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GONDWANA

More esoteric genius from Manchester's Gondwana.
Started by Matthew Halsall in 2008 they've slowly become one of Piccadilly's favourite labels and can claim fans in Gilles Peterson, Mr Scruff and DJ Shadow.
While the jazz of Halsall and GoGo Penguin might have established the label, with recent releases such as Portico Quartet, we've seen them embrace the new ambient and neo classical movement and with this latest release, from Leed's Noya Rao, a new direction again.
If you're a fan of Little Dragon and Bonobo or the alt RnB of Kelela or Jesse Lanza then this is the album for you.
Icaros takes the listener on a journey through the band's unique sound-world amplified by Tom Henry's bold and inventive production techniques. Sometimes fragile, sometimes raw and visceral, it's an album of stark contrasts.


STAFF COMMENTS

David says: One last release for the year from our favourite label of 2017, Gondwana. Noya Rao walk a line somewhere between Alt RnB and jazz, difficult to pigeonhole and all the more refreshing for it. Awesome.

Dwight Trible

Inspirations

    Manchester based trumpeter, composer, arranger and producer Matthew Halsall has carved out a unique niche for himself as both a band-leader and producer delving deeply into the worlds of spiritual jazz and string-laden soul.

    His latest project finds him playing with and producing the legendary LA jazz singer Dwight Trible, who first came to international renown with his 2005 Ninja Tune release Love Is the Answer. Trible, whose deeply soulful voice has seen him compared to Leon Thomas and Andy Bey, has worked with the likes of Pharoah Sanders, Horace Tapscott and Kamasi Washington (he sings lead vocals on the Epic) and brings a deep-rooted soulfulness to everything that he sings.

    Inspirations features some of Dwight Trible and Matthew Halsall's favourite songs including brilliant versions of the timeless Bacharach classic What The World Needs Now Is Love featuring harpist Rachael Gladwin and the Nina Simone smash Feeling Good. A soulful reading of Donny Hathaway and Leroy Hutson's classic Tryin' Times and a heartfelt version of Coltrane's beautiful ballad, Dear Lord, with lyrics by Trible. Other highlights include a vibrant, soulful version of and a beautiful take on They also laid down two spiritual jazz masterpieces, a powerful re-working of Dorothy Ashby's Heaven and Hell (from the legendary The Rubiyat of Dorothy Ashby album) and a spine-tingling reading of the old folk song Black Is The Colour Of My True Love's Hair. Finally the album is rounded out with and the traditional spiritual Deep River and the beautiful standard I Love Paris.



    Captivating, ethereal and majestic, Mammal Hands (saxophonist Jordan Smart, pianist Nick Smart and drummer and percussionist Jesse Barrett) has carved out a refreshingly original sound from a disparate array of influences: drawing on spiritual jazz, north Indian, folk and classical music to create something inimitably their own. Hailing from Norwich, one of Britain's most isolated and most easterly cities, they have forged their own path away from the musical mainstream and their unique sound grew out of long improvised rehearsals. All three members contibute equally to the writing process: one that favours the creation of a powerful group dynamic over individual solos. Their records are entrancing and beautiful affairs, while their hypnotic live shows have seen them hailed as one of the most exciting bands in Europe as they push their unique line-up to the outer limits of its possibilities.

    Shadow Work is their third album and the first they have self-produced. Recorded at 80 Hertz Studios, Gondwana Records home from home in Manchester, it is the result of 18 months of intensive touring and mammoth writing sessions. The energy from their exhilarating live performances has fed into the writing process and yet there is a quiet reflective side to this album, giving it an expanded emotional range that draws the listener deep into Mammal Hand's sound world. One that builds on the sound of their previous recordings, Animalia and the beautiful Floa, but is wider than ever, with the use of prepared piano strings, more prominent effects and field recordings all adding to the band's most ambitious and accomplished album to date. The striking artwork is by Daniel Halsall and reflects the organic, natural influences underpinning the band's music alongside a darker, modern minimalism.

    STAFF COMMENTS

    Millie says: Shadow Work providing all the ambient jazz vibes you could possibly need, fans of Gogo Penguin (off the same label) will really like this.

    Mercury Prize-nominated Portico Quartet have always been an impossible band to pin down. Sending out echoes of jazz, electronica, ambient music and minimalism, the group created their own singular, cinematic sound over the course of three studio albums, from their 2007 breakthrough 'Knee-Deep in the North Sea', and 2010 John Leckie produced 'Isla', to the self titled record 'Portico Quartet' in 2012. Now rebooted as Portico Quartet after a brief spell as the three-piece Portico, the group's fourth album is on shop favourite, Matthew Halsall's, Gondwana records. Heralding a return to their mesmeric signature sound but also featuring fresh new sonic departures, the band's comeback was so eagerly anticipated that their four-night run at London's Archspace in June, sold out in less than an hour.

