‘Slowly Rolling Camera’ – Slowly Rolling Camera


IF YOU’RE SEARCHING for a pigeonhole in which to drop this eponymous debut release by new UK band Slowly Rolling Camera… well, you may struggle. Because, with a stirringly congruous mix of soul, electronica, trip hop, jazz, rock and soundtrack, Dave Stapleton and his associates have conceived a mesmerising yet cohesive soundscape which almost warrants a genre of its own.

There are obvious comparisons with the music of The Cinematic Orchestra and Portishead – but, somehow, this leaps beyond, into another vista. The core quartet comprises Stapleton himself as composer and keyboardist; vocalist and lyricist Dionne Bennett; Deri Roberts (producer, sound design and electronics); and drummer Elliot Bennett. But, in addition, from Stapleton’s Edition Records label, he employs the considerable skills of some of British jazz’s finest – bassist Jasper Høiby, Mark Lockheart on saxes, guitarist Chris Montague, and Neil Yates on trumpet, as well as synth player Matt Robertson – plus, important to the overall ‘widescreen’ sound, a splendid string octet. And, for the majority of the eleven numbers (with two bonus tracks), it is the commanding and enigmatic presence of Dionne Bennett, with her rich, dusky and soulful vocals, that ignites the project’s incandescent blaze.

The overriding groove of the whole album is one of smouldering intensity, as portrayed by opening track Protagonist which is propelled by the complex drum patterns of Elliot Bennett and coloured with Stapleton’s Zero7-type Fender Rhodes and organ. The unmistakably animated input of guitarist Chris Montague and alto sax player Mark Lockheart add weight to the layered vocals (“you give me the air I want to need to breathe”), all expertly sound-designed by Deri Roberts. From Jasper Høiby’s pliant opening bass riff, Dream a Life inhabits the world of movie soundtrack, with serene-but-edgy strings backing Dionne Bennett’s echoey, impassioned voice; and Rain That Falls conjures ‘007’ opening titles, lead vocal supported by the watery electric piano and high unison violins so evocative of that motion picture realm, Mark Lockheart displaying his customary, improvisatory sax eloquence. Bridge is redolent of Stapleton’s successful ‘Flight’ album, his Gorecki/Pärt-sounding strings laying the foundation for Dionne Bennett’s emotional words, beautifully enhanced by Neil Yates’ heartfelt, breathy, flugel-like trumpet, before dramatically bursting into fully-fledged majesty, drums underpinning with solid, shimmering brilliance.

Fragile Ground is particularly strong, both in terms of writing and production. Its ominous beginnings give way to powerful multi-tracked vocals matched by intense strings and drums (Elliot Bennett brings great intricacy as well as weight to his percussion) and clanging, sustained guitar chords provide that ‘TV thriller’ feel. Stapleton clearly relishes the real Rhodes sound (no samples here), his strongly-tremulant no-thirds chords a key feature of heavy-beat Two Roads; and the subtle momentum of segue River Runs Free flows beautifully into Rolling Clouds, an electronically-infused 11/8 instrumental featuring Montague’s sparky guitar lead and Lockheart’s sprightly soprano sax. But for a couple of bonus tracks included on the digital download, Color completes the album with Dionne Bennett’s floaty voice above swirling strings, backing vocals and electro-wizardry.

Experiencing one of the band’s early live performances, in London, I confirm that Slowly Rolling Camera create a soundworld which, if not unique, is pretty much unlike anything in our current sphere. The combination of smoky-soul vocals and cross-genre compositions – recorded and mixed by the highly regarded Andy Allan with Deri Roberts – is already creating quite a stir (with album two in development).

Available from Edition Records’ Bandcamp store, as well as iTunes and usual outlets (listen at SoundCloud).

Dionne Bennett
 lyricist, vocals
Dave Stapleton composer, Fender Rhodes, piano, Hammond organ
Deri Roberts producer, sound design, electronics, trombone, additional saxophone
Elliot Bennett drums
Jasper Høiby double bass
Chris Montague guitar
Mark Lockheart tenor and soprano saxophones
Neil Yates trumpet
Matt Robertson synths

Jon Visanji violin
Catrin Win Morgan violin
Victoria Stapleton violin
Katy Rowe violin
Ilona Bondar viola
Rebekah Frost viola
Alice Hoskins cello
Sarah Stevens cello

Edition Records – EDN1048 (2014)


‘Entanglement’ EP – Paradox Ensemble


NICK WALTERS’ Manchester-based nonet, Paradox Ensemble, certainly packs a punch thanks to the earthy grooving of trumpet, tenor and alto saxes, sousaphone, trombone, electric bass, drums and piano, as well as the inventive inclusion of accordion and electronics. And this 30-minute four-track EP captures much of the excitement and exuberance of their live jazz performances.

