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Blue Smoke

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Blue Smoke
NOAJ - Vinícius Mendes - Macunaísmo Tardio Vols. 1 and 2

Record of the Week

Vinícius Mendes is a saxophonist, flautist, composer, improviser and researcher from the inland state of Minas Gerais in Brasil, known not only for its wealth of minerals and mining activities, but for its deep musical traditions founded by such pioneers as Milton Nascimento and Lô Borges.

Having graduated from the Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais, one of the most important centres of excellence in Brasil, with a BA in Popular Music and an MA in Music, Mendes continued to research Improvisation in Free Jazz and in Brasilian Popular Instrumental Music at the university. In 2014, Vinícius released his first instrumental work at the Savassi Jazz Festival, and one year later he recorded the album NAU - a heady mix of free jazz and traditional Brasilian music, and something of a prelude to Macunaísmo Tardio, the album he recorded Volume One of in 2021 with Volume Two following in 2022 and one that is finally available in full via Sonar Kollektiv’s sub-label Notes On A Journey.

Macunaísmo Tardio is a perfect release for the label, which concerns itself with shedding light on criminally overlooked masterpieces. This album is, without a doubt, one of these.

The LP features original compositions by Mendes himself, as well as fresh arrangements of Brasilian classics from Lucca Noacco, Toninho Horta and a stunning version of the evergreen dance floor classic Aldeia de Ogum by Joyce Moreno.

Throughout both volumes of the album, and across twelve pieces of music, Lucas de Moro and Igor Neves’ Rhodes & Wurlitzer pianos glide with ease, underpinned by Paul Cardoso and Rafael de Sousa’s hefty basslines, which set the tone beautifully on cuts like Mineiro, and Cyrano Almeida and Estevan Barbosa’s understated drumming on Volumes One & Two respectively.

As for the Mendes himself, the combination of North American inspirations such as Sam Rivers and Hank Mobley, and South American luminaries like Tonino Horta and Milton Nascimento, produces the ‘secret sauce’ that makes this album, and in particular Mendes’ playing on it, such a unique and mesmerising musical experience.

“This album reflects my experience as an instrumentalist within the Belo Horizonte samba scene as well as my schooling in jazz, which I listen to obsessively. Post-bop, to my ears, has a relationship with the instrumental Brazilian music of the 70s. So this album reflects them all: from Nelson Ângelo and Novelli through the Quarteto Novo, Joyce and Paulinho da Viola to Andrew Hill, Sam Rivers and people like that.” - Vinícius Mendes

Indeed, the spirit of Nascimento and Borges’ 1972 classic Club Da Esquina runs throughout the album, and remains deeply ingrained in Mendes’ DNA, though (as the title suggests) this is not a retrospective project, but one that embraces modernism within every note that is played. The result is an album that is as serene, breezy and pensive in some places as it is expansive, ambitious and forward thinking in others. A contemporary masterpiece that needs to be shared and enjoyed by all.

“Clube Da Esquina, a musical movement born in Belo Horizonte, is the principal means through which I was able to access the different sounds and styles that exist within my music. People like Milton Nascimento, Lô Borges, Nelson Angelo and Novelli brought me closer to jazz and to the experimentation that 70s Brazilian music made possible. Whether it be a jazz waltz, a samba or a baião it can be ‘Brazilian music’ as long as it’s made in Brazil.” - Vinícius Mendes

Mikhal Anthony - Sooth Sayings

Missouri based artist, producer & filmmaker Mikahl Anthony readies his debut full length album ‘Muse’ for R&S Records, and drops another single from the forthcoming long player with ‘Sooth Sayings’.

Already picking up support from Gilles Peterson and Tom Ravenscroft on BBC 6 Music, Mikahl Anthony’s kaleidoscopic blend of soulful hip hop, funk, jazz, and afrobeat is catching the ears of tastemakers and music lovers, highly anticipating the release of ‘Muse’ in June 2024.

‘Sooth Sayings’ features the suave production of Knights, laying down deep melodic tones over dusted beats, as Mikahl Antony waxes lyrical with an absorbing narrative that deftly illustrates the sonic masterpiece that awaits listeners of his debut album.

Tasha Smith Godinez - A New Day

A NEW DAY is a collection of nine original harp compositions that stem from personal experiences with the wider context of the world as it is unfolding today as Tasha Smith Godinez explains, 

 

“A NEW DAY is a musical reflection of the world in its current state, my hope for the future and an appreciation for the beauty of creation both in humanity and nature. All the music is inspired by very personal experiences, the people in my life and my faith. When you hear A NEW DAY from start to finish, you’ll hear jazz, world, a little blues and a touch of the avant-garde.”

