Our selection of the best new music across a range of genres from the week ending 9 July 2021.
The phrase “inspiration exists, but it has to find you working” is credited to Pablo Picasso, but it fits very well for Marisa Monte. The artist has just released Portas, her 10th studio album. Produced during the lockdowns of the coronavirus pandemic, Portas features 16 new tracks. With visuals by Marcela Cantuária, the album is the “most international” of Marisa Monte’s career. Despite being in Rio de Janeiro, the singer had online recording sessions with musicians in Spain, Portugal, New York and Los Angeles.
For their first album on Sony Classical, Attacca Quartet wanted to push themselves to create something they had never dreamed possible. The album, Real Life, is that realization. From the huge dance beats of ‘Electric Pow Wow Drum’ by The Halluci Nation to the meandering sonic exploration of ‘Holding Breadth’ written specifically for them by Daedelus, the group dives head first into the electronic world, that turns out wasn’t as far away from modern classical as they thought when they started the project. Artists involved include Flying Lotus, Squarepusher, Louis Cole, The Halluci Nation, Mid-Air Thief, TOKiMONSTA, Daedelus, Anne Müller; and producers Nic Hard, and Michael League from Snarky Puppy.
The Flatlanders – the iconic Texas-based trio of Butch Hancock, Joe Ely, and Jimmie Dale Gilmore – have released their first album of new music in more than 12 years. Treasure of Love features the album’s first single “Sittin’ On Top of the World,” which is well known by fans of The Flatlanders to be one of their most notable show closers. Completed during COVID-19 lockdowns with the help of longtime friend and collaborator Lloyd Maines, Treasure of Love finds The Flatlanders in classic form, serving up a rollicking collection of twang-fueled, harmony-laden performances full of wry humor and raw heartbreak. While a few of the songs here are never-before-heard originals, the vast majority of the tracklist consists of vintage tunes the band picked up during their 50-year career, some stretching as far back as the group’s earliest performances in the honky tonks around Lubbock.
Since their 2013 debut LP Burn, Sons of Kemet (saxophonist/clarinetist Shabaka Hutchings, tuba player Theon Cross, and drummers Tom Skinner and Eddie Hick) have been at the forefront of the new London jazz scene. The band deconstructs its conventions by weaving a rich sonic tapestry that fuses together elements of modal and free jazz, grime, dub, ’60s and ’70s Ethiopian jazz, and Afro-Caribbean music. On their fourth album Black to the Future, the Mercury Prize-nominated quartet is at their most direct and confrontational with their sociopolitical message—welcoming to the fold a wide array of guest collaborators (most notably poet Joshua Idehen, who also collaborated with the group on 2018’s Your Queen Is a Reptile) to further contextualize the album’s themes of Black oppression and colonialism, heritage and ancestry, and the power of memory. If you look closely at the song titles, you’ll discover that each of them makes up a singular poem — a clever way for Hutchings to clue in listeners before they begin their musical journey.
Corruption? Betrayal? Persecution? Tyranny? These subjects resonate with the current events of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. They also provide the subject matter of many seventeenth-century musical works. Kate Lindsey has chosen to devote this second Baroque recital with the English ensemble Arcangelo directed by Jonathan Cohen (following Arianna in 2020, ALPHA576) to the figure of Nero. Scarlatti, Handel and Monteverdi wrote works focusing on this tragic protagonist and his entourage, including his mother Agrippina and his wives (Poppaea and Octavia). Interpreted with incredible intensity by the American mezzo-soprano, the programme features world premiere recordings of two cantatas: Alessandro Scarlatti’s La morte di Nerone (c.1690) and Bartolomeo Monari’s La Poppea (1685). Tenor Andrew Staples and soprano Nardus Williams join Kate Lindsey for duets from L’incoronazione di Poppea, including the sensual ‘Pur ti miro’.
ATOM is the debut album of Austro-Bulgarian musician, Tomá Ivanov aka TOMÁ. With his avant-garde lo-fi jazz-psychedelic-pop debut, the composer and guitarist asserts himself as a skillful and progressive state of the art producer. Influenced by the greats from the early Warp Records and Ninja Tune era (Squarepusher, Flying Lotus, Aphex Twin etc.) the Bulgarian-born artist began experimenting with electronic music production in his youth, only to then take a detour in form, as he followed an education in jazz music, which he completed in 2018. This characteristic musical diversity is present throughout his first album. He flawlessly blends the electronic spark of Stones Throw/Brainfeeder aesthetics with the distinguishing harmonic freedom of jazz and neo-soul improvisations, resulting in a trippy, sonic voyage. Elements of the classical LA-Beat school are accompanied by lush strings, wind instrumentals, and wide-ranging vocal features.
For Nandi Rose, writing a song is an act of transformation. As Half Waif, Rose pieces together the patchworks of our darkest and most vulnerable moments with a golden thread, crafting a majestic evocation of the human experience that permeates with a graceful strength. On new album Mythopoetics, the artist breaks the familial patterns handed down to her, transforming this source of pain into something bearable, beautiful and celebratory. It is an essential reminder that we have the power to shape the stories we tell and the myths we make of our lives. Half Waif’s previous albums The Caretaker (2020), Lavender (2018) and Probable Depths (2016), garnered acclaim for their compelling journeys through solitude, desire and the search for independence, blanketed under a spectacle of deeply-layered synth-pop. Her fifth full-length sees her stretch her creative muscles, as Rose pushes through the barriers of self-scrutiny and transports us into a world of mythic proportions. Charting territories of addiction, memory and loss, Mythopoetics is animated by the traces of what’s been left behind: the ghost of orange blossoms, the tail of a meteor across the sky, the taste of loneliness in a crust of bread. It is a kind of modern-day storybook where memory is spun into song and the self is explored and acknowledged with tender, nourishing care.
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David Edwards is the editor of The Blurb and a contributor on film and television