Heritage II - Mark de Clive-Lowe (Album Review)
Updated: Aug 29, 2019
Mark de Clive-Lowe
5 April 2019
Album Rating 4.5 / 5
Live Potential 4.5 / 5
Solo Performances 4.5 / 5
Diversity in Songs 4.5 / 5
Favourite Songs Bushidō II, Mirai no Rekishi, The Silk Road
Mark de Clive-Lowe’s follow up to Heritage is an excellent sequel that continues to focus on his bi-ancestral upbringing by exploring his Japanese identity through mixing jazz with hip-hop, drum n bass and break beat. The highly conceptual double album has been separated into day and night, with Heritage II being the latter. The product of nights at LA’s Blue Whale and a day in the studio, it is very easy to hear how MdCL can move the direction of the journey he has created convincingly, with this album having a lot more intense and darker moments which easily keeps audiences riveted during his performances. On incorporating different styles to represent his upbringing, MdCL states it’s "a huge part of my own ‘in’ and ‘yo’ (yin and yang in Japanese) balance in my process and creativity, to be able to bring all of this together with musical stories of my ancestry".
His musical stories are certainly rich in depth, as the first track ‘O-Edo Nihonbashi’ is named after a Tokyo area for merchants and tradesmen, and takes the melody of a traditional Japanese folk song. MdCL’s piano and Josh Johnson’s flute start the song off mysteriously as the melody trickles into repetition before Brandon Combs’ break beat drums enter as the electronics woosh over. ‘Bushidō II’ (track 2) is the second half to complement its prequel on the first Heritage album, a song inspired by the Way of the Warrior. This time the song evokes an aggressive nature to display the courage needed for a warrior in battle, as MdCL’s piano pattern is manipulated by the electronics to produce a drum n bass acidy synth gurgle as Combs and Carlos Niño‘s cymbals and percussion add to the feeling of being pushed into a terrifying, intimidating battle. Teodross Avery joins Johnson on the sax as his tenor maintains the melody’s urgency, whilst the bridge allows for a breather despite the piano solo still being manic in its intricacy. The melody is thrashed out again before it evaporates, as the song has the same mysteriousness and tempo of its prequel but introduces new dark energy.
The following song ‘Ryūgū-jō’ (track 3 - a folk tale of Urashima Tarō named ‘The Dragon Palace’ in English) introduces Tylana Enomoto (Charangoa, Quetzal, Kamasi Washington, Bonobo) on violin who adds a much needed calmness to relax from the pace of the previous song. Johnson’s flute softly bounces along to the ride cymbal as MdCL features on the piano a lot more in this song with good dynamic changes. The violin plucks from Enomoto add a magical feeling that perfectly describes the luxurious imagery of riches that the man in the folk tale indulges himself in the Dragon Palace as a reward for his compassionate actions. Johnson changes to alto sax when returning to the melody and this merges well into ‘Isan’ (track 4) where he freely comps with Avery in this floating interlude. ‘Shitennō’ (track 5 - The Four Heavenly Kings) has an enticing wobbling groove that is pushed by the swerving sax melody and energetic drums. This part of the composition represents MdCL’s warrior embodiment of the kings who protect him, and the change to the cleaner sound with Brandon Eugene Owens’ funky bass undertones represents the metaphysical idea of the shitennō in his ancestry and in the spirit world. In this part, MdCL’s playing is light but soulful and the transition to the reprise of ‘Mizugaki’(track 6) continues the ambient feel as this homage to his mother’s family name has delectable electronics added to relax and take a moment once again, as it radiates similar chill vibes heard in the second part of the song on the previous album.
This is much needed as ‘The Silk Road’ (track 7) starts with pure filthy drums that Combs makes choppy and bouncy alongside the drum n bass electronics. Built from the prequel song on MdCL’s project with Ronin Arkestra on their First Meeting EP, Avery and Johnson on the saxes play in the Ethiopian kiñit scales in a riff that increases in pitch patiently. These scales are identical to the traditional Japanese music scales hat MdCL uses in these two albums and so he writes this song about how these scales, as well as the trade and commerce, travelled along the Silk Road together. The piano and bass add a heaviness which allows for MdCL to once again solo with distinction as the acoustic piano contrasts and balances well with the rest of the electronica sounds. They both again feature prominently when MdCL changes to the keys to jangle through as the arpeggiated electronics serve as a brilliant backdrop to take us through to the end of this journey. ‘Mirai no Rekishi’ (track 8) ends this album perfectly as the break beat drums lock in with the unreal bass line in irresistible fashion, as the piano phrase drifts over the rhythm elegantly as it eventually breaks down with the electronic manipulation.
Throughout these two albums, MdCL has established himself as an incredible producer, composer and instrumentalist and has gone beyond in organising and developing this wonderful exploration of his life and experiences with his bi-ancestral upbringing. To be able to thematically arrange all these pieces, record and produce them in a succinct way is inspiring, as listening through both albums really feels as if you’re watching a biopic about MdCL. As the last song on the album means the ‘History of the Future’, we hope these albums represent the prospects of both MdCL and more artists' music in how personal, conceptual and stimulating they are - thanks for this gift Mark de Clive-Lowe.
Mark de Clive-Lowe – Piano, Rhodes, Synths, Live Electronics, Programming; Josh Johnson – Alto Saxophone, Flute; Teodross Avery – Tenor Saxophone (Tracks 2, 4 and 7); Brandon Eugene Owens – Bass; Carlos Niño – Percussion; Brandon Combs – Drums; Tylana Enomoto - Violin (Track 3).
Listen to Heritage II here: https://open.spotify.com/album/5rseQdNUYgbVVBNHgdKcFD
Purchase Heritage II here: https://markdeclivelowe.bandcamp.com/album/heritage-ii