Hitch Slap, building electronically and organically from a single 5/4 sousaphone riff, sets the pace – Walters’ trumpet combining closely with both the tenor sax of Ed Cawthorne and the alto of Tom Harrison to create a powerful front line. The recorded sound is pleasingly close and immediate – Tim Cox’s rasping, echoic trombone soloing adding greater depth – and the brightness of Aidan Shepherd’s agile accordion and the electric piano of Rebecca Nash (with beautifully gyrating electric bass from Paul Michael) contrasts well. The whole ensemble at full tilt creates an intensely strong and original sound… and this is an irresistible opener!

Over a mesmerising, swift 7/8 walking bass, LJM finds Cawthorne’s simple bass clarinet motif shared and elaborated by the horns, Walters soloing on trumpet above the resulting ‘big band’ sound. Once again, the intensity of the forces is impressive, Yussuf Dayes’ solid drumming a key factor in the band’s pulsating energy.

At rhythmic ‘6s and 7s’, Entanglement twines together alto and tenor saxes, whilst accordion also demands a piece of the action (such a pleasing, folky timbre amongst the overall scale and brashness). Retro electric piano, bass and brightly ticking drums create a captivating interlude ahead of the final ‘tousle’.

Finally, Photo 51 showcases the tenor soloing of Ed Cawthorne over Michael’s propulsive 5/4 bass lick. Shepherd’s spiralling accordion, in conjunction with Dayes’ drumming, is a real treat before a triumphant and characteristically cacophonous close!

Nick Walters and his colleagues can be justifiably proud of Paradox – and the enthusiastic reaction to their live shows (as I witnessed at 2013’s Manchester Jazz Festival) is testament to their broad appeal. Meanwhile, fans will await… the album!

For further information on this and other Efpi albums, and to purchase, visit efpirecords.com.

Nick Walters
trumpet, electronics
Tom Harrison alto sax
Ed Cawthorne tenor sax , bass clarinet, vibraphone
Tim Cox trombone
Ben Kelly sousaphone
Aidan Shepherd accordion
Rebecca Nash piano, keyboards
Paul Michael bass
Yussuf Dayes drums

Efpi Records – FP012 (2013)

‘meets I Dig Monk, Tuned’ – ReDiviDeR


AN INTRIGUING and, ultimately, satisfying second album from experimental Irish four-piece, ReDiviDeR, led by drummer and composer Matthew Jacobson.

The chordless (and palindromic) quartet have frequently trodden the festival trail of their homeland with an interesting mix of textures, grooves and samples, all melded by an innate jazz sensibility played out on alto sax, trombone, bass and drums. Citing such influences as Thelonius Monk, Charles Mingus and Tim Berne, this latest release reveals their sharp creativity to a wider audience. And, if your ears are responsive (as well as eyes open to one or two track/guest-name japes – though my guess is the ‘AleX’s were an anagram too far!), there is much here to savour. Following up 2012 debut ‘Never odd or eveN’, they are found here in collaborative vein as four established UK jazz musicians guest on tracks written specifically with them in mind (the anagram of ‘United Kingdom’ as album title ‘I Dig Monk, Tuned’ far too clever for me!).

Leaping straight to the centrepoint of the seven tracks (a couple of which are brief interludes), Bin Saved begins with a compelling descending pattern over which a resonant fretless electric bass with trombone, plus alto embellishment, invites guest cellist Ben Davis to improvise impassionedly into a solo spotlight. Nick Roth’s alto then takes the piece on a new, raunchier route, Davis and Derek Whyte sharing the rocky bassline, Jacobson snapping cleanly on drums. Concluding with mellower, more echoic trombone and bass, it’s quite a number!

Opener, Twin Kodes, features the now-almost-trademark abstract Rhodes wizardry of Kit Downes, followed by effective, trippy, post-produced trombone from Colm O’Hara; then… a twist into Downes’ ‘Troyka’ territory and a random-yet-structured trombone/sax dash to the finish. Animal Code sees Alex Bonney’s trumpet beefing-up the horns, a wild elephantine cacophony ensuing over stampeding drums and electronics.

The guitar of Alex Roth brings an altogether different timbre to Velvet Pouch, a dark, smouldering track of repeated riffs and effects against an intensifying bass and drum groove whilst, finally, May I Agree‘s semitone-clustered, cascading horn melodies tumble along to Jacobson’s pointed, snare-driven rhythm.

As members of touring initiative Match & Fuse, it’s easy to understand why ReDiViDeR are a popular live act – check out the links below for further information.

