August / September 2020 Roundup
Ben has collated the roundup of some of the most exciting releases to drop in August & September, featuring records ranging from jazz, spiritual, hip-hop, fusion, jazz-rock, psychedelic, funk, electro and ambient music. The following artists feature in this article:
Idris Ackamoor & The Pyramids / Oscar Jerome / Exotic Sin / Zeb Samuels / Dangerbirds / New Horizons: A Bristol Jazz Sound / Linefizzy / Mr President / Richard Spaven, Sandunes / The Heliocentrics / Takuya Kuroda / Sarah Davachi / Manu Delago / Huw Marc Bennett / Chiminyo
(Links to artists' social media and the records are found on the artist name and release title)
Jazz collective Idris Ackamoor & The Pyramids return with Shaman!, with the band transitioning from the political and social commentaries of 2018’s acclaimed An Angel Fell into more introspective themes. “The album unfolds over four Acts with personal musical statements about love and loss, mortality, the afterlife, family and salvation,” explains Ackamoor. Best tracks include the shuffling 'Dogon Mysteries' featuring some delightful flute, and the 70s funker 'When Will I See You Again?' that feels just as soul-searching as the title track - 'Virgin' is an anthem of forgiveness, new beginnings and self-healing, and 'The Last Slave Ship' is an homage to their ancestors.
London guitarist Oscar Jerome released his debut album back in August after a few years of singles and EPs that seemed to tease us for eternity - he brings his jazz influences excellently into an indie crossover setting. Single 'Gravitate' is the leading track with a great drum pattern leading the reverbed guitar, pulsing bass and infectious vocal hooks. A new version of 'Give Back What U Stole From Me' features as well as cameos from Brother Portrait on the slow-burner 'Your Saint' and Lianne La Havas on 'Timeless'. Jerome says the album is "a reflection of the effort put in during that path of self-bettering, both emotionally and in life more broadly. It’s about preparing oneself for failure and growing from that."
Exotic Sin are a contorted cosmic jazz and eccentric minimal electronics duo, featuring Neneh Cherry's daughter and Don Cherry's granddaughter Naima Karlsson, and Kenichi Iwasa. On album opener 'Dot 2 Dot' Karlsson’s measured, monastic piano sets an elegiac stage for kettle bends and absurdist electro-percussive filtering courtesy of Iwasa before a flourish of cascading ebonies and ivories together with restorative circular trumpet motifs bring the sidelong piece to a majestic resolution. Named after the character from Ridley Scott’s 1989 film Black Rain, the schizosphere of 'Charlie Vincent' interfaces ominous, dystopian synthesizer with permuted organ swells before album closer 'Canis Minor' sets gentle sail for a distant bed of lonesome stars. A patient listen but worth it as the eerie atmosphere changes moods but all within a deep-ambient setting, as the duo flicker between the contrasts of analog/digital, acoustic/electric, and natural/unnatural sounds. If you're looking for niche avant-garde jazz-minimal-electronica, Customer's Copy is the answer.
Vibration Exploration provides a soft atmospheres for one’s mind to receive harmony and peace in solitude. Deep Heads label owner Zeb Samuels is joined on this EP by Marc Cyril on bass, Byron Wallen on trumpet and flugelhorn, and Mcknasty on drums. The mixture between jazz and electronic allows the first two tracks to act as a warm embrace, with 'Positive Spirit' in particular allowing the trumpet to wrap itself around you, whilst 'Yellow' has a cosmic tinge to it with synth traversing along the resonating ride cymbal.
Dangerbirds are a Leeds-based alt-rock jazz trio formed out of Leeds College Of Music in 2018. Their debut album Shapes is the product of a shared love of improvisation and music that harkens back to early rock and fusion, but with a modern jazz flavour. The compositions have all been delicately crafted by guitarist Sam Horan, and avoid cerebral jazz trends, drawing on simple, evocative melodies with rich harmony. The rhythm connects with ease throughout and lets the flow of their grooves feel synonymous with that of Khruangbin. 'Remember Now' has a BADBADNOTGOOD tone to it as the guitar wallows out in this chiller, whilst 'Red Tea' builds up magnificently and evokes the feeling of an instrumental rock classic. They share the same focused energy of GoGo Penguin in many of their compositions.
New Horizons: A Bristol Jazz Sound (Worm Discs, 4 September)
Bristolian collective, Worm Disco Club are proud to present their label Worm Discs, as they recruit some of Bristol’s most notable emerging talent for an exploration into the new wave of jazz emanating from the city. Featuring Waldo’s Gift, Snazzback, Run Logan Run (Montreux Jazz Talent Award winners), Ishmael Ensemble, China Bowls, BaDaBooM!, Lyrebird and Alun Elliott-Williams, New Horizons channels the seismic energy of the sonically rich landscape into 11 progressive, psychedelic, impeccably crafted tracks. 'Jabba' is slick and turns into a guitar rapture, whilst '3.3 Encke Ups' has a beefy The Comet Is Coming sound with the sax confidently commanding and leading the song. Worm Discs explain "we wanted to showcase some individual creativity and open up a space to try something different. Bristol has always had its own sound, but there’s been a new crop of young players come through over the past five years that’s revitalised the scene and expanded its expectations about what jazz music means.”
Ladbroke Grove born rapper/producer Linefizzy has been honing his craft since his early teens, and his debut EP Jazz Call chronicles a small part of his personal & artistic journey up until now. Whilst painting houses on the other side of the world in New Zealand, Linefizzy realised that after years of stocking up his musical war-chest, he needed to finally put his songs out there. His first commercial release after a string of SoundCloud drops with long-time collaborator Depf, this EP falls on the smoother side of UK Hip-Hop, enabling skilful imagery through his production and a sound which is easier on the ears. The title track is a lofi banger, whilst 'Maybe' is more minimalist but equally effective in moving through his introspective lyricism.
