Hyundai Nordic Music Prize Nominees Announced
The 12 nominees for the 2019 Hyundai Nordic Music Prize were announced earlier this week. Inspired by the British & Irish Mercury Prize, the Nordic competition aims to ‘further increase international interest and awareness of what the region has to offer musically’ as well as focus on the full length album as a mode of creative expression. There are some outstanding records amongst the class: including hifalutin, the experimental electro-pop LP from lowly, released on Bella Union toward the end of last year, the latest record from Icelandic hip-hop artist Cell7, the awesome contemporary hip-hop of Countess Malaise on Hystería, and the meditative, experimental album from Sweden’s Nadia Tehran, entitled Dozakh: All lovers hell. Find all artists on the official shortlist and dive into Nadia Tehran’s project below.
Repeat Listen: Nick Walters – Active Imagination
Trumpeter Nick Walters is recognised for his roles in Ruby Rushton, Beats & Pieces Big Band, and Riot Jazz Brass Band, but increasingly, drawing attention for his work as a bandleader and composer too. On Active Imagination, he assumes the role of the former, leading a single-day recording session for which very little rehearsal or preparation took place, shifting the emphasis on to collective experimentation and improvisation, rather than the execution of meticulously structured compositions.
With Tenderlonious on flute and soprano sax, Jeff Guntren on tenor sax, Rebecca Nash of Atlas on piano, Nim Sadot on bass, Joseph Deenmamode (aka. Mo Kolours) on percussion and Max Hallet on drums, the mid-sized ensemble is perfectly poised to explore jazz’s the free and spiritual regions, but also slip into grooving fusion and nu-jazz workouts, owing to their versatility as individuals and the many textures that this combination allows them to explore.
Opener So Long Chef begins with expansive piano modulations, setting a calm tone, before the arrival of Hallet’s uptempo breaks and the triumphant horn and flute lines. As the eleven-minute cut intensifies, a strenuous passage of free playing emerges, with Guntren soloing magnificently, underpinned all the while by Sadot and Hallet’s rock solid rhythm playing. Second tune Ahimsa gives us the first glimpse of Walters playing solo, albeit with his horn drenched in psychedelic phase, harmony and delay effects, giving his legato notes increased density and power. From the embers of his intro rises a cool upright bass lick and gently-building rhythm, setting the tone for an atmospheric, spiritual tone thereafter.
The two part Gordian Knot is the album’s centrepiece, beginning with the beautiful timbre of Walters’ inquisitive playing, and segueing from the filmic soundscape into a darker groove, with prominent electric bass lines, interjections of hand percussion and cultured exploration of the phrygian mode from Nash and Cawthorne on piano and soprano sax respectively.
Where the album succeeds is in the flexibility that Walters allowed on the session. In presenting the group with open compositions, rooted in a particular mode that each player would be familiar with given their chops and experience, Walters gives his peers ideas to go off and a foundation to fall back on, without clouding their mind with rules, ideas or expectations. The result is an emotive and highly listenable balance of free expression and composed ideas, free jazz and melodic post bop with warmth and spiritual presence.
New Sounds and Visuals
Yesterday marked one year since the passing of jazz legend Hugh Masekela, and also saw World Circuit share the first offering from a forthcoming collaborative LP between he and renowned drummer, Tony Allen. The first cut from Rejoice is a grooving, acoustic jazz-funk number, with Allen’s resonant utterances guiding the track along.
Recorded while the artist was heavily pregnant but two years in the making, all told, Hilary Woods’ new record Birthmarks deals with ideas of human transformation and transmutation. Its dark and impactful first single, Tongues of Wild Boar, is a brooding track replete with resonant cello, distant harpsichord and booming drum strokes, and comes accompanied by artistic video of layered visual art, pixelated black and white shots and fast-cut goriness, conceived by Woods herself and created with Joshua Wright. The album arrives courtesy of Sacred Bones in March.
Sweden’s Dungen have announced a live album and shared the inspired cut, B1. The track inverts the typical dynamic structure of a pop track, darting out of the blocks with a fierce drums and sax playing, then retreating into a quieter passage of piano playing, laying the groundwork for psychedelic lead guitar exploration, on the way to a second emphatic crescendo.
Hearts Utd., the new cut from RX- 101, pairs abrasive, bitcrushed industrial beats with ambient, daringly harmonised synth pads, resulting in a thought-provoking piece of electronica that will appeal to fans of Aphex Twin’s Selected Ambient Works and the soundtracks to Adam Curtis’ recent documentaries. Its video was created by Robert Fantinatto and Aidan Fantinatto, and explores a cold, partially-complete commercial/industrial space.