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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.

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.

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.



Phil France

The Swimmer


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 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.


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