    STAFF COMMENTS

    David says: Released on shop favourite, Matthew Halsall’s Gondwana label, Portico Quartet’s fourth album ‘Art In The Age Of Automation’ is a mesmeric, neo classical masterpiece. Sometimes the neo classical tag can be more of an insult than a compliment, bringing to mind Debenhams at dinner time piano, or the soundtrack to a documentary about the retreat from Stalingrad. Portico Quartet however, sidestep these comparisons by looking towards their contemporaries, visionaries like Floating Points and the more electronic moments of Radiohead, are as much of an influence as classic ambient artists such as Steve Reich and Brian Eno. ‘Art In The Age Of Automation’ is a genuinely beautiful listening experience. A languid journey through the full spectrum of sound, bookended by the rise and fall of the sun, melodies reflecting in its rays as the world, for these brief moments at least, let’s us drift away together in some kind of hard won harmony.


    France of Cinematic Orchestra fame has just signed a three album deal with Gondwana and is currently working on new material for release in Autumn 2017, but first up is a worldwide re-release for his debut solo recording, The Swimmer, a beautiful beguiling "soundtrack" for a film that hasn't been made yet.
    Originally released in October 2013 it sounds even better now than it did then, deeply emotive and epic in scale it draws it influences from the great second wave of film composers including John Carpenter and Vangelis, as well as minimalist composers such as Steve Reich and Philip Glass. France's skill, in this album, as well as his work with The Cinematic Orchestra, is in soundtracking human emotion - The Swimmer is full of heartbreak and recovery, strength, honesty and frailty, it is meditative and hopeful and, in our opinion, you might not hear a better album this year.



    STAFF COMMENTS

    David says: Sounding even better now than it did when it was originally released in 2013, this is an unparalleled work of beauty that every home should own.

    Manchester based, DJ, bandleader and trumpeter Matthew Halsall is one of the UK's brightest jazz talents. A gifted trumpeter with a beautiful, expressive tone, his music draws on his love of the transcendental, spiritual and modal jazz of Alice and John Coltrane and Pharoah Sanders, as well as the glories of 60s British jazz.

    His third album "On The Go" is a heartfelt love letter to the jazz of the late 50s and early 60s. Inspired by the evocative sounds of Miles Davis' soundtrack to the Louis Malle film "Lift To The Scaffold" and the legendary early 60s recordings of Art Blakey and Max Roach the album is nostalgic but always soulful. However, while Halsall's elegiac music is imbued with a sense of history, the young trumpeter and DJ nevertheless brings a contemporary bounce to his music ensuring that his music breathes with a personality all its own.

    The album opens with "Music For A Dancing Mind", the most obvious nod to the work of Blakey and Roach. The beautiful "Song For Charlie" is named for Halsall's grandfather, a key inspiration in his life. Dukkha is a Buddhist term roughly translating to suffering so the title "The End Of Dukkha" is self-explanatory and "Samatha", another Buddhist term, means calm, a perfect title for this elegant tune. "The Journey Home" came to Halsall on the train back to Manchester from London and captures that happy feeling of return.



    Mammal Hands are a trio of like-minded musicians: Nick Smart on piano, Jesse Barrett on drums and tabla, and Jordan Smart on saxophones. 'Floa' is their second album for Gondwana Records and in the 18 months since their debut, 'Animalia', they have carved out a growing following both here and abroad for their hypnotic fusion of jazz, folk and electronica.

    Drawing on a rich well of influences from Sufi and shamanic African trance music, Irish and Eastern European folk music, to Steve Reich and Philip Glass and more contemporary electronica influences, their music is built around deceptively simple sounding ideas that are lent power through the use of repetition and rhythmic loops. They have been compared to both Portico Quartet and GoGo Penguin for the way in which they navigate the choppy waters between contemporary dance music and jazz.

    'Floa' (an old Norse word that means to deluge or to flow) is the sound of a more confident, experienced band: one that has grown together naturally through touring and gigging and through mammoth writing and rehearsal sessions where all three bring rhythmic, improvisational and melodic ideas to the table. 'Floa' was recorded at Gondwana's home from home, 80 Hertz Studios in Manchester, reuniting the band with producer Matthew Halsall and features some of the Gondwana Orchestra strings who played on Halsall's acclaimed album 'Into Forever'. Together they have crafted a wonderful sounding record, the richness of which perfectly illuminates the band's music.


