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This article was published 16/1/2020 (647 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Pop / Rock
Make it Rain
What a discovery this has been...
Released rather quietly last November, Make it Rain is the debut EP from Bluebloods, the one-man (for the moment) musical project of Winnipeg guitarist and songwriter Conrad Sweatman, and its five songs are a profound statement of intent from an emerging artist whose work will soon be sought after.
Composed, arranged and performed for the most part in Sweatman’s bedroom, the music is an esoteric blend of jazzy keys and guitars, R&B bass grooves, hip-hop samples and electronic beats, whirrings and skronks, all blended together to become compellingly listenable tunes that inform the mannered pop themes of Tin Pan Alley and Broadway with an ultra-modern playfulness.
Melodies on the first four songs are brought to the fore by a variety of Winnipeg singers, including Courtney Devon (of Amadians, on Make it Rain and Jabberwocky), Roman Clarke (on Past Perfect), Heather Thomas (of ATLAAS, also on Past Perfect) and Elessar Thiessen (on Bad Faith). Their skilled interpretations of Sweatman’s poetic lyrics conjure prairie gothic images of life and death and moral quandary and untold secrets.
Bluebloods closes things out with a throbbing, primal track cheekily titled Looking for God on a Dance Floor in Steinbach, which brings to mind the Chemical Brothers crashing a Mennonite wedding party and will leave listeners wanting to hear a whole lot more — very soon.
You’ll find this on Soundcloud or at www.sweatman.xyz, and check out this Vimeo link to watch a multi-disciplinary performance of Jabberwocky by singer Courtney Devon and dancer Madison Dueck at Forth Cafe: http://bit.ly/bluebloodsFP ★★★★
Stream these: Make it Rain; Past Perfect; Jabberwocky.
— John Kendle
Audio Diary 2014-2018
(Panegyric/Discipline Global Mobile)
2019 was the 50th anniversary year of English progressive rock behemoth King Crimson, and along with myriad other specialty releases came this five-CD live compilation assembled from their most recent five years of live concerts.
The sole founding member of the band is guitarist/keyboardist and songwriter Robert Fripp, who has over the decades also become something of a human mainframe computer, holding the bands’ specific sound together. The music this group (now beefed up to include eight members including Fripp) creates is not for the weak of heart. With three drummers, two guitarists, a brass/woodwinds dude and keyboardist on hand, their songs are by turns solidly chaotic and complex yet will turn blindingly fast into a tranquil peace.
Over the course of the globally expanded sets represented here (including tracks recorded in Montreal, Vancouver, Victoria and Toronto) new compositions and timeless favourites including Larks Tongues in Aspic Part One, 21st Century Schizoid Man and Epitaph are presented with consummate professionalism and boundary-pushing precision.
By this stage of the bands’ arc Fripp doesn’t tolerate anything but flawless playing and while this may not be for everyone, a casual listen in the right context will leave you realizing that this band creates some for at times intense arrangements.
Fripp has lost none of his audacious spirit on guitar over the years and while there are plenty of flamboyant antics going on in this music he never allows it reach beyond his estimable grasp. ★★★★★
Stream these: Epitaph (Prague 15 Sept. 2016) The Court Of The Crimson King (Manchester 11 Sept. 2015)"
— Jeff Monk
The Darius Brubeck Quartet
Live In Poland
Being the child of a famous parent must be difficult. The jazz world has some impressive examples of children who have somehow met the challenge, albeit in different ways. Darius Brubeck — son of Take Five legend Dave Brubeck — has developed his own musical life predominantly by establishing himself separately from the North American jazz scene.
He moved to Durban, South Africa, with his wife, taught at the University of KwaZulu Natal, established the first jazz studies degree in South Africa and played piano for years in a band called Afro Cool Concept. Now living in England, he has performed extensively with his quartet; Dave O’Higgins on tenor sax, Matt Ridley on bass and Wesley Gibbens on drums.
Darius was in attendance to see his father take part in a hugely successful tour of Poland in 1958. Darius was invited to a 2018 tour to celebrate the 60th anniversary, resulting in this album. Recorded at the Blue Note Club in Poznan, it has some fine Darius originals (Earthrise) along with two by Dave and a terrific Hugh Masekela tune from Africa called Nomali. The music is engaging and melodic throughout, with wide harmonic variation and energy.
Darius’s piano is generally less aggressive than his father’s, but he doesn’t have to live in anyone’s shadow. Probably because it was expected, the quartet ends by tearing through a neat version of Take Five. The Brubeck name is not going anywhere. ★★★1/2
Steam these: Dziekuje [Thank You in Polish], Earthrise
— Keith Black
Death and the Maiden
This sophomore release by British chamber group 12 Ensemble features four works including its own arrangement of Schubert’s famous Death and the Maiden string quartet. It also showcases the restless voice of this group, comprising 12 string players, which performs sans conductor and with a proven appetite for performing both classic repertoire as well as more adventuresome fare.
The centrepiece takes Mahler’s earlier string orchestra version of the Schubert — ultimately abandoned in an incomplete state by the composer with sketches later filled in by Mahler scholars — as a starting point, adding a tasteful double bass line that lends further gravitas to the work. The group infuses both the respective opening Allegro and third Presto movement with requisite drama, including forceful declamatory lines in the upper strings, nimbly navigating the technical challenges of the Scherzo, with the second, Andante con moto, famously inspired by the composer’s own Lied showcasing the ensemble’s seamless legato phrasing and expressive artistry.
Also included is Oliver Leith’s Honey Siren, commissioned by the group in 2019 and originally inspired by wailing sirens as harbingers of peril. However, the work’s atmospheric series of three movements present more as friendly fire, often highly introspective and imagistic that nonetheless takes a while for the ear to acclimatize.
The album rounds out with a string arrangement of John Tavener’s earlier choral work The Lamb, and another, Fljotavik, based on a song by Icelandic band Sigur Ros. The group, which embarked on an artistic residency in Iceland in 2016, evokes the majesty and power of the land with utmost sensitivity, growing from its hushed opening to a triumphant, stirring close.
(Four stars out of five)
Stream this: Fljotavik by Sigur Ros
— Holly Harris