 

As a champion for contemporary harp music, Tasha Smith Godinez founded and now directs the San Diego Harp Academy and Ennanga Records. The latter has become the vehicle through which Tasha releases original harp compositions for both pedal and lever harps, arrangements by American composers, and recordings of contemporary harp music.

 

A NEW DAY is Tasha Smith Godinez’ sixth studio album and was recorded between February and March 2024 at Studio West in San Diego, California. It follows on from ‘Postcards From The Soul’ (Ennanga Records, 2014), In The Village Of Hope (Cold Blue label, 2015), HarpCHICK (Ennanga Records, 2020), Metamorphoses (Centaur Records, 2022) and Out Of The Desert (Ennanga Records, 2022). There is a concert to celebrate A NEW DAY at San Diego’s Arias Hall on June 23rd, 2024, with the same line up of singer and musicians as feature on the album.

 

On A NEW DAY, Tasha Smith Godinez has truly arrived as an accomplished writer of harp music and as a musician who can fluidly perform multiple genres, while maintaining compositional continuity and intrigue. Between the concert grand electro-acoustic harp and the electric harp, Tasha Smith Godinez traverses a total of 79 strings and has mastered them all. Tasha Smith Godinez certainly has placed her flag atop the harp mountain for all to see and hear on this beautiful new album. A NEW DAY releases through Ennanga Records on June 21, 2024.

Jamie Finlay (feat. Ellen Beth Abdi) - Family

Wah Wah 45s are very excited to welcome Jamie Finlay back to the fold - one of our most beloved artists with his first new music for the label in fifteen years.

Jamie is an award-winning composer, songwriter and audio practitioner based in Manchester. His early releases on Wah Wah 45s, as well as on Development and Still Music, explored an eclectic range of music fusing soul, jazz, broken beat, funk, spoken-word, deep house and hip hop. His releases garnered rave reviews and saw him perform sell out shows at London's Jazz Café, support slots for the likes of Roy Ayers, and guest vocals on stage with jazz musician Matthew Halsall. His work has been remixed by Mr. Scruff, Moodymanc and Part-Time Heroes, and has found DJ support from Gilles Peterson, Osunlade, The Juan Maclean, Zed Bias and Luke Una.

For the last ten years Jamie has worked extensively in music and sound for film, art and interactive projects. His work in this field has gained recognition and accolades from institutions such as Sundance Film Festival, BFI London and ASCAP (American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers).

This year, Jamie returns to Wah Wah 45s with his debut LP, Sun Dogs. Written and produced between 2021 and 2023, it’s a deeply personal album that explores themes of love, loss, and finding strength in turbulent times.

With its ethereal vocals and minimalist, psychedelic production style, Family is the striking first single to be taken from the album. Written by Jamie and featuring a sublime, haunting vocal performance from hotly tipped Mancunian singer, songwriter, producer and vocalist for A Certain Ratio, Ellen Beth Abdi, Family explores what the essence of a family unit is.

“Families come in many forms, but at the core it’s about that closeness, solidarity and unconditional love. This can come from anywhere with any group of people. It’s not just about blood, it’s about how we look after each other.” Jamie Finlay

The forthcoming album, Sun Dogs is a unique blend of electric soul, spiritual jazz and psychedelia with the emphasis firmly on songwriting. Deeply layered and textural with complex harmonies, sonorous arrangements, memorable melodies and brass lines that go from delicate to thunderous. It was recorded in Jamie’s Manchester studio and features some of the most exciting talent to emerge from the city’s music scene in recent years. As well as Ellen Beth Abdi, the album also features multi instrumentalist Caitlin LM and singer Kemani Anderson from Secret Night Gang.

Jamie looks forward to taking the project live in 2024 with his incredible band featuring many of the artists and musicians that appear on the album.

AfriCali - Afrolight

AfriCali - Afrolight

Between rhythm and spirituality you can find the magic.

Afrolight ventures back to Abbey Road with Fela Kuti, Ginger Baker, Tony Allen and Sandra Izsadore for those Ariwo, Upside Down vibes and sounds.

With the awakening of new leadership in Africa, South America and the world, Africali celebrates change and how far we've come in surviving conflicts, natural disasters and freeing the world from those who enslave it for their own gain.

Eyezon delivers the vocals and Shaun Elley the drums, but the release also features the "Mother of Afrobeat", Fela Kuti's mentor and lover, Sandra Izsadore, alongside Byron Mcneish, known for his work with Akon, Snoop Dogg, Migos, Elton John and more.

