sonny & the Sunsets, is clearly a companion piece to the cult-loved third Sunsets release Longtime Companion, the laid back country record which marked the beginning of the Sunsets as an explorative project and not just locked into one sound. New Day With New Possibilities joins with a kind of Michael Hurley home grown sound but also leaning into Chelsea Girls baroque strings sound as on Driftin’ and The Lonely Men. Pedal Steel maestro Joe Goldmark lifts the record into Doug Sahm and Buck Owens territory. As much as the music ushers in a laid-back country feeling, the lyrics are where this album depart.
Torres’ fifth album Thirstier pumps the miraculous into the mundane. It’s in open revolt against the gray drag of time, a searing and life-affirming eruption of an album that wonders what could happen if we found a way to make our fantasies inexhaustible. What if we got whatever we wanted and still wanted it, endlessly, with no threat of boredom and no danger of depletion? What could we become if we let ourselves grow incandescent with eternally renewing desire? Recorded in the fall of 2020 at Middle Farm Studios in Devon, UK, Thirstier marks a turn towards a bigger, more bombastic sound for TORRES. The anxious hush that fell over much of Scott’s previous music gets turned inside-out in songs tailored for post-plague celebration. Scott co-produced the album with Rob Ellis and Peter Miles, drawing on her experience self-producing the acclaimed 2020 LP Silver Tongue to push her music onto an even broader scale.
Residing in Rio de Janeiro, Vasconcelos Sentimento is a self-taught composer, producer and multi-instrumentalist. A mosaic of lo-fi breaks, cosmic ambient jazz and wonky chromatic funk, the eccentric Brazilian DIY wizard’s debut album Furto beautifully pieces together a huge range of seemingly disparate sonic elements. Calling himself an “amateur euphoric sound researcher”, he has no formal training in either music theory or production, and it’s simply by following his ear that has led him to creating his debut album for Far Out Recordings.
Other reviews you might enjoy:
- Harvey Russell – new music and tour
- The Lumineers – new music and tour
- New music round-up (for w/e 3 December 2021)
David Edwards is the editor of The Blurb and a contributor on film and television