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Carlos Niño & Miguel Atwood-Ferguson - Chicago Waves (Album Review)

Chicago Waves

26 June 2020

International Anthem

Album Rating 4.5 / 5

Live Potential 5 / 5

Producer and percussionist Carlos Niño and composer and multi-instrumentalist Miguel Atwood-Ferguson have collaborated and released a 44-minute improvised duet, a stunning piece of ambient relaxation called Chicago Waves.

The two friends have curated soundscapes that tranquilise your mind, body and soul into a state of complete serenity. Atwood-Ferguson provides a heavy dosage of strings that wobble and bounce through the trickling percussion from Niño. It's cinematic in some of the grandeur of the pieces but also gentle and soothing, and spiritual in its sensual nature. The music flows like you're swimming in a lake or river, an effortless current pushing your body in the water and cleansing it at the same time. You exit the water and drift asleep to it in the burning sun. It cools you down in the heat as you let the rest of your surroundings and nature pass you by. If only I could do all of that every time I listen to this album.

In late November 2018, Niño and Atwood-Ferguson arrived in Chicago to perform in the album release performance of Makaya McCraven’s Universal Beings, after initially recording their performances 11 months prior at Jeff Parker's house in California - this was the first time they had reunited since the Universal Beings sessions. The performance and days of rehearsal took place at the iconic South Shore Cultural Center – a historic gilded-era urban club-turned-public facility deep on Chicago’s Southside and right along the reedy shore of Lake Michigan, giving the building’s backdrop an infinitely blue Northern expanse.

The night after the album release launch, drummer Jeremy Cunningham was scheduled to debut his new music at International Anthem's HQ at Co-Prosperity Sphere. Since Niño and Atwood-Ferguson were still in Chicago, they were invited to do a duo set to open Cunningham's show. Niño's declaration of calling the record 'Chicago Waves' as heard in Part VIII reflects the previous days spent in South Shore (and the many commutes to-and-from, along Lake Shore Drive) and how the deep blue vastness of early-Winter Lake Michigan had imprinted into Niño and Atwood-Ferguson’s collective consciousness.

Niño states: “Miguel Atwood-Ferguson is among my dearest, closest friends and collaborators. He is family. I enjoy every opportunity that we find / create, or invitation that we agree to accept, to communicate with each other psychically.”

Atwood-Ferguson says: “Carlos has been one of my greatest friends and teachers ever since 2005. I am joyously eternally indebted to him and can't wait to do as much with him as possible!”

Niño is a multidimensional and catalytic producer, arranger, percussionist and DJ. He founded Spaceways Radio in 1995 and from there co-founded non-profit internet radio giant Dublab. Niño has been front-and-center in the forging of post-hip hop, contemporary Spiritual Jazz and New Age lexicons in Los Angeles. He has an ensemble Carlos Niño & Friends, and has a long collaborative history as a musician. He's inspired many including Sam Gendel, Jamael Dean, Dexter Story, Jamire Williams, Josh Johnson, Deantoni Parks, Madlib, and Kamasi Washington. Atwood-Ferguson is an arranger, composer, music director, producer and multi-instrumentalist. He has composed string arrangements for everyone from Dr. Dre to Anderson .Paak, Thundercat and Flying Lotus amongst many others. Suite for Ma Dukes, a towering homage to the late J Dilla, saw Atwood-Ferguson re-interpreting the legendary producer’s work for orchestra while assembling a 60-piece ensemble performance that featured Bilal, Talib Kweli, Karriem Riggins and others. His highly anticipated debut LP, Les Jardins Mystiques, is to be released in 2021 via Brainfeeder Records. Though Niño and Atwood-Ferguson initially met some years before, the two lifelong Los Angelenos truly connected as artists and friends in 2005. It was in that year that Atwood-Ferguson joined Niño in the studio to record two different records, With Voices, the final album by Niño’s beatmaking duo Ammoncontact, and Living Room by The Life Force Trio, a group comprised of Niño, Dwight Trible and Dexter Story. That same year, Atwood-Ferguson also joined Niño’s ensemble, Build An Ark. Both prolific independent artists and consummate advocates of creative music in Los Angeles and beyond, Niño and Atwood-Ferguson reunited in 2007 to record their debut album for Alpha Pup, a stirring and plaintive duet entitled Fill the Heart-Shaped Cup.


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