The album is dedicated to Naresh Michael (R.I.P.), collaborator on 'One Thousand Songs' and 'Cacophony'.

Music needs a message, and Afrolight has several callings for you to discover.

Anthony Nicholson feat. Brandon Markell Holmes & Chris Rob - You

Anthony Nicholson feat. Brandon Markell Holmes & Chris Rob - You

Chicago’s Anthony Nicholson has a storied history in dance music. For decades he has been crafting some of the best house music around on labels such as his own Circular Motion and Infinite Audio, as well as on legendary imprints Prescription and Clairaudience, adopting a host of aliases along the way. Now landing on Brooklyn staple toucan sounds for his latest release, the DJ/producer links up with Brandon Markell Holmes and Chris Rob for expansive, jazz-tinged soulful house single, ‘You.'

A bonafide Chicago house fixture and then some — Anthony Nicholson aka Miquifaye is equal parts dance-music veteran and innovator, rooted in the movement of elevating organic sounds through electronic music. An experienced founder/head of multiple labels (Clairaudience, Circular Motion, Blak Muzik), unique DJ talent, seasoned selector-programmer, & lifelong producer – Anthony has spent the better part of the last 30 years dedicating himself to creating one of the most sought-after catalogues in dance, spanning the finest elements of deep house, techno, jazz, funk, and disco.

His discography is a labyrinth of deep pleasures, body rituals, and sonic exploration that has led him to countless landmark collaborations (Osunlade, Glenn Underground, Joe Claussell, Francois K, Boo Williams, Ron Trent, Roy Ayers, Paulinho Dacosta, Bobby Lyle, William Kurk, Chris Rob, & more), releases on the most esteemed labels of dance music (Jazz Diaries,Yoruba Recordings, NDATL Muzik, Schema, King Street, Guidance, Compost, Peace Frog, Strictly Jaz Unit , Visions, Neroli, Prescription, Sacred Rhythm, Sonar Kollektiv, Laws of Motion, Ubiquity and many others) and fervent support from the best of the house underground.

Anthony's unique brand of fearless experimental musicality and genre-less freedom is a rarity: "Never compromise on presenting High Art to the audience; understanding an Artist must express without fear is essential."

Jan Bang - Reading the Air

The album opens with «Nameless», a haunting, subdued lament originally written for Bugge Wesseltoft’s charity project for the Moria Refugee Camp in Greece. Anneli Drecker sings this story together with Jan Bang over a tense foundation provided by Eivind Aarset’s guitar, Anders Engen’s drums and Audun Erlien’s bass, embellished by Canberk Ulaş’ duduk tones and Erik Honoré’s atmospherics.

The title track follows, also telling a story of escape, of burned bridges and turned tables, centered around the phrase «Reading the Air» – a Japanese expression that can be translated to «sensing someone's feelings» or «interpreting the situation without words». The song is a subtle combination of pop and poetry, featuring Jan Bang’s long time friend and collaborator Arve Henriksen on trumpet.

«Burgundy» serves as a darker, more static counterpoint to the light, organic flow of «Reading the Air». Also here, the rhythm foundation is provided by bass player Audun Erlien and drummer Anders Engen, recorded together with Eivind Aarset’s guitar by engineer Johnny Skalleberg during the course of two sessions that took place five years apart, in 2014 and 2019. «Burgundy» also features Adam Rudolph on percussion, and Jan Bang’s multitracked voice conveys a cryptic tale of gender and conflict.

Both composer Bang and lyricist Honoré refer to «Food for the Journey» as the album’s centerpiece. This is also a tale of loss and migration, but now the departure is more concrete. Both through the title – a term traditionally associated with the last meal, the reception of the Eucharist – and the sirens’ chorus multitracked by Simin Tander.

The album's only cover song, «Delia» from Harry Belafonte’s 1954 album «Mark Twain and Other Folk Favorites», is written by Fred Brooks and Lester Judson. Also this song tells a story of loss and departure, and in Jan Bang’s arrangement, which is very different from Belafonte’s original, «Delia» becomes a slow, powerful torch song both celebrating and mourning love, performed by Bang together with singer Benedikte Kløw Askedalen.

Most of the album is organic and at times «live in the studio» sounding, but the synthesizer driven «War Paint» provides a metric contrast. The song is inspired by the very last exhibition by Norwegian sculptor and photographer Bård Breivik, where the artist’s face was decorated in ritualistic defiance to an illness that in the end proved impossible to defy. Also here, Simin Tander’s voice provides a warm counterpoint to Bang’s lead vocals, and Arve Henriksen contributes a fourth-worldly dimension.

