February 2020 Roundup: Part 2
Ben has collated the roundup of releases from February we haven't been able to do full reviews for, featuring the best music fresh off the press ranging from jazz, minimal, indie-fusion, soul and afrobeat releases. The following artists feature in this article:
Collocutor / Bram De Looze / 1201_Alarm / Oscar Jerome / Tony Allen & Hugh Masekela / Yazmin Lacey / Jeremy Cunningham / Alfa Mist / Samurai Kip / Spacey Basement Cult.
Collocutor - Continuation (On The Corner, 21 February)
Tamar Osborn's jazz collective Collocutor have released their third album Continuation as it is a deeply introspective work that presents the theme of coping with grief and bereavement. The music charts the many emotional states encountered, moving from acknowledgement, trying to keep ‘normal’ life going, the need to sometimes put a pause button on the world and let the waves of feelings crash and roll, along with sudden anger and confusion, and finally to moving forward. The first two tracks evoke this sense of quiet solitude or reflection as the woodwind section fulfil this mood before the intriguing broken rhythms of the drums in 'Pause' allow for the next stage of emotional state. 'The Angry One' is an apt description of ferocious, harsh blows and trashy noises that rage from each instrument, whilst 'Lost and Found' is an intricate arrangement that moves between these different moods with genius.
Bram De Looze - Colour Talk (Sbdan Ultra, 21 February)
Belgian pianist and composer Bram De Looze has released a fresh solo album Colour Talk that details De Looze’s career trajectory. Starting off in an unexpected way with ‘Piano e Forte’, a project for which he approached historical instruments from a contemporary perspective, he made the switch to the Chris Maene Straight Strung Grand Piano for ‘Switch The Stream’ indicating a renewed search for movement, evolution and introspection. Colour Talk continues this progression with another revolutionary piano model, designed by lauded architect Rafael Viñoly, and a continued attempt to renew from within. While still rooted in jazz, classical music and free improvisation have found a new balance, a coexistence that enables the pianist to express himself with a new vigour. Switching between shorter pieces that feel like curious, unresolved puzzles and more extended explorations, Colour Talk is once again an ode to (re)invention in the grey zone were the classical idiom and improvisatory urges meet, with the 13-minute tour-de-force of ‘Hypnosis’ as one of the highlights. The album sees De Looze free himself from stylistic constraints and limitations.
1201_Alarm - Hello_World (Self Release, 21 February)
A new music collective blending jazz and science comes in the form of 1201_Alarm with their debut release Hello_World that incorporates unusual instruments to fuse together a jazztronica album. 'Bubbles' is an adventure underwater that sounds like Japanese video game music but uses a very rare instrument called a Yamaha Tenori-on, whilst 'Surely You're Joking' is inspired by scientist Richard Feynman (a keen bongo drummer) and so with permission from his estate, archival recordings of his bongo playing feature on the track as well as other scientists including Jim Al Khalili playing guitar, Helen Czerski on Theremin, Libby Jackson on Oboe, Anna Ploszajski playing trumpet as does Marcus du Sautoy. 'Qbit' uses a quantum computer whilst 'StuxNet' uses a 400,000v tesla coil which shoots out arcs of lightning. 'Flow' is a piece inspired by the interview with Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, where he named the phenomenon of ‘Flow’ often known as ‘in the zone’. The band were not given any music and had never heard the track before, given just one take each to play what they played. The idea was to induce a state of ‘Flow’ in each member of the band and thus flowed out experimental jazz. The whole album is one magnificent unique piece of work.
Oscar Jerome - Sun For Someone (Caroline International, 26 February)
London songwriter and guitarist Oscar Jerome has released a new single 'Sun For Someone' that deals with the climate crisis as he talks about our negative impact on Earth and how we are not being responsible enough to take action to lessen our impact. In this interview, he states “the song is about the extinction of the human race and it being a good thing for the planet. Once we are gone the earth will right itself and carry on like it always has. The Sun will keep rising for someone, be it animal or planet. It just won’t run on the watch that we keep for our stubborn and unadaptable lifestyles. We often forget we are just a spec in time. It’s too easy to sit in an ivory tower in a country like the UK and observe people suffering in places with more extreme weather from a comfortable distance, to look down on poor people that are doing things that are bad for the environment to survive day to day. We say ‘save the planet’ but we are really just talking about saving ourselves.” The song has a driving guitar and bass that bounce off each other to garner the feeling of momentum, something that is needed in climate change - this heightened by another exquisite solo as Jerome is quickly become a guitarist virtuoso.
Tony Allen, Hugh Masekela - Slow Bones (World Circuit Limited, 26 February)
Tony Allen has released second single 'Slow Bones' from upcoming new album with Hugh Masekela, Rejoice, to be released on 20 March. The record will be the first posthumous release from Masekela, who passed away in 2018. “I don’t know why this track is called Slow Bones,” reveals Tony. “Hugh came up with all the song titles while we were recording in 2010, and we’ve left them exactly as he wrote them down. It’s amazing to think that it was 10 years ago. But everything eventually appears at the right time, for a reason.” The song follows first single 'We've Landed' as the unfinished sessions, consisting of all original compositions by the pair, lay in archive until after Masekela passed away in 2018. With renewed resolution, Tony Allen and producer Nick Gold, with the blessing and participation of Hugh’s estate, unearthed the original tapes and finished recording the album in summer 2019 at the same London studio where the original sessions had taken place. Allen and Masekela are accompanied on the record by a new generation of well-respected jazz musicians including Tom Herbert (Acoustic Ladyland / The Invisible), Joe Armon-Jones (Ezra Collective), Mutale Chashi (Kokoroko) and Steve Williamson. Tony Allen will perform songs from ‘Rejoice’ with a specially assembled band at shows throughout 2020, including two intimate sold out shows at London’s Church of Sound on 12th and 13th March as well as at Cheltenham Jazz Festival on 9 May.