After two acclaimed LP’s as Mr President released over the last decade, Bruno “Patchworks” Hovart ruler is back with some groovy ideas to put the disco back into clubs again. One Night is a shiny celebration of the genuine spirit of Soul and Disco, always coming with Bruno’s modern touch for fitting hits for the dancefloors. Mr President tackles the challenge of covering Roy Davis Jr. & Peven Everett’s house anthem 'Gabriel' and bringing the track into deeper jazz territories. Featuring vocalists Jennifer Zonou, Cindy Pooch & Celia Kameni and Sabba MG, the LP reminds us of the great US era of disco and house divas. The keys always feature with a bounciness to them, whilst standout track 'Tears Keep On Falling' has fantastic horn hooks that bop to the gyrating bassline.
Mumbai electronic artist Sandunes (Sanaya Ardeshir) collaborates with London-based drummer Richard Spaven on a seven track EP that redraws new territories for frigid and rigid ambient sound-maps. The blend of comedown hypnotica and subdued beats create and sustain the mood of electronic minimalism that can spiral into intense tirades of bleeps and patterns that resonates both artists' experimental approach to music. 'Evelyn' is a feast of swirling, arpeggiating sounds amplified by the subtle dynamics of Spaven's drumming, with ‘Tree of Life’ and ‘Can’t Say That To You’ reminding of Tangerine Dream’s filmic journeys to the outer limits of a narrative. ‘1759 (Outro)’ is a breakbeat manifesto, a slumbering jazz-pizzazz that closes proceedings.
The UK’s cosmic, psychedelic-funk ensemble The Heliocentrics latest release draws equally from the funk universe of James Brown, the disorienting asymmetry of Sun Ra, the cinematic scope of Ennio Morricone, the sublime fusion of David Axelrod, Pierre Henry’s turned-on musique concrète, and Can’s beat-heavy Krautrock. They have pointed the way towards a brand new kind of epic psychedelia funk, with the title track starting off with babbling electronica before the dark-trip-hop of 'Shattered Mind' opens up new avenues of avant-garde chaos. 'The Opening' is the least disorderly and bends around the bass barking out the melody - the rest of the album is an intoxicating mix of mind-altering sounds.
Japanese trumpeter Takuya Kuroda has developed a unique hybrid sound, blending soulful jazz, funk, post-bop, fusion and hip hop music. He states "this album is about the irony between the greatness of nature and the beautiful obsceneness of humanity. Melodies and grooves fly back and forth from being spiritual to being vulgar." After being constructed from beats made at home and working on them one by one with one musician at a time in the studio, the album moves between soulful jazz, funk, fusion and hip-hop. The title track features himself with some soothing phrasings amongst the electronic background, and 'ABC' and 'Do No Why' have the best uptempo funk grooves. He revisits two classics from Ohio Players ('Sweet Sticky Thing') and Herbie Hancock ('Tell Me A Bedtime Story') as well.
Electroacoustic composer Sarah Davachi presents her fourth release of 2020 with LP Cantus, Descant after three other EP releases (all on Bandcamp). This album features varying pipe organs from different eras, including the very old 1479 Van Straten recorded in Amsterdam last year, as well as a reed organ amongst her normal setup including the electric organ, piano, mellotron, synthesizer, and strings. The album is a great deep listener and continues Davachi's exploration into experimental minimalism and interest in recording different media, which comes out as euphoric ambience.
World renowned handpan player and composer Manu Delago returns with Circadian Live, recorded while promoting the acclaimed album during his European tour. The intricate and dynamic push and pull of these compositions are recorded flawlessly, putting the listener right in the room on the night. The live interpretations beautifully recreate an atmosphere of pulsating rhythm, euphoric ambience as well as erupting cacophonies of cinematic instrumentation. Delago states "I've dreamt of having my own ensemble that’s big enough to have an orchestral sound quality, but small enough to give space to individual characters and to be a tight rhythmic union. After a long journey, the 9-piece Circadian Ensemble evolved, consisting of three percussionists, three wind players and three strings." This is for fans of Portico Quartet, Mammal Hands and anyone who enjoys all-consuming cinematic soundscapes.
Producer and bassist Huw Marc Bennett presents Tresilian Bay, a new project that draws from artists such as Tim Maia, Augustus Pablo and Idris Muhammed as much as the jazz scene and community he has found in south-east London. The languid, sultry sound fuses South London electronica to Brazillian groove, Nigerian Afrobeat and Ghanaian Highlife along with a streak of Welsh psychedelia. 'Glas' moves around the constant synth woosh for the whole band to play licks around, whilst 'Blue Lias' is an amazing spiritual and laidback groove. The album captures Bennett's clear musical eye for alluring rhythms and knowledge of world music to create a jazz-hybrid masterpiece.
Percussionist and producer Chiminyo (Tim Doyle) has released his debut LP I Am Panda, a record that weaves together a warm, enveloping tapestry of euphoric melodies, acoustic beats, and brain-burrowing bass lines, all originating from the hit of a drum. Via self-coded software, every cymbal crash and drum hit triggers a synth or sample, allowing Chiminyo complete control and creating a distinct sonic world like no other. '...into the sunkiss...' is retrospective piano number that splits up the record well, before 'See Me' featuring K.O.G. is a searing afrobeat crackerjack followed by the pounding 'Pandora' that features Eastern-European folk singer Dunja Botic. You can hear the influence of the other projects Chiminyo is involved in, such as with the spiritual jazz outfit Maisha and the psychedelic Cykada.