Sunday, 28 October 2018

Trent Halliday - Paper Lights, album review

Tuck In

I first came across multi-instrumentalist Trent Halliday in his Three Days Dark alias and the album Somewhere a Band Plays reviewed here. If you read you’ll see how much I enjoyed, so it is obviously of interest to hear this mainly instrumental release, not least when Halliday refers to his influences as Terry Riley and Steve Reich, the former a firm favourite [well, many would state that] and hearing loops and repetitions in this album’s opener Rainmaker where the personal nuance is having these recurring from a played acoustic guitar, a touch to the basics I also like. This is expanded on the second track Standing on the Back of a Whale where guitar again provides a foundation, and an ‘odd’ instrument [a mini digital accordion, or similar?] that sets a very specific kind of minimalism, that is until the track makes its inherent expansion into a choric fill. There are ‘Spanish’ influences here too, it seems to me, in the rhythms and ‘handclaps’, an eerie fireworks background-of-sound – the danger perhaps in trying too hard to name rather than just listen. The repetition in this is a hypnotic, climatic drive to the end.

As well as individual artists who have inspired Halliday [and a reference to Sufjan Stevens informs the work of Three Days Dark] he also describes how ‘the album is minimalist inspired, cinematic, orchestral-folk, with lots of acoustic instrumentation and some electronic touches’. It is also playful, I think, in the way for example The Animal Orchestra is carnival-esque, with Folklore Radical taking a further tangent to a more percussive sound but within this a cowboy-esque sense of pace – I can’t explain further though I see here the cinematic equivalent of a horse racing across a prairie [?] though this then suddenly opens out into Riley territory at its close.

Then Constellation returns us to the acoustic guitar as the prime instrument, flamingo influences performed in the clear expertise of Halliday’s playing – this too seguing to its electronic phase where the guitar and the light percussive backdrop are lopped onwards, and then returns to the acoustic core. I think this amalgam of live playing and ‘electrifying’ works well, and is picked up in the following guitar-driven title track [with sweet vocal chorus] Paper Lights.

There are further ranges and ranging, all patterned to repeating as a key methodology. For those more inclined to the wholly electronic, penultimate Shallows provides this flavouring in the overall signature recipe.

Paper Lights is a full musical meal to be savoured. You can get it here.

Saturday, 27 October 2018

Into the Distance Music 84

David Crosby - Here If You Listen, album review

I Hear It

There is something inherently peaceful about the entire feel of this album, a contentment in the excellence of its performance, from Crosby’s pristine vocal to those from The Lighthouse Band who solo with him, accompany him and harmonise with him in the essence of West Coast dream and lush.

Opener Glory completely embraces and crystallises this – Michael League, Becca Stevens and Michelle Willis the backing buttress to the symbiosis of this perfection. Vagrants of Venice follows with a more complex structure and interesting soundings on the guitar work, timings and tangents within the songs typically variable but retaining overall beauty.

1974 is a completion of an old demo, the guitar and vocal semi-scat a familiar echo, then the song enters its other familiar in a jazz inflected melody – we are right back to those early days in the songcraft and performance and, I’ll say again, purity of Crosby’s vocal perhaps prompted by the youth of those around him, a happy osmosis. Your Own Ride is piano led and has a choric surround wherein Crosby slows the pace to his solo resonances as well as clarity. Quite beautiful. Buddha on a Hill is also jazz slanted, and this contains the album’s title in its urging chorus, and if you do you will be moved on its musical wave.

I Am No Artist is a turn back to the complex in its range, a focus on its poetry, and Becca Stevens evoking Joni Mitchell in her emotive vocal – The Lighthouse Band such a prominent influence on this and the album’s musical breadth. 1967 is another turn to a past demo, and more wordless vocal mapping the guitar’s chord sequencing, past and present merged seamlessly as the whole expands to a fulsome choral delivery. Stunning.

There is more, but I will close on closer Woodstock, Mitchell’s iconic encapsulation of hope made hopeful at the time [1970] by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, the stardust settled now to golden in years, reflection and mature consideration – as if melody and the beauty of its recreation can still deliver. Even if that journey is well-travelled in memory and nostalgia, this is a peaceful reminder from Crosby and wonderful band, and when looking around where we actually are, escaping for its three minutes and so is a joy.

Into the Distance Music 83

Friday, 26 October 2018

Robert Fowler with the Blue Vanguard House Trio, Blue Vanguard Jazz Club, Exeter - 25th October, 2018

Breathy Brilliance

Another lovely night of jazz at the Blue Vanguard, the Blue Vanguard House Trio in fine form as ever, and guest saxophonist Robert Fowler playing a set of standards characterised by the sweet spot of recurring touch and feel, reminding me of Benny Golson who is my touchstone for this kind of breathy and delicate playing, full of fluid runs and an honouring of great melodies. Performances that really appealed to me were of Johnny Green’s Body and Soul, the Coslow/Johnson My Old Flame, an interpretation of the Mandel/Williams Close Enough for Love that began and ended with just the pairing of Al Swainger on bass and Fowler on his sax that was perfection, and the penultimate of the night – with a god bless for this – playing the Herzog/Holiday God Bless the Child which was simply beautiful.

The rapport across the four players was stunning.

Robert and Al

Sunday, 21 October 2018

No Face Music 15

Herb Alpert - Music Volume 3 Herb Alpert Reimagines The Tijuana Brass, album review

No Assassinations

This is a lightly fun Sunday listening morning, the new Herb Albert a ‘modernising’ of the songs of my boyhood, the Tijuana Brass pretty much a radio stalwart of my growing up in 60s America.

Hugely familiar songs like Spanish Flea, Work Song, Green Peppers, A Taste of Honey and Spanish Harlem are repackaged with funky beats, some loops, vocal/voice inserts and other modestly applied effects, never losing their innocent sweet melodies and all of the inherent hopefulness of their time and that young boy’s assimilation of it all.

It isn’t all change and never radical. Just enough to occupy before breakfast and reading the papers; memories of home and how some alterations aren’t so bad in a world where you can get away with anything really, not that Herb has taken any appalling liberties with this music: A Taste of Honey playing as I write that, sweeping strings wafting across a slowed but pronounced beat, echo on the horn, some buzzing sounds, some staccato ‘heys’, and still as if it was nearly yesterday.