Let’s Dance – Conclave: Conclave (Love Injection Records)

conclave

Conclave: Conclave (Love Injection Records)

reviewed by Ben Hogwood

What’s the story?

Conclave is a musical collective under the wing of the multi-talented instrumentalist and vocalist Cesar Toribio. With his roots in the Dominican Republic and Florida, Toribio acquired a love of rhythm-based music through playing drums in church, studying jazz music in Boston, and garnering an appreciation of Afro and Latin-based rhythms.

The name ‘Conclave’ is an accurate identity for his aims, explained in the press release as an amalgamation: con (with) + clave (a unifying rhythm that holds the key to unlock dances both ancestral and contemporary).

What’s the music like?

Joyous. When thinking about dance and rhythm-based music it is so easy to take it for granted, to forget what an impact it can have on a community and how important it is to boosting moods in these difficult times. Cesar Toribio takes music back to those first principles, recognising the elemental feelings his music can provide, and because of that his self-titled album feels like a pure celebration of music. The album turns out to be as colourful as its cover.

To give some of the many highlights, the rich layers of There’s Enough are brightly coloured and enormously uplifting. Habla has a persuasive, swaying rhythm capped by a brilliant trumpet solo. Somehow All That I Need, featuring Sharin, is even better, with a winsome give and take between the two vocalists. Meanwhile Twice, while a little more introspective, features a squelchy bass and sun-drenched keys.

A soaring vocal takes Rise to the next level, while the much loved Perdón dazzles with its shimmering textures, a strong communal presence. The extended Alati Yeye Chege is hypnotic, while the album signs of with some irresistible, Todd Edwards-type funk on Take Heed (No Sunlight).

Does it all work?

Yes. The rhythms are gloriously instinctive, and production levels are just right so that the music has plenty of room to breathe, keeping its elements to the fore.

Is it recommended?

Heartily. For those of us in the Northern Hemisphere who are mourning the loss of our summer, the occasional appearance of the sun should be soundtracked by this album. It may have been out for a couple of months but if you haven’t got it yet, you are encouraged to invest in some warmer musical weather. It will go far – and comparisons with Masters At Works’ Nu Yorican Soul offshoot are well-earned.

Stream

Buy

here

Switched On – Various Artists: Spaciousness 2 (Lo Recordings)

spaciousness-2

reviewed by Ben Hogwood

What’s the story?

In which Lo Recordings founder Jon Tye presents a sequel to their successful Spaciousness compilation of 2019. There they expressed the wish for ‘a series of releases that seeks to explore the connections, the overlaps, the roots and the future of a music variously referred to as ambient, deep listening, new age and even post classical.’

What’s the music like?

The second volume of Spaciousness follows on seamlessly from the first. As he did then, Jon Tye has linked together an especially calming selection exploring the corners of the catalogue. The music is effective as a meditation aid, and works equally well in foreground or background listening.

Highlights include the horizontal vibes of Integer by Lauren Doss, with a soothing vocal amid the flickering textures, and the lightly scattered percussion on David Casper‘s Dawn Poems Part 2: Awakening, which has its origins in the east.

Outdoor sounds and soft bells are the order of the day as first track Cruising in the Dimension of a Shenandoah Backyard, from JD Emmanuel, drifts into view, and this segues into Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith‘s remix of Cool Maritime‘s Climbing Up, which starts out like written out wind chimes but then gains positive energy from busy but soothing loops. The Gigi Masin remix of Brain Machine‘s Crystal Clouds bleeps and chugs in a strangely restful way, while the activity of Ariel Kalma‘s Space Forest is underpinned by an appealing drone.

Later on we get to enjoy the gentle open spaces of Vague ImaginairesLe Sillage du Vaguarti, and a serene closing track from Mary Lattimore, the Ocean Moon Redux of A Unicorn Catches A Falling Star

Does it all work?

Yes – with more bleeps than the first, so not as explicitly relaxing, but still finding a very calm headspace. There is more than a touch of new age about the musical language and titles, but to be honest Spaciousness 2 covers a number of stylistic bases with effortless ease.

Is it recommended?

It is – a worthy sequel to the first volume, and good to see Lo Recordings pushing the boat out and incorporating a number of ambient styles. Proof that you can have many different forms of musical relaxation!

Stream

Buy

 

Switched On – K.D.A.P.: Influences (Arts & Crafts Productions)

kdap

reviewed by Ben Hogwood

What’s the story?

Taking time out from his full-time role as frontman for Toronto band Broken Social Scene, Kevin Drew makes his first album as K.D.A.P. (Kevin Drew A Picture). It is a chance for him to revisit his early 20s, when he listened intently to the early output of the Warp label as well as a good deal of electronic and cinematic music.

While it is a bit of a throwback, Influences is ultimately a creative response to the Coronavirus pandemic, when Drew found himself in the south of England in lockdown. Embracing the chance to get out into the natural world, his walked through the woods of Slinford and along the canals in North London. The excursions yielded plenty of musical ideas, which he expressed in fully formed ideas on the Endlesss app.

