Snarky Puppy and Bill Laurance Appear on J to Z
Snarky Puppy, whose appearance at London’s Royal Albert Hall last night will result in a new live album in 2020, were the focus of last week’s J to Z program on BBC Radio 3. Presented by Jumoké Fashola, the show featured three tracks from the group’s performance at Montreux Jazz Festival in July 2019, plus an insert from founding keyboard player, Bill Laurance, who discussed a handful of tracks which have inspired him. You can revisit the broadcast here.
The Repeat Listen: Platimo – Platimo
Platimo have meticulously planned the release of their eponymous debut album, a process that won’t be entirely complete until this Sunday. Their decision to publish its five pieces one by one over the course of this week, assigning each its own artwork and digital space, reflects the level of thought that has clearly gone into the creation of the tracks themselves. Wonderfully recorded at Leeds’ Valley Wood Studio, the collection is sweet-tempered and dynamic, each piece brimming with melodies and constantly developing, thanks in no small part to co-leader Benjamin Hidas alternating between nylon-string guitar and handpan.
He and pianist Felix Bertulis-Webb first met at Leeds College of Music, establishing a rapport which serves them well on these recordings. Opening track Good Night hears the pair playing with remarkable connection, after the atmospheric, panning Eb drone that introduces the album has subsided, and brushed drums — entering like the lighting of a match — have set the pace for the piece. They play complementary phrases, lock together in unison during fast, lyrical passages, then just as easily part ways, exploring the confines of the composition with confidence and skill. During the middle-passage, Hidas delivers a touching solo, utilising the highest areas of the guitar’s fretboard and doing well to contain the brightness of the notes found there, with articulate vibrato and nimble finger movement.
The tone of the opening cut changes completely when the handpan is introduced, such is the distinctive, haunting quality of the instrument. That is much the same on Where Your Feet Take You, when after an opening passage of Joao Gilberto-esque plucked chords, cinematic piano melodies and an underpinning cello texture, the tone darkens — the piece at once feeling colder, sharper and more crisp, but immediately warm and soft again, as the piano and upright bass regain the direction of the track.
Hope Valley is one of the album’s most vibrant compositions, beginning with a beautiful, folky introduction, containing the soft percussive vocals of Norwegian singer Renate Ørnes Eide. The track blooms into a contemporary groove with a sparse, linear drum beat, precise bass licks and shimmering synth chords that modulate softly as the cutoff is dialed back and forth. The tune crests and dives, with numerous small sections of arresting beauty. Hidas’ classical guitar sits proud of the mix, yet everything feels harmonious, as Bertulis-Webb leads into a restrained, mature solo. The track’s end is a startling one, with vocals returning alongside distorted guitar, resulting in an intensive, progressive rock-like final passage.
Despite the recency of their arrival, Platimo play with the conviction and assurance of a band who are well into their creative journey. They will inevitably refine their sound as time goes on, but with two distinctive lead instruments in Hidas’ nylon-string semi-acoustic and handpan, they’ll never be lacking in tonal options.
New Sounds and Visuals
The new single from West African collective Les Amazones d’Afrique calls upon women to take their future into their own hands, with feature vocalist Niariu reflecting upon how women have suffered through the centuries, but how fighting against inequality can lead to a brighter future. Malian rapper Ami Yerewolo also contributes to the track, which is accompanied by a visual from Louise Mootz. Check it out below ahead of the release of their new LP in January.
One of two new singles from DAWN premiered on the Adult Swim singles platform this week. Easy marks a new era in the solo artist’s musical output, hearing DAWN hone in, track by track, on the specific musical roots that she introduced on her last record, new breed. Check it out below.
Bill Laurance’s new live album with Cologne’s WDR Big Band hears he and the group reimagining pieces from his first three studio albums. Their rendition of Money in the Desert, arranged by bandleader and composer Bob Mintzer, is a standout cut, with powerful horn swells and a rip-roaring sax solo.
Porij ooze sauce. From their suave checkered suits to their astonishingly tight new single Closer, the Manchester-based band are the epitome of cool at present. With gliding synths, a viby garage drum beat and infectious hook, their newly-released single is a major statement from the band, who clearly have a vivid sense of their sound and know how to get it done in the studio.