‘Snowpoet’ – Snowpoet

Snowpoet

IN A WORLD where, like some time-lapse street scene, we are frequently bombarded by high-energy grooves and cacophonous soundbites, Snowpoet have an adroit ability to create, through arresting vocal melodies/utterances and unexpected instrumental timbres, a gossamer labyrinth of intrigue and enchantment in which to lose ourselves.

The mesmerising vocals of Lauren Kinsella, fronting these nine tracks, are sensitively woven into the band’s ebbing and flowing sonic spaces – and the effect, particularly when heard in quiet isolation, has a remarkable impact on the senses. Kinsella – who sees her voice primarily as an instrument – places an emphasis on syllabic deconstruction, as well as rhythmic and tonal modulation (reminiscent of Annette Peacock), explaining that “sound comes through the word and has a musical meaning all of its own, regardless of its linguistic understanding.” That approach, central to this album’s creative folk/ambience, can be inexplicably and emotionally moving. Comprising a personnel (see below) who, individually, perform across a variety of genres (including contemporary jazz), these soundscapes are mixed by Chris Hyson and Alex Killpartrick; and the musical environments they produce require a certain abandonment from the listener.

Vivid, sun-glinted rivulets are depicted in Mermaid, a beautifully accessible introduction teeming with instrumental/electronic life and dreamy, layered vocals; and the whispered usherings of In a Quiet Space lead to Kinsella’s characteristic, undulating voice, the sense of anticipation painted by luscious clusters of sound suggesting a magical discovery under a forest canopy. Glad To Have Lost is redolent of one of Kinsella’s other projects, Blue Eyed Hawk, in the way its prog-style guitar and electronics underpin her typically measured lines before melting into piano-teared ambience; and the Irish lilt of Laura Kinsella’s poetic, melodic speech here is so compelling.

Creaking, tuned-out piano accompanies the vocal line in live-feel If I Miss a Star (an effect which recalls the quaintness of Peter Gabriel’s Me and My Teddy Bear), and countryfied Little Moon Man, with its acoustic guitar momentum, is utterly charming, delicately swathed in wordless backing vocals and ’70s-style synth riffs. The band’s acuity with audio imagery is continued in Gathering, as floating patterns, clicky extraneous sounds and broken, sustained electronics head downstream; and Kinsella’s playful dialogue in Waves is fused with 12-string guitar and plush vocal textures which later hit crashing breakers. Poetry of Stillness suggests an echoic, Peter Pan world of heavenly imagination with lengthened, storytelling vocalisations (“together, we walked up into a clou-u-ud of dreams”); and extended, rising Eviternity closes with a tingling sense of hope.

Especially in late-night solitude, this is a go-to album for immersive escapism – and that can be engendered in so many ways, be it disturbing, becalming or joyfully life-affirming. It takes deep, musical sincerity to achieve such powerful therapy; and for this reason, Snowpoet’s debut recording remains an outstanding body of work.

Released on Two Rivers Records, Snowpoet can be purchased in CD and digital download formats at Bandcamp.

 

Lauren Kinsella vocals, lyrics
Chris Hyson electric bass, keyboards, synths, piano, acoustic guitar, Wurlitzer
Matthew Robinson piano, keyboards, synths
Nicholas Costley-White acoustic and electric guitars
Josh Arcoleo backing vocals, synths, tenor saxophone
Dave Hamblett drums
with
Lloyd Haines additional drums (Little Moon Man, Poetry of Stillness)
Alex Killpartrick additional synth (Little Moon Man)

snowpoet.co.uk

Two Rivers Records – TRR 007

‘Via Maris’ – Melange

Melange

MELANGE BY NAME, melange by nature… this jazz-inflected world music release from cellist Shirley Smart’s London-based collective is gloriously difficult to categorise.

Along with Smart, the core line-up in this recording comprises Stefanos Tsourelis (oud), Peter Michaels (guitar) and Demi Garcia Sabat (drums, percussion) – a quartet whose celebration of Middle Eastern, North African and Mediterranean music is, by turns, joyous, atmospheric and often deeply affecting. But then add in significant contributions from Maurizio Minardi (accordion), Joe Browne (saxophones), Jake Painter (trumpet) and Michele Mintolli (bass), and the creative hues become more broadly pronounced.