Matthew Jacobson
drums  matthewjacobsonmusic.com
Derek Whyte bass
Nick Roth alto sax
Colm O’Hara trombone
Kit Downes keys
Alex Roth guitar
Alex Bonney trumpet/electronics
Ben Davis cello

Match & Fuse

Diatribe – DIACD016 (2013)

‘Drawing Breath’ – Blue Touch Paper


SUCH IS THE POWER and creative breadth of this second release by Colin Towns’ six-piece, Blue Touch Paper, this may indeed be a case of needing to draw breath! The composer and pianist/keyboardist is hugely respected in both jazz and rock worlds – and, with a career that includes a prolific contribution to TV, film and theatre, the writing here reflects that rich eclecticism.

For this exciting project, Towns employs a remarkable, fearless band to achieve the challenging diversity of his mind’s eye – Mark Lockheart (saxes), Chris Montague (guitars), Edward Maclean (bass), Benny Greb (drums) and Stephan Haass (percussion and electronics). Unsurprisingly, there is a strong sense of dramatic soundtrack within these twelve originals; and the field of play is so vast that I also hear jazz/rock textures suggesting the likes of Weather Report, Brand X, Colosseum II, King Crimson, Nik Bärtsch, maybe some semblance of ’70s heavy prog., and perhaps even Zappa. Yet there is a magic in the way these threads are expertly woven together to create something new, whilst also allowing freedom of expression and improvisation (something which Lockheart and Montague grasp with both hands in their typically matchless soloing).

Fuse lit, the percussively-activated ‘Attention Seeker’ opens the album brightly (Stephan Maass a key colorist in the band), Mark Lockheart’s instantly-recognisable and spirited tenor technique coupling with Chris Montague’s edgy guitar. From its mysterious keyboard opening, the theme-tune-like ‘Isadora’ gathers pace into a samba frenzy before relaxing into raunchy anarchy, Lockheart’s gritty tenor encouraging ‘the boys’ to vocalise along. The distant, floaty piano and plaintive sax of ‘Heaven’ offer a brief interlude, and then… ‘Suddenly a Tango’ lives up to its name, Colin Towns’ energetic marimba/brass keyboards and piano, along with bass and percussion, providing the perfect foundation for Montague’s distinctive experimentation. A smouldering, Spanish-implied ‘Juggling with Strangers’ takes us back to film or TV score territory. Lockheart sounds remarkably Shorter-esque on soprano, Maclean’s supple five-string bass is delightful against complex clapping rhythms and sympathetic percussion, and Towns on piano feels the hypnotic vibe.

Theatrical and mocking, with braying keyboards and sax, ‘The Joke’ might be the stuff of nightmares… except that it’s actually a tour de force, with a terrific, rocky climax. Through the ‘fog and filthy air’, ‘Fair is foul’ portrays Macbeth’s macabre coven via soprano sax, tolling bell, chants, ‘fx’ and dramatic quotations (Towns is a master of such imagery). Continuing this tangle with darkness is the thrilling, urgent ‘Watch Out’… but keep running and don’t look back! Lockheart’s disembodied tenor on title track ‘Drawing Breath’, against searing keyboard strings, rumbling bass and wailing vocal, has me reaching for the light switch – but not before I can enjoy Chris Montague’s resonant, stressed, sitar-style lead guitar over the thunderous drums and percussion of Greb and Maass.

Echoic nightscape ‘Neon Shadows’ again has the imagination running wild, catchy bass groove underpinning soprano sax as well as the scratches and scrawls of guitar and electronics; and ‘Yes But Now’ quickens the pace – a great platform for the whole band involving Montague’s trademark Fender pyrotechnics and crazed bluesy piano from Towns. With credits rolling, the cryptically-named ’48 Prefabs and Forks No.60′ appears to calmly draw down the curtain on a rollercoaster ride of emotion and adventure. As Colin Towns says, he doesn’t subscribe to any kind of rule book – “music either moves you, and your heartbeat goes, or it’s nothing at all”.

‘Drawing Breath’ is released on 14 October 2013, touring in February 2014 (10-minute promo video here).


BLUE TOUCH PAPER bluetouchpaper.com
Colin Towns keyboards  colintowns.com
Mark Lockheart tenor and soprano saxophones  marklockheart.co.uk
Chris Montague guitars  chrismontaguemusic.com
Edward Maclean bass  edwardmaclean.de
Benny Greb drums  bennygreb.de
Stephan Maass percussion and electronics  myspace.com/stephanmaass

24 February 2014 The Vortex, London
25 February 2014 Turner Sims, Southampton
27 February 2014 The Brewery Arts Centre, Kendal
28 February 201 Band on the Wall, Manchester
1 March 2014 The Capstone Theatre, Liverpool

Provocateur Records – PVC1043 (2013)  provocateurrecords.co.uk