Anoushka Shankar and Dave Holland Amongst Royal Academy of Music 2020 Honourees

— News — Editor

Sitar player and composer Anoushka Shankar and jazz bassist Dave Holland are amongst a host of prominent musicians who are to be honoured by London’s Royal Academy of Music, this July. The academy’s honorary memberships, fellowships, doctorates and associations recognise notable alumni, as well as leading figures in classical music, jazz, musical theatre and education.

Anoushka, whose late father Ravi was one of several master musicians that helped to bring Indian classical music to a wider audience, recently released her acclaimed Love Letters EP on the Mercury KX imprint, featuring London-based cellist Ayanna Witter-Johnson, pop duo Ibeyi, and multi-talented singer-songwriter Alev Lenz. She is to be recognised as an Honorary member – following a succession of shows in the US to commemorate the centenary of her father’s birth. Alongside her, several members of the Academy’s faculty: cellist Adrian Brendel, violinist Maureen Smith and flautist Karen Jones amongst them, will be recognised.

The Academy’s Jazz Artist in Residence, Dave Holland, has worked with a host of contemporary jazz greats: Miles Davis, Jack DeJohnette, and Anthony Braxton amongst others. He is to be conferred as an Honorary Doctor of the University of London, recognizing his fifty-year career as a double bassist. Another fine jazz musician, the saxophonist and composer Soweto Kinch, is one of the Honorary Associates to be named amongst this year’s list. His recently-released album, The Black Peril, was premiered as part of the EFG London Jazz Festival last year, and perfectly encapsulates his wide-ranging musical and socio-political passions.

Read the full honourees list here and check out the latest visual from Anoushka Shankar below.

Repeat Listen: Pictish Trail – Thumb World

Johnny Lynch is just as disturbed by it all as the rest of us. The opposable thumbs that enabled us to fashion our tools, grasp our food, wield our weapons, build our dwellings — the very digits that enabled us to advance ourselves and our societies, play sports and instruments, hold hands and exchange fist bumps — are currently poised over the touchscreens of our handheld devices, creating strange online personas for us, giving us access to mentally-exhausting online environments and news feeds, things that we know to play with our emotions, but we’re oddly addicted to. “I’m more and more aware of my dependency on the phone,” the main man behind Pictish Trail told The National recently. “Having opposable thumbs is supposedly what makes us different from animals and yet we use them to constantly scroll though this endless timeline of awful things, this claustrophobic, end-of-days hellscape.”  

As a resident of the idyllic isle of Eigg, where he hosts a music festival and runs his own label from, it’s easy to see why Lynch is especially interested in how our attachment to technology rubs against our attachment to nature. He recognises how important it is in a remote setting like his, but also sees its darker impact upon us. All of this feeds into Thumb World, the finely-crafted indie concept record that mightn’t have been, had it not been for the artistic input of designer/artist Swatpaz (Davey Ferguson), whose thumb character sketches and background notes informed the completion of the album and its concept at a critical stage.

With his Scottish Album of the Year award-winning album Future Echoes quite literally looming over him (Lynch pinched the giant album cover at the end of the ceremony and stuck it in his studio,) he knuckled down and crafted a diverse collection of recordings, with krautrock synths and drums, electronic-folk arrangements, sweet vocal harmonies and clever wordplay intertwined, as he meditated upon his social and technological theme.

Using repetition as a creative device in the opening track, Repeat Neverending, he reflects the cyclical behaviours we engage in, as well as the rhythm and familiarity we value in music, but does so in an inventive way, with pulsing synths and oddments of cosmic sound, beat manipulation and heavy vocal processing, resulting in a disorienting listening experience. Double Sided hears him exploring the sides of our personality presented online and in-person, the shifts in our mindsets as stark as the changes in the fast four-stroke rolls of the three drum machine textures that rifle around the sound stage. Fear Anchor finds him settling his parental anxiety in a lo-fi meets full-spectrum production of dazzling quality, with distorted vocals and twinkling acoustics sitting side by side.

Front to back, it’s a hyper-creative record with well-wrought songs and interesting production, all underpinned by a contemporary concept and set of accompanying visuals that paint a fun-if-fear-inducing picture of our modern lifestyles.

New Sounds and Visuals

MSC Records, the label home to MSC Big Band and a number of associated acts, has put out its second release: Laga Runa’s debut single, Orange Tree. The Manchester-based seven-piece — who played at Band on the Wall forFree Jazz back in September — lay down a beautifully light jazz vocal cut, with expansive piano chords, sweet horn melodies, and a refreshing mixture of sung and prose poetry. Check it out below.

Canadian rapper Haviah Mighty has dropped a new video for her track Smoke, which features a verse from Clairmont The Second and is lifted from her recent LP, 13th Floor. Graded in warm black and white with flashes of full-spectrum colour, it benefits from the styling and choreography of Haviah’s frequent collaborator, Omega Mighty, and direction of Jon Riera.

Detroit mainstay Theo Parrish has turned in a wonderfully subtle remix of Myele Manzanza’s  Itaru’s Phone Booth, allowing the acoustic qualities of the tune to breathe, but beefing up the sound with electronic percussion and synths – essentially becoming an extra member of the ensemble. He turns down the horns and amps up the atmospherics, giving the instrumental a fresh new flavour. Find the full remix project here.

The new single from London-based percussionist and bandleader Sarathy Korwar was recorded during the same creative burst that brought us More Arriving, with Zia Ahmed, Mirande and Swadesi featuring and Emanative at the mixing board. The meditative, minimalist track hears the ensemble ‘Musing upon race, class, gender, faith, caste’according to Korwar, who also suggests that Birthright ‘talks of the absurdity of lines drawn in the ground that define us. Do we belong in our homeland? Where will we be seen as ourselves?’

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