In 1989, Shirley Smart swapped the UK for Jerusalem, becoming immersed in its cultural life for a decade. It was there that this eight-piece ensemble was conceived, bringing together musicians from Greece, Spain, Morocco, Iraq, Italy and the UK – and importantly, despite prevailing political and social tensions in areas of conflict, these artists were able to continue to compose and perform together, confirming music’s universal power to transcend and overcome such challenges. Smart’s open and eclectic vision for this group is surely founded on her experiences performing with Palestinian, Israeli and Moroccan bands, as well as tours across Europe, Russia, Jordan and Egypt.

The overriding impression is of live, interactive music, joyfully played – easy to imagine a distant, energised pulse or lyrical phrase caught on the breeze, gradually intensifying with each closer footfall until this impassioned music is seen and heard in all its colourful splendour. And however familiar or unfamiliar this exotic sound world – incorporating Arabic maqam, jazz improvisation and including traditional tunes plus original compositions – the impassioned instrumental textures and rhythms become wholly arresting. Indeed, to more Western ears, the sound of Stefanos Tsourelis’ oud immediately evokes the world of Anouar Brahem, as in spirited opening number Bia Oula Bik (Between Me and You) whose whirling vibrancy is accentuated by trumpet and sax, and also in sultry, percussively fragrant Anosis.

Throughout, the leader’s assured, often vigorous improvisations are integral to the overall palette, her own Marrocai burning brightly in festive folkiness, with Peter Michaels’ guitar and Tsourelis’ oud complementing the rich cello sonority; and Maurizio Minardi’s typically adventurous, evocative accordion in old Iraqi love song Foq El-Nakhal contributes greatly to an irresistible levity. Longa Kismet‘s smouldering mystery confirms just how effective the quartet of cello, oud, guitar and percussion can be, whilst the gentle introduction of Joe Browne’s chromatic soprano sax and Minardi’s subtle accordion in Anouar Brahem’s Halfaouine adds spice.

Certainly a journey into the unknown, this album delights at every turn: Erotokritos sounding fascinatingly medieval, Longa Sha’anaz‘s exotic riffs absolutely charming, Azraq (another of Smart’s originals) hitting a rocky groove as well as treading into dark, oud-improvised alleyways, and Greek- or perhaps Bulgarian-suggested Kiselo Mlkako fizzes with audacious, exuberant mischief (‘has to be heard!). Breathless, anarchic, tenor-screeched Turkish stomper Longa Sakiz, too, is a brilliant showstopper, whilst end piece Sound of the Ground parties on with an almost Mexican radiance.

Melange are a complete delight, and Via Maris an enthralling debut release. Available as CD or download, on Two Rivers Records, at Bandcamp.

 

Shirley Smart cello
Stefanos Tsourelis oud
Peter Michaels guitar
Demi Garcia Sabat drums, percussion
with
Maurizio Minardi accordion (tracks 1, 4, 6, 10, 11, 12)
Joe Browne saxophones (tracks 1, 6 , 11, 12)
Jake Painter trumpet (tracks 1, 7, 12)
Michele Montolli bass (tracks 1, 10, 11, 12)

melangecollective.com

Two Rivers Records – TRR 013 (2016)

‘We’ll Meet In The Rain’ – Kenneth Dahl Knudsen

Knudsen

THERE IS SOMETHING profoundly enriching about Danish double bassist Kenneth Dahl Knudsen’s new orchestral jazz release. Full of vibrant jazz episodes as well as restrained, emotional tension, this is original, often filmic music which indubitably wears its heart on its sleeve.

Read the full review at LondonJazz News…

 

Malte Schiller conductor
Marie Séférian vocals
Linda Josefowski flute
Roman Ott alto sax
Markus Ehrlich tenor sax
Viktor Wolf tenor sax
Lou Lecaudey trombone
Nils Marquardt trombone
Tomasz Dabwowski trumpet
Magnus Oseth trumpet
Fritz Moshammer trumpet
Daniel Weltlinger violin
Heloise Lefevre violin
Sebastian Peszko viola
Liron Yariv cello
Sebastian Bohlen guitar
Uri Gincel piano
Mathias Ruppnig drums
Kenneth Dahl Knudsen bass

kennethdahlknudsen.dk

Two Rivers Records – TRR 008 (2016)