May 2020 | Albums

These recommendations are carefully ‘ear’-picked each month from a selection of bold, contemporary artists who are experimenting at the boundaries of genre and sound. Some of what we’ve been listening to, some that’s kept us moving, inspired. A few even offering a pertinent lens through which to view issues of identity & belonging within the geopolitics of our fragmenting world. With each complete album, there’s a story waiting to be told – offering a holistic peak into the artists ruminations.

This month we begin with the EP Nocture by East London producer and composer Alfa Mist. The 11-track project fits well into the context and prerequisite of more traditional nocturne compositions but grounds it very firmly within the context of the East London music scene and Hip-Hop. The project begins at the beginning of a night where worry takes centre stage and ends with a sense of ease and new beginnings. Perhaps suggesting both that everyone has their own set of worries but also that there is light at the end of the darkness.

Next we move to the self-titled album by Khamira, an evolving project between Welsh Folk, Jazz, and Indian classical musicians. The band first played at the G5A Blackbox in November 2015 as Burum, consisting of Tomos Williams, Aditya Balani, Dave Jones, Aidan Thorne, and Mark O’Connor. In 2016, they were joined by Suhail Yusuf Khan and Vishal Nagar and formed Khamira. These two differing styles and schools of music come together so wonderfully because of the openness and commitment of each musician both to their craft and their desire to understand the different approaches their fellow musicians have towards the craft.

Next we have Sufayed by Alif, another band that has performed at the G5A Blackbox. The experience of listening to this project is one that takes over completely and demands your entire attention. The rhythm, melodies, and cadence of the poetry flow together wonderfully, allowing listeners to understand the message while also appreciating the music.

Finally we end the month with 22, A Million by band Bon Iver. A project that seems to appropriately grapple with the big questions of uncertainty. This album was a departure from the band’s previous sound that listeners had gotten used to. But it is one that seems to have been coming for some time. The experimental and intentional, arranged glitches and processed vocals are reminiscent of band leader Justin Vernon’s independent work on projects like Kanye’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy and Yeezus. If we are to look at these musical breadcrumbs, then this departure isn’t a departure at all but instead an evolution that makes total sense. An evolution where Bon Iver is able to appropriately present deeply moving pieces that deliver questions of uncertainty and perhaps hint at some of the answers as well.

Enjoy the winding but worthwhile route!

alfa mist – nocturne

British musician and hip-hop artist Alfa Mist started dabbling in hip-hop and grime as a teenager. In college however, he found himself getting into jazz and learning the piano. “I discovered jazz and started to listen to that.” With Nocturne he delivers “Jazz-inspired urban soundscapes” and says “there’s something very distinctively London about the stuff I’m making now. It’s to do with where I grew up.” Inspired by the works of Miles Davis, and the atmospheric film scores of Hans Zimmer, Alfa Mist’s own work is similarly soundtrack-worthy, creating a soulful vibe packed with heady emotion. – Pitchfork

khamira – khamira

Khamira‘s music is somewhere between the cinematic scope of the Pat Metheny Group and the grunge funk of Miles Davis’ 70s band, inter-twinned with passages of melancholic Welsh folk music and Indian classical virtuosity. 4 Welsh Jazz musicians and 3 contemporary Indian musicians come together to make real world fusion. Unique, alive, groundbreaking.The Sarangi sings with the trumpet, the tabla dances with the drums while the guitar soars over the piano and bass.

alif – sufayed

Alif is a poetry-music experience that evokes a range of emotions. Urdu/Kashmiri poetry celebrating darkness, resilience and satire, with a contemporary, ethnic sound. Alif signifies oneness, strength and the unseen.

bon iver – 22, a million

’22’ stands for Justin Vernon, signer-songwriter and founder of American indie folk band, Bon Iver. The number’s recurrence in his life has become a meaningful pattern through encounter and recognition. The reflection of ‘2’ is his identity bound up in duality: the relationship he has with himself and with the rest of the world. ‘A Million’ is the rest of that world: the millions of people who we will never know, the infinite and the endless, everything outside one’s self that makes you who you are. 22, A Million is thus part love letter, part final resting place of two decades of searching for self-understanding like a religion.

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