«Winter Sings», like «Delia», features «nature-as-character», and a hint of nostalgia: Parts of the melody are borrowed from the very first recording that Jan Bang ever released, also that together with Erik Honoré – an EP with the quartet Woodlands. Again, Canberk Ulaş contributes his traditional duduk, an Armenian wind instrument made of apricot wood.

The open-ended murder ballad «The Cards», a duet with Benedikte Kløw Askedalen, leads into the psychedelic «Cycle» which features Jan Bang and Anneli Drecker as the main characters in a musical film noir, singing of a descent into a maelstrom auralized by Eivind Aarset’s guitars.

At the end of the closing piano/synth ballad «No Paradise Lost», we return to Asian metaphors, but this time slightly tongue-in-cheek: The «hungry ghosts» of the final verse are creatures from Eastern mythologies, driven by unfulfilled cravings as a punishment for previous misdeeds.

Audrey Powne - From the Fire

Releasing as the title track of her forthcoming debut album, From the Fire is also the 2nd single release from Audrey Powne's self-written and self-produced masterpiece. The track features Audrey as vocalist and virtuoso trumpet player in a song that blends a beautifully laconic drum break with a melody and lyrics which promise both optimism and re-birth.

Taking direct inspiration from two of Audrey's favourite artists, the groove and harmonics in From the Fire are influenced by Herbie Hancock, in particularly his Secrets and Sunlight LPs, both from the 1970s. The layered, harmonised trumpet solo that brings From the Fire home owes its form to Audrey's love of the genius of Roy Hargrove.

Indeed, as well as Hargrove's influence as a trumpet maestro coming into play on the track, Audrey Powne also employs similar recording techniques to those used by Hargrove in his seminal work with the RH Factor. As with the previous single release, From The Fire also highlights Audrey Powne's skills and artistry as a producer and arranger.

Audrey Powne is an artist destined for greatness as a composer, lyricist, vocalist, producer, arranger and musician and in both the singles coming off the From The Fire album we get a taste of the brilliance that is promised in the full album.

Kasper Bjørke - Puzzles

Just when you thought you had Kasper Bjørke figured out he comes back with another great musical surprise. His new album Puzzles, which will be released April 5th on hfn music, follows two recent collaborative EPs on Live at Robert Johnson and Mule Musiq as well as his second Kasper Bjørke Quartet neoclassical/ambient album Mother on Kompakt.

Puzzles is Kasper’s love letter to the sound of early 2000s New York - merged with his Scandinavian sense of producing songs that goes beyond conventional club music; combining disco tinged instrumentations mixed with elements of 80s funk, jazz and contemporary pop songwriting, creating something familiar yet, something very fresh and innovative at the same time.

The album includes collaborations with a wide range of musicians and vocalists. From California based indie-disco troubadour Woolfy (DFA, Rong, Permanent Vacation etc.) to the Icelandic dream-folk trio Systur aka Sísý Ey (who also featured on Kasper’s 2014 single Apart, where the Michael Mayer remix became a timeless club anthem), as well as other longtime collaborators and artist friends: Toby Ernest, Jacob Bellens, WhoMadeWho’s Tomas Høffding on bass, Posh Isolation affiliate Frederik Valentin on guitar and the young, rising jazz star Oilly Wallace on saxophone and flute. Essentially, the majority of Puzzles is played and recorded live, including the drums by Rasmus Littauer (School of X, MØ). Many of the songs emerged from chord progressions written during studio sessions between Kasper and Toby - which Kasper then produced into a colourful and effective album, rooted in an expressive live feeling far from programmed patterns.

The first single to be released from the album, Conversations features Systur (Sísý Ey) on vocals and immediately grabs you with its slinky groove and gorgeous melody. Reminiscent of a great, lost Fleetwood Mac tune which will feel equally at home in your living room or on any discerning modern dancefloor.

Tears We Haven’t Cried featuring Toby Ernest on vocals, gets under your skin in the best possible way. The subtle groove hooks you in and the emotion and beauty conveyed in the lyrics and melody keep you coming back to it again and again, discovering something more with each listen.

The song So Much, features Woolfy on vocals. Its simple yet seductive synth bassline, upfront and conversational lead vocal, along with gorgeous female backing vocals, makes it a crisp take on a Balearic beat classic.

I Was There is the dance floor weapon of the album. Full of proper post-disco energy propelling the groove, bass, swirling synths, guitars and subtle percussion on top make this track simply irresistible.