    Matthew Halsall & The Gondwana Orchestra

    Into Forever

    Over the course of five albums, Manchester based trumpeter, composer, arranger and band-leader Matthew Halsall has carved out a niche for himself on the UK music scene as one of it's brightest talents. His languid, soulful music has won friends from Jamie Cullum and Gilles Peterson to Jazz FM and Mojo as well as an ever-growing international following. His new album 'Into Forever', puts the spotlight on Halsall the composer, arranger and producer. Halsall draws on a diverse range of influences from Alice Coltrane, Dorothy Ashby, Phil Cohran and Leon Thomas to the more contemporary sounds of The Cinematic Orchestra, Max Richter and Nils Frahm to deliver his most complete recording to date. 'Into Forever' features renowned Manchester based soul poet Josephine Oniyama and rising star vocalist Bryony Jarman-Pinto (Werkha) as well as regular collaborators, flautist Lisa Mallett, harpist Rachael Gladwin, koto player Keiko Kitamura, pianist Taz Modi, bassist Gavin Barras and drummer Luke Flowers (The Cinematic Orchestra) and two percussionists Sam Bell and Chris Cruiks. The result is arguably Halsall's finest record, asublime melding of stripped back soulful funk and deep, minimalist, spiritual jazz, that will take you on a journey deep into forever!

    Matthew Halsall & The Gondwana Orchestra

    When The World Was One

    Over the course of four albums, Manchester based trumpeter, composer, arranger and band-leader Matthew Halsall has carved out a niche for himself on the UK music scene as one of its brightest talents. His languid, soulful music has won friends from Jamie Cullum and Gilles Peterson to Jazz FM and Mojo as well as an ever-growing international following. His label Gondwana Records is home to GoGo Penguin and his own albums have found Halsall exploring the modal jazz of John and Alice Coltrane, paying tribute to the hard bop of the late '50s and early '60s or most recently on 'Fletcher Moss Park' drawing on Eastern influences in his most personal statement yet. His latest album 'When The World Was One' is something of a companion piece to 'Fletcher Moss Park' (much of the music was written at the same time) but draws more explicitly on Halsall's love of spiritual jazz and Eastern music as well as his own studies in meditation and travels in Japan. Beautifully recorded at Hasall's favourite studio, 80 Hertz in Manchester, and engineered by Brendan Williams and George Atkins it features the recording debut of Halsall's large ensemble, The Gondwana Orchestra, which utilises the exotic flavours of harp, koto and bansuri flute and Eastern scales to create a global palate for Halsall's life-affirming sounds.

    The Gondwana Orchestra features long time collaborators Nat Birchall, saxophone, Gavin Barras, bass and Rachael Gladwin, harp as well as Taz Modi on piano. Modi who also plays with Halsall in their more electronic trio shares his passion for spiritual jazz and plays the music with real feeling while the role of the harp here is to bring a touch of 'magical reality' a floating dreaminess that is a vital part of Halsall's elegiac and beautiful music. The drummer Luke Flowers is perhaps best known as part of Cinematic Orchestra, and Halsall describes him as 'one of the best drummers in the world' and hails him for 'playing the music exactly as I heard it in my head', Keiko Kitamura is a Japanese Koto player who is becoming an increasingly important part of the Gondwana Orchestra, her role is similar to Gladwin's in that the koto helps free up the music while also bringing a real sound of the East. Finally, flautist Lisa Mallett brings a love of Indian music to the orchestra, much travelled on the continent she brings all of her knowledge and experience to play offering a unique texture to Halsall's dreamy melodies.

    Signed to Matthew Halsall's Gondwana Records and championed by DJs from Mike Chadwick to Gilles Peterson and Jamie Cullum GoGo Penguin's skittering break-beats, telepathic interplay and a penchant for anthemic melody all contribute to a sound that's wholly their own. Pianist Chris Illingworth's yearning classical influenced melodies are filtered through the dance music energy of bassist Nick Blacka and drummer Rob Turner.

    Brilliantly recorded by their long-term sound engineer Joe Reiser and studio engineer Brendan Williams the band have taken full advantage of the increased recording budget, the success of their debut afforded, to record a statement of real intent. 'v2.0' is a gloriously vibrant technicolor snap-shot of a band finding their own voice - as drawing on a heady brew of influences from Brian Eno, John Cage and Squarepusher to Manchester's grey rain-streaked urban streets they create a brave new sound all their own.