These ideas were sculpted into eight instrumental works with engineer Nyles Spencer, and some of the music was re-recorded with the help of drummer Evan Tighe and Broken Social Scene bass player Charles Spearin.

What’s the music like?

Influences positively bubbles with life and promise, like the English countryside in the springtime. An abundance of melodic ideas course through each track, carefully layered into an appealing patchwork of patterns.

The Slinfold Loop, Drew’s first track. blossoms nicely and shows how the album will work, without becoming an obvious blueprint. There is busy activity in the background and attractive melodic loops up front, all with the potential to germinate.

Shadow Rescues pulses with a positive nervous energy, while single lines are intertwined like shoots, leaves and branches on You And Me And Them, each with their own distinct colours. Wilner’s Parade is underpinned by a lean piano line, while Hopefully Something has a guitar prompt that could easily be taken from an outtake by The Cure.

Does it all work?

It does. Drew’s work is full of incident, and is ambient in the sense that it radiates positive energy and melodic charm. If anything some of these compositions could be allowed to run for longer, as there are so many ideas they would stand up to more development.

Is it recommended?

Enthusiastically. Influences is a highly listenable piece of work that reveals more with each listen. Influences is ideally structured and lovingly constructed. It is in a sense a love letter from Kevin Drew to his youth, but it could lead to so much more in the future, for he is clearly at home in an environment like this, and relishes the opportunities it has to offer.

Stream

Buy

 

Switched On – Fake Laugh & Tarquin: Fake Laugh & Tarquin (Republic Of Music)

fake-laugh-tarquin

reviewed by Ben Hogwood

What’s the story?

“I feel a frost in the summertime”, sings Fake Laugh at the start of Ice, the second song into his collaboration with old college friend, producer Tarquin. How did he know that the album would be released in one of Britain’s worst summers in ages? The song, a single release from the pair’s debut album in partnership, is an accurate guide to what lies in store for listeners.

Their friendship was light to start with, a fleeting acquaintance while studying in Sussex, but here they hook up with far greater intent, releasing a few singles and picking up endorsements from the likes of DJ Annie Mac in the process.

What’s the music like?

Engaging and a bit quirky – but essentially some very listenable electro pop. There is a sound musical chemistry between the two, together with songwriting that comes alive in the lyrical department. Original Sin is a fine example of this, its opening lyrics set to chugging clarinets. 

In contrast, We Ride holds its poise over a crunchy backing, while Gloom On The Dancefloor is an affecting, stately torch song. The vocals from Fake Laugh are a standout feature too, floating elegantly on Slow while beautifully layered on So Good.

Does it all work?

Yes, providing the listener doesn’t take their electro pop too seriously. There is no padding to the songs, the album over relatively quickly – but there is more than enough substance for it to survive a second and a third play without running out of steam.

Is it recommended?

Yes. This album offers an original approach, with songs that are a bit different to the over polished fodder heard on mainstream radio at the moment. Fake Laugh & Tarquin are on to something here, and it is to be hoped their collaboration doesn’t stop at one album.

Stream

Buy

 

Switched On – Llyr: Biome (Mesh)

llyr

reviewed by Ben Hogwood

What’s the story?

‘Nature is the ultimate composer’. This is the standout quote from Berlin-based Gareth Williams, aka Llyr, as he introduces his first full-length album Biome. Natural sounds are the first things we hear, the birds and monkeys of the Borneo rainforest making themselves known and setting the scene for Williams’ thoughtful piece of work.

For Biome is an environmental album as well as a musical one, split into two distinct sections called Pre-Anthropocene and Anthropocene. The first four tracks constitute an ambient celebration of nature and its many qualities, while the second group of four are disrupted by human involvement.

What’s the music like?

Llyr allows the field recordings to flow beautifully from the start, with minimal involvement from his own electronics, but he prompts the slight changes of mood with a natural instinct for structure. The sounds are lovely on headphones, the listener allowed to revel in the unhurried natural processes of the jungle. Particularly striking is the fourth track, Courtship Signal, where the mating calls of frogs in Kubah National Park are replicated and developed.

When the humans get involved the electronics come to the fore, and so do the dance beats. Llyr manages the crossover really well, and unleashes a form of primal energy through the kinetic Intrusion #509, the bubbling of The Hawthorne Effect and a rush of percussion on Interject, featuring Private Agenda, that sweeps all before it. Llyr uses this to show the chaos of the human imprint, having a good time but sweeping away the ambience that went before. Finally Encroachment powers to the finish, and we realise all the while that we have been held under the dense canopy of the forest. The white noise of the percussion enhances this effect.

Does it all work?

Yes. Biome is an imaginative look at the so-called developing world today, and its structure works really well. Essentially it is a sequence of natural ambience, followed by 25 minutes of busy dancefloor action, like moving between two stages in a forest festival.

Is it recommended?

It is. Electronics and field recordings can work together really well in the right circumstances, and this is definitely a case in point. Llyr makes a number of powerful observations about the state of the world today without ramming them down the listener’s throat, communicating them in a very musical way. This means Biome works on several levels, a journey in the truest sense of the word.

Stream

Buy