Yazmin Lacey - Morning Matters (On Your Own Records, 27 February)
Nottingham-based soul singer Yazmin Lacey shares lush new single 'Morning Matters' and announces her forthcoming EP of the same name to be released on 27 March. Lacey's luscious singing is inspired by new dawns and fresh starts, and features pianist Sarah Tandy on keys to provide an eloquent touch alongside the delicate trumpet playing of Ezra Collective's Ife Ogunjobi. The song follows Lacey’s recent run of sold out UK shows and previous single 'Not Today Mate' released in January. The EP pairs candid songwriting with a laid-back, graceful delivery and is, as Lacey explains; “dedicated to anyone that’s ever struggled with getting up and out in the morning, for everyone doing work on themselves and trying to live better.” Contributors include Femi Koleoso of Ezra Collective, plus jazz protege Moses Boyd as this will be Lacey's third EP after the 2017 self-released Black Moon and more polished When The Sun Dips 90 Degrees EP that followed in 2018.
Jeremy Cunningham - The Weather Up There (Northern Spy, 28 February)
Chicago drummer and composer Jeremy Cunningham wrote The Weather Up There in response to the loss of his brother Andrew, who died in a home invasion robbery in 2008. Co-produced by Jeff Parker and Paul Bryan, and engineered by Paul Bryan and John McEntire, this new work confronts the tragedy of violence and examines the acute ripple effect on several people's lives through the lens of memory, response, and collage. Further deepening the textural and emotive impact, Cunningham formed a “drum choir” for these recordings, comprised of close mentors and colleagues Mike Reed, Makaya McCraven, and Mikel Patrick Avery. The improvisations of the drummers come out in 'All I Know' and 'Elegy', whilst guitarist Jeff Parker features heavily throughout, with 'The Breaks' proving particularly spectacular in moving from a slow hypnotism to a raucous and catchy phrasing that allows Cunningham to comp in style. 'He Pushes Up' wallows deep from the bass before Cunningham pushes the mournful sax blows with his open hihat and minimal but emotive use of the toms. Cunningham also taps into regular collaborators Ben LaMar Gay, Jaimie Branch, Tomeka Reid, Dustin Laurenzi, Matt Ulery, and Josh Johnson throughout this deeply personal record.
Alfa Mist - On My Ones (Sekito, 28 February)
Alfa Mist has released a purely solo EP with On My Ones focusing on his piano repertoire. Largely an improvisational record, he released 'Withered' as the single as he builds up to a UK tour this early spring and allows to focus in on Alfa Mist without additional instrumental interference. As heard in his back catalogue already, he curates a full sound with the piano that glides into some very fluid rhythms as 'L4' has a repetition that invites you in more and more as he develops an intensity that can be pushed even further, or drops out to add dynamic effects to the arpeggiating texture he drives. A surprising but relaxing piece of work that has done him no harm in releasing.
Samurai Kip - Daybreak (Self Release, 28 February)
Liverpool 4-piece Samurai Kip have released their first of four singles to be released over the next few months, with 'Daybreak' meticulously melding the genres of indie and soul as the trombone phrasing adds a delightful flavour to a sound that evokes a jazzed-up The Verve. The band originated with the subtle garage jams of singer Aidan Mcguire and drummer Michael Lindberg , later joined by Michael’s older brother - Jamie Lindberg , on bass. After building a virtuosic chilled out sound with a King Krule-esque rough vocal tying it all together, they later added jazz sensibility with trombonist, Charly Reed. Despite playing shows with some of their true North West jazz contemporaries such as Têtes de Pois and The Blurred Sun Band , their music has always captured the favour of more than just the jazz enthusiasts. Samurai Kip have found themselves playing to sell-out crowds across the Liverpool music scene, flirting with the likes of SPQR, Eyesore & The Jinx and the Eggy Records crowd.
Spacey Basement Cult - George Eats (Self Release, 28 February)
The debut EP George Eats from new Leeds experimental wonk-pop duo Spacey Basement Cult comes out from the basement recording culture of Hyde Park. The result is the blurring of the lines between slacker pop and jazz, humour and melancholy. Singles 'Empty Frame' (featuring B-Ahwe who is due to release an EP in March this year) and 'Kid in a Sweet Shop' have a lo-fi sling to them that woozes psychedelia whilst 'What U Sayin?' has a dreamy, soft-funk feel with off-kilt drums to add an intriguing conclusion with a French-speking sample that continues into 'Glen's Fugue'. 'Stretch With Us' features violinist Jed Holland to add a more clear and crisp electronic verb to their music as the EP displays the duo's clear sense of creativity and exploration of a fresh take on chilled-out beats to drool over.