    "A really brilliant modern piano trio that takes in the whole history of music. I think they're really special." - Jamie Cullum

    "That is a little bit special, brand new album, it's been a year now GoGo Penguin working on their latest material, out of Manchester, 'Kamaloka' the name of this track." - Gilles Peterson


    FORMAT INFORMATION

    Deluxe LP Info: Reissued with three new tracks recorded at the original sessions.

    Deluxe CD Info: Reissued with three new tracks recorded at the original sessions.

    Manchester has produced some of the UK's greatest rock bands from Joy Division to the Stone Roses, but it isn't just the indie scene that thrives here, from the likes of Jon Thorne and Stuart McCallum to the Beats & Pieces Big Band and trumpeter Matthew Halsall, Manchester's jazz scene has produced some of the UK's brightest and most original jazz groups. Now with its eighth release Matthew Halsall's Manchester based Gondwana record label shines a light on another of Manchester's expansive, brilliant piano trio GoGo Penguin. Featuring pianist Chris Illingworth, bassist Grant Russell and drummer Rob Turner (all still in their twenties), GoGo Penguin, draw on a heady brew of influences from Aphex Twin to Brian Eno, Debussy to Shostakovich and Massive Attack to EST.

    STAFF COMMENTS

    David says: GoGo Penguin have a terrible name admittedly but don't let that put you off. Signed to Matthew Halsall's Manchester based label, Gondwana, this is their first (and best) album. Piano heavy and big with Gilles. Essential.

    Manchester based trumpeter, composer, arranger and band-leader Matthew Halsall is one of the rising stars of the UK jazz scene. His unique sound was brilliantly described as "Rain-streaked spiritual jazz from Manchester" by the Independent On Sunday and previous albums have found Halsall exploring the modal jazz of John and Alice Coltrane or paying heartfelt tribute to the hard bop of the late 50s and early 60s, but on 'Fletcher Moss Park' he offers his most personal statement yet.

    Written and recorded over the last couple of years, 'Fletcher Moss Park' is inspired by one of Manchester's most beautiful places. A rambling, multi-tiered park of walkways and dreamy gardens that offers the contemplative Halsall a place of peace and respite from the city, a meditative space to think and write in. The stillness and beauty of the surroundings have steeped into his beautiful compositions for this album. Elegant and sincere, Halsall's compositions draw on his love of spiritual jazz, modern dance music and even his work with the award-winning Brighouse & Rastrick Brass Band earlier this year. Halsall who has recently been exploring his music in a stripped-back, electronica influenced, trio (featuring Taz Modi and Luke Flowers who also appear here) as well as the 12 piece Gondwana Orchestra has always favoured an earthy honestly and direct communication over tricksy arrangements and it is this deceptively simple openness that gives his music such a unique flavour as the young composer and producer seeks to express his feelings and thoughts with his music.

    'Fletcher Moss Park' opens with three tracks featuring saxophonist Nat Birchall, harpist Rachael Gladwin and pianist Adam Fairhall alongside bassist Gavin Barras and drummer Gaz Hughes all long running members of Halsall's sextet. The beautiful 'Cherry Blossom' opens with a nod to Alice Coltrane before exploring it's own contemplative trajectory, the title track features a gorgeous opening from harpist Gladwin and one of Halsall's trademark slow but foot tappingly catchy grooves, Mary Emma Louise is an elegant tribute to someone special and features some beautifully wistful playing from the composer. 'Sailing Out To Sea' and 'Wee Lan' offer a change in mood, two short interludes for violin (Holly Simpson and Davinder Singh), cello (Adrianne Wininsky) and double bass (Barras), Halsall chose not to play here feeling that the brief musical sketches caught his intentions perfectly. Finally the album closes with the two most recent compositions, the reposeful 'Sun In September' which features fine work from flautist Lisa Mallett, alongside pianist Taz Modi and drummer Luke Flowers and the uplifting 'Finding My Way', which with its compelling groove and fine drumming from Flowers (best known for his work with Cinematic Orchestra) offers a nod towards Halsall's love of contemporary electronic music as well as a hint of future projects. But as with the writing here you can be sure that wherever Halsall's muse takes him his music will remain heartfelt and life affirming in its elegant directness as he explores his own unique musical terrain that stretches from the bucolic stillness of 'Fletcher Moss Park' to a world far beyond!

    STAFF COMMENTS

    Ryan says: A favourite of mine from our own local Jazz mastermind. Fletcher Moss Park explores a 50's, 60's sound channeling the likes of Coltrane. As you can imagine this album flows beautifully from beginning to end, almost as good as a stroll through the park itself.


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