Another stand out track is the album’s opener, Corridor of Dreams - a cover version of a song by the revered cult indie project Cleaners From Venus, which sets the perfect tone for the rest of the album ahead. Thoughtful and never overplayed, every part, instrument and vocal (performed by Systur) feels necessary. The album also includes a second cover version, both of them coincidentally released in 1982 by British indie artists: The Psychedelic Furs‘ Love My Way featuring Jacob Bellens on vocals is a catchy reinvention that never strays too far from the infectious hooks of the original.

Puzzles is a new step for Kasper as a producer and artist, showcasing his ability to move and flow freely between genres and expressions, however still deeply rooted in his love and affection for the classic disco groove - which is only natural after more than two decades as an active DJ.

Kasper confided that this was the album he was most proud of and wished he had made 20 years ago but didn’t know how to at the time. Thankfully he honed his craft over the years and certainly figured it out and the result is simply stunning.

Another piece has been added to the musical puzzle of Kasper Bjørke.

 

Amatorski - Curves and Bends, Things Veer

After a hiatus of several years, Amatorski are set to release their new album Curves and Bends, Things Veer in March 2024, once again through the Crammed Discs label. 

 

The title of the new album is taken from Timothy Morton's book All Art is Ecological, which explores the complex and nonlinear nature of reality. Unlike Amatorski's previous releases, Curves and Bends, Things Veer focuses less on interpersonal relations, it rather attempts to conduct a modest and subtle search for the relationships between humans and nature, time and phenomena. Other inspirations for the album came from Taoist poetry (translated by Ursula K. Le Guin) and the work of Anna Tsing, Donna Haraway, Karen Barad and others.

 

The album was written, composed, arranged and produced by Inne Eysermans (vocals, keys, guitar, beats). Additional arrangements were recorded with the collaboration of guitarist Jasper Segers, drummer and percussionist Christophe Claeys, and Liew Niyomkarn, who integrated various field recordings and synthesized sounds into the songs. Dienne Bogaerts played the oboe on Echo Variations. These collaborations resulted in an extensive collection of recordings, which Inne further processed at home and used to finalize the album. 

 

Inne is affected by unilateral deafness, which prevents her from perceiving stereophonic sound or music. After years of mixing in stereo, she seized the opportunity to explore the idea of a mono mix, with the help of Yves De Mey, who mixed the album (except for High the Tides and Come to Dust which were mixed by Inne Eysermans).

 

Amatorski’s previous releases include the Same Stars We Shared EP (2010), the albums TBC (2012) and From Clay to Figures (2014), and several singles (2015-2017). They composed soundtracks for films and television (including the title track for the BBC series The Missing), and explored the boundaries of music, internet, and video art in their interactive multimedia project Deleting Borders. They wrote and performed an original soundtrack for Impatience, the 1928 pioneering experimental film by Charles Dekeukeleire, and released the performance-cum-film on a DVD. 

 

Inne then put the project on hold, and spent some time doing personal research away from pop music. Meanwhile, Amatorski’s music continued to circulate, a.o. through the use of their songs in numerous films and commercials.

 

During the 2020 lockdown, Inne started creating new songs and reviving older sketches. Her solo activities and collaborative projects, the exploration of experimental approaches to text and storytelling, her interest in the practice of listening and in bioacoustics have brought forth new themes. Recent events such as the pandemic, and the surge of activism related to climate change and to the Black Lives Matters movement have also influenced the creation of the new album. 

 

Che Go Eun’s artwork for the album depicts a 'digital garden' or synthetic still life, showing a symbiotic relationship between human and non-human entities. Inspiration for this was taken from Che Go's own work, the films of Bertrand Mandico and Apichatpong Weerasethakul, illustrations such as those by Ernst Haeckel and Maruyama Okyo, sonograms of body tissues and muscles, microscopic images of bacteria (including, for example, the vibrio bacteria), and a 3D model of a virus.

 

Champagne Rainbow - Dub

Champagne Dub is a mission in space-dub whose ‘crew’ took a few too many wrong turns. “We are here to bring raw metamorphic rock-rituals that escaped our minds.”The bubbling alchemy of this wildly oscillating four piece is as ethereally potent as the perfected elements that swirl to a climatic maelstrom, ebbing away inevitably to a formless illusion.

 

The pressure front of ‘Rainbow’ reverberates deep into the band’s dub suffix.This ‘Rainbow’ long player from Champagne Dub shares OtC’s fertile approach of impressing worlds upon the humble groove of a platter and leaning deeper into the ride. Swelling through the sultry mangroves of inner minds and outer spaces.

 

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