A review of the year in music (so far)
It’s only April, but in what will be an admittedly subjective series, I thought I’d share some of the music that I’ve been enjoying this year, most of it was released in 2021, but some older ones might slip through. I think great music should be shared, no matter who releases it, so this isn’t about Kosi artists or even people we necessarily know!
Martin Simpson – Live Before Lockdown Bootleg 2019
Martin Simpson, one of the most incredible acoustic guitar players on the planet has just released this beautiful, emotional, virtuosic and all-together stunning recording of a pre-lockdown concert. There’s nothing like sitting in the room and watching Martin perform, but this recording comes close. Gems abound, with biting performances of Palaces of Gold and Neoliberal Billionaire, deeply moving versions of More than Enough, Ken Small and the traditional Plains of Waterloo and a towering rendition of Queen Jane. Every track is wonderfully recorded, and captures Martin at his sparkling best.
Burnt Paw – Let Your Armour Down
An artist I discovered very recently but who is already a firm favourite, is the extraordinary Burnt Paw. One can best describe him as a mystical poet with a keen take on modern society. It’s very rare to come across an artist who seems to be able to bring forth a stream of (universal) consciousness without ever seeming to sound pretentious or nonsensical. The latest album is called “Let Your Armour Down. And, the songs are so beautiful, spontaneous, raw and mysterious all at the same time, that I doubt any armour would be strong enough to resist them.
The solo guitar accompaniment lets the arrangements breathe, and there’s a whole story behind the guitar itself. If you’re one of the lucky ones to come across the frankly bonkers album “Moyshe McStiff and The Tartan Lancers of the Sacred Heart”, (the featured image of this post) you’ll feel a connection here. Although it’s not a direct comparison, there’s that element of freeform psychedelia going on, and I was delighted to find that Burnt Paw does indeed know and love that album. Wonderful stuff. You can also check out the other work ‘Chanting Temples’ which is music using Gong and singing bowl, intended to aid meditation.
Rapt – Drouth
Drouth, by the Indie band Rapt, is a departure from their usual folk tinged indie pop sound, and blends textured recordings of old, warped and discarded classical records with prominent kick drum beats. It’s something between ambient and experimental electronica, but it’s absolutely captivating, it’s also available on Cassette from our dear friends and fellow Slovakia based label Z-Tapes.
Utsav Lal – Visangati
What Utsav Lal does, on Visangati, is attempt to play traditional Indian classical music on the Western Piano. If you know something about Indian Music, and something about Piano, you’ll realise that saying this is far easier than doing it. The tension between the two is what makes this album so fascinating, but you can hear the joy in experimentation, and sometimes maybe the frustration coming through.
Accompanied by Tanbura and Tabla (an extraordinary performance of this very difficult instrument), the piano takes on the twists and turns, navigating through jazzy sounding chords that resolve from the unusual (to a western ear) patterns and scales. The shifting tempos and moods can be surprising and occasionally disorienting, but this release leaves you wanting to hear it again. It’s fascinating as an experiment, but it more than succeeds as art.
Indistinct Chatter – My Mother’s Star
Indistinct Chatter (the nom-de-plume of Irish Musician/Filmmaker Myles O’Reilly) first came across my radar with the release of last year’s “Cabin Lights Off” – a wonderful record in itself, but this year he released “My Mother’s Star”, through which he processes the memories of his mother after her passing. It’s quiet, contemplative, and utterly, completely gorgeous. I can’t really find the words to describe this properly, it’s been playing me to